Momming in a pandemic

I have nothing especially poignant to write about.

Like many others, I’ve struggled some days more than others.

I tried to remind myself in the hard moments how lucky I am. I have family near by who is able to help us out a tremendous amount. My husband and I are both working. My kids are doing alright, and for the most part they ground me.

But boy… Momming in a pandemic is something else, isn’t it?

I’ve felt this weight on my shoulders for a week or so.

I tried to ignore it. It was still ther.e

I tried to lighten it. It felt heavier.

I tried commiseration with friends and family. That helped me to feel less alone…but it didn’t really help me feel better when I realized that they are also carrying a weight on their shoulders – they, too, are trying to balance their load while they stay upright.

I’m tired but I can’t sleep. When I do sleep, it’s restless.

I am constantly questioning every choice, wondering after each one if I made the right choice. Questioning and second guessing. Again and again.

Social media updates on my feed show me friends’ kids going back to school. Parents back at work. The images leave me feeling like I’m missing out on something. We are keeping our kids home. I’m working from home. Studying from home.

When I became a mama, instead of losing my sense of self, I felt more certain of it. This pandemic has taken that away and replaced it with questions.

The pandemic didn’t help me become more organized around the house, even though I watched The Home Edit on Netflix. My house didn’t get a floor to ceiling clean, even though I follow @GoCleanCo on instagram. It didn’t give me time to pick up a new hobby, even though the memes on Facebook suggested now, more than ever, was the time!

The pandemic has given me more time to think about planning, organizing, and really, just reminding me to remember every little thing that needs remembering. That mental load is real.

There is worry about my children falling behind in fundamental skills. After-all, I always relied on daycare to teach my kids how to eat yogurt and soup! It was the ECEs who taught my sons how to “flip” their jackets to get ready to go play outside…And now I worry that socially my kids will miss out on important phases and stages because they don’t see others their own age to help correct some behaviour (or encourage others).

I’m still wondering what school will look like for Robert this year – we’re still waiting to hear what the plan is to enhance and support his learning.

Those worries and questions… that weight. It’s always there.

It’s a lot.

So, I have nothing especially poignant to write about today. Maybe I’m stuck wondering about purpose. Maybe I’m just tired.

Or… Maybe.. Just maybe… this is exactly what every mom out there is feeling right now, too.

An Open Letter from a Mama to her Boys

My dear boys,

I’m sorry I’m failing you.

Every day I wake up determined to be a better mama to each of you.

A mama who is more patient.

One who is on top of your needs.

One who doesn’t raise her voice or get upset that you are asking something of me, again, even though I’m stretched thin (and your dad is sitting right there).

As I lay down at night and thoughts run through my mind, I keep circling back to the same feeling. The feeling that today I wasn’t successful at being the mom you deserve.

I am asking so much of you.

At 6, 2, and 1 years old, you aren’t able to process what is happening. This experience is shaping you, and I am not equipped to guide you through it.

I don’t know how to be a full-time mom while working my full-time job and teaching you all the things you would normally be learning in daycare or at school – especially the life lessons you’d be learning alongside your peers.

I don’t know how to process what is happening, and I certainly don’t know what to expect from myself, and yet, I expect so much of you.

Be quiet I tell my little 2 year old, as though 2 year olds are capable of ever truly being quiet (unless they are getting into mischief).

Stop whining I tell my 1 year old, who is teething, and growing, and learning to walk, and needs the comfort of his mama.

Prends ton temps I tell my 6 year old, who only has 2 speeds: fast and faster with a zest for life that is unparalleled to anyone I’ve ever met.

Jouer ensemble sans chamailler! I beg of you boys, who have been only each others playmates for over 45 days (and counting). You are each vying for some 1:1 attention and craving time with your peers.

And so my patience wears thin as I try to get my work done, do a load of laundry, wash the dishes, sweep the floor, read a book out-loud to you boys, plan dinner, walk the dog, have a cup of tea, and referee playtime (the last thing we need is a trip to emerg!).

But oh, my dear boys…

Thank You.

Thank you for giving me every opportunity to try again.

Thank you for showering me with love and laughter, and for reminding me that every moment can be the right moment for a dance party.

