A few months ago, many of you were probably like me in that you heard vague rumblings of the word “Coronavirus,” but didn’t give it much thought beyond that. In fact, a few months ago, I was mainly focused on learning my new working mom balance.
I had my first child, my daughter Charley Jo, at the beginning of October and I had just returned to work in January. I was struggling with being back at work. I staggered under the weight I felt being away from my baby all day, the challenges of pumping at work and breastfeeding at home, and discovering who this new me was on the other side of pregnancy. In the midst of all that, this crisis hit. And while everyone has carried their own unique weights and burdens during this time, my heart goes out in particular to you, mamas.
I suddenly find myself being a stay-at-home mom and work-from-home boss 24/7.
My office job is leading a communications team for the HR department of a local university and let’s just say that there is A LOT to communicate to employees during a time like this. I find myself working harder and longer and faster than I ever imagined possible.
I’m doing this all while being an on-duty, full-time mama to a six-month-old. I feel a little bit like I did while I was on maternity leave – stir crazy being at home all day with the baby, stuck in my pajamas for days on end, and trying to remember to brush my teeth. I’m experiencing a level of exhaustion that has me remembering those sleepless nights at the beginning of motherhood. Except, this time around I’m cramming in a 40+ workweek as well.
A month and a half in, I’m still searching for a rhythm. Doesn’t that sum up parenthood?! Just when we find a rhythm, it changes, and we start all over again.
But here are some things I’ve learned over the past month and a half:
- Forgive yourself.
This time is not going to bring out the best in you, so stop setting your expectations so high. None of us thought we’d ever live through something like this in our lifetime, so we certainly had no idea what kind of response we’d have.
- Don’t apologize for being a mama and for the duties that it entails.
The mama guilt was something I was still working through when I first came back to work, but this time has taught me more about not apologizing to my coworkers for my home responsibilities. In fact, I lay it out more than I ever have. Because my coworkers are right, they CANNOT imagine what it’s like to be a new, first-time mama in the midst of a time like this. I let my coworkers hear my baby crying or playing in the background of conference calls. Or, I will cut a meeting short and let my coworkers know I have to go nurse. I feel like this is a good reminder to them of the juggling responsibilities I have.
- Lean on your partner if you’ve got one.
I am so grateful to have a supportive, present, and hands-on spouse who literally trades off with me for the kiddo. This is doubly true for our family since we are also farmers. Farming is still considered essential right now. The seed must get in the ground soon, and that adds a whole other layer to our complicated onion.
- Keep in touch with your “people”.
I have my groups of people I turn to right now. We have group text messages, video chats, and even virtual baby showers! Keep these people close and talk to them often. They are a lifeline right now.
- Reach out to someone else to see how they’re doing or provide some encouragement.
I know you’re probably thinking, “I can’t even juggle the other stuff, how do I have time for this?” I’m there with you mama, but I find when I get out of my own head and pity party and reach out to someone else, I ALWAYS feel better. It puts things into perspective. None of us are doing this alone. This is hard for everyone in unique ways. Encouraging someone else can actually end up being you encouraging yourself. Listen/read the words you’re telling someone else and let them sink in!
- When all else fails, go to bed.
Some days are a struggle from start to finish. On those days, I put the baby to bed, drink a hot cup of chamomile tea, and go to bed. Tomorrow is a new day and I get a fresh start to try again.
In every phase of my life, as I’ve come out of a difficult or challenging time, I’ve always looked back and marveled that I made it through. I’ve always found myself saying, “that is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” until the next situation arises.
It’s coming mamas, the day where we’ll look back and say, “I don’t know how, but I made it. And I’m stronger for it.” We’ll look tomorrow in the face and smirk at its challenges because, after this, it’s going to take a whole lot more to rattle us.