And that taking a break to sit on the swing in the backyard or to kick a soccer ball around is the best kind of break because we are in the moment together.

Thank you for showing me compassion and love during this difficult time for everyone.

Thank you for reminding me of my 2020 Word of the Year : Focus. Because where focus goes, energy flows.

Today was a good day, and tomorrow will be too.

Je vous aime gros comme le ciel mes petits cocos.

If you are also feeling overwhelmed and think you need some support, please consider reaching out to The Kick-Ass Mom Academy, run by my friend Chelsea. She specializes in helping working moms kick-ass at all they do.

Pandemic Check-In

Alright fellow Canadians, it’s been nearly a month since this began, how are you doing?

And by that I mean.. how are you really doing?

Because, if I’m being honest, I’m all over the map.

I wake up, ready to tackle whatever the day throws at me.

Sullivan wants pancakes? No problem, I’ll just get the flour, sugar, eggs and milk and whip some up. Alistair’s feeding the dog instead of himself? I’ll pretend I don’t see that as I sip my hot coffee.

And while all this is happening, I’m logging into my work computer and replying to emails.

But the coffee is hot, the sun is shining, and everyone is healthy. I’m zen.

Until an hour later…. Replies to the emails which I replied to earlier that morning are now coming in. Sullivan is jumping on his brother’s back, telling him “bisous, bisous” and peppering Alistair with kisses. My husband is trying to contain them so I can squeeze in just a few more tasks before we all have a change of scenery. That zen I felt? It’s (not so) slowly disappearing.

OK… everyone lace up, coats on, let’s go outside! Dog gets his first walk. Let’s go to the wooded area so Sullivan can run around. “Don’t forget to check for ticks when we get home!” I say to my husband.

The days when the sun shines, we are all able to regroup with some time outside. Zen is happening once again, even with the nagging worry of ticks. The neighbourhood is still quiet, it’s easy to social distance on these walks, and our family seems to enjoy the crisp morning air. The legs are moving, endorphins are flowing, and we feel some freedom in this time of isolation.

Enjoying the morning walk

Except Alistair is dropping a nap, but he’s not really down to one nap a day, so zen doesn’t last long. Whining starts, and there’s Sullivan again, trying to calm his brother down by smothering him with love… I say love but really it looks like they are wrestling and Sullivan has a choke hold on Alistair all while saying “Câlin, Alistair! Câlin!” [hug, Alistair! HUG!]

Everyone’s back inside. It’s time to scramble and throw something together for lunch. Hopefully the kids decide to eat their lunch instead of feeding to the dog, right? Lunch chaos is over and finally, Alistair gives in to a nap. I’m starting to feel a bit frazzled, as I try to balance everything on my mental to-do list and sit down to do some more work. My husband is trying to get Sullivan to sit quietly, but two and a half year olds aren’t designed to sit quietly.

Did I mention that Sullivan has decided that he doesn’t nap every day anymore? Oh, right, I forget to mention that he decided he doesn’t nap, or do quiet time, or sit quietly most days. If we’re lucky, he’ll watch Sesame Street and/or play quietly. Working from home full time as a parent with small children is fun, isn’t it?

Nap time/quiet time is over. Snack time. Please play together without injuring each other I say to myself as I scramble to finish the work I’ve started during nap time.

Time to lace up again! Go play in the yard. Run around! I’m now exhausted, but the littles are full of energy. How is it only 3pm? What’s for dinner? Did we take anything out? Did I even cross a single item off my to-do list? When did we last vacuum or wash the floors? Do the kids have clean jammies?

Now I feel like a hot mess. Where is the zen?

Dinner tonight consisted of a parenting win as I convinced Sullivan to start scrubbing the potatoes and (after I diced them) let him put seasoning on them. It’s time to walk the dog again. Sullivan gets out to run around, but this time there is less freedom. It feels as though everyone’s out walking, and … well, Sullivan isn’t great at walking in a straight line, or off to the side, or understanding social distancing.

Despite trying to corral Sullivan for the better part of the walk, the walk feels nice. Most people are respectful of social distancing, smiles are being shared amongst neighbours, and neighbourhood kids are leaving encouraging chalk messages on the communal path ♡

Home again.

Bathtime. Books. Bedtime.

Find a towel to soak up the lake in the bathroom – keeping water in the tub is just a suggestion, right?

Wash dishes.
Put some laundry in.
Pour a glass of wine.
Sit down to tackle more work.

Hear a baby cry.
Go comfort baby.

Put the kettle on.
Make tea.
Sit down to work.

Notice wine glass.
Huh. Wonder when I poured that?
Take a sip. Still fresh – phew.

Get some work done.
It’s 11pm already? Didn’t I just sit down?
Fold laundry.
Watch some Netflix to decompress as I finish my wine, tea, and housework.

The day is done and I have felt a wide range of emotions:
From wide eyed and ready to tackle the day – to zen – to overwhelmed and over extended and exhausted.

More importantly, at the end of the day, I take time to feel gratitude. I’m grateful for my family, for the sun shining, and for being able to sit down for a meal with other people I love.

How about you? How are you really feeling?

The Impact of Isolation

Like so many others, we recently made the decision to isolate our family for 14 days. It wasn’t an easy choice – it certainly wasn’t mandated due to recent travel. Our decision came at a time when the information available was mixed, and we weren’t really sure how serious this virus was.

Prior to having made this choice, we celebrated Robert’s 6th birthday. Before those feelings of uncertainty penetrated our lives, Robert was surrounded by a small group of friends and celebrated by a room full of people singing “Bonne Fête”.

He blew out the candles on his giant pull-apart cupcake-cake, and devoured his favourite flavour, ‘show-co-lawt’.

Birthday pull-apart cupcakes

He laughed, was loved, and had the best night’s sleep following his Little Gym party.

The following day, we went over to my parents. It was the beginning of March Break, and Robert was going to camp “Grandmaman et Pépère” while Mom & Dad worked. Just days before, news had come that schools were to be closed for 2 extra weeks, but we had only learned that day that the daycare was closing. Everything felt surreal – was this an exaggeration? A knee-jerk reaction by our government?

The plan was for us to return on Robert’s birthday. We would celebrate as an extended family, watch him open a few gifts, sing his favourite song (“Bonne Fête”), and after cake, we’d take him home.

As the week progressed, each day seemed to bring with it more uncertainty.

I’m sure you all felt it.

One day, you wake up thinking “ah it’s just a bad cold or flu, we’ll be fine if we get it!” and the next, you find yourself obsessively washing your hands, cleaning everything, and physically avoiding people you pass on the street. Then you find yourself looking at the Government’s symptom checker, convinced that the tickle in your throat and the fatigue you feel is caused by this novel virus, and not the fact you are a full-time parent who is simultaneously hopping on conference calls, prepping meals, walking the dog, and scrubbing down doorknobs.

That uncertainty you felt? We did, too.

That feeling led us to make the decision to isolate. We would not leave our home or yard except to walk the dog.

We stopped bringing the littles to the playground at the local school and the nearby parks.

Days later, the City announced all public parks were closed.

The feelings of unease continued to grow.

We were waiting for the news to give us answers, to tell us when to expect normalcy to return.

All that came was more uncertainty.

That uncertainty led to our decision to stay home and isolate ourselves.

This meant that we would not be picking up Robert until those 14 days of isolation were over.

It meant we’d kissed our 5-year-old for the last time. The next time we saw him, wouldn’t be on the day he turned 6, but weeks later.

Since this is a global health-crisis, we understand why we aren’t able to be with him.

We, the adults, made the decision together. Our big boy is with two people we trust implicitly. He is loved beyond measure, he is well cared for, and, boy, was he celebrated on the day he turned 6.

And though I worried about how Robert would feel without his family party on his birthday, I admit, I never thought to consider the impact that this would have on Sullivan.

But recently, that impact became so glaringly obvious.

The other morning we walked the dog to a near-by wooded area, with the kids in the double stroller. Our dog-walking tradition has become one where Sullivan gets out of the stroller when we get to big paths or wooded areas. He loves nothing more than being able to “cours vite! cours vite!” (run fast! run fast!) in the wooded area.

He is so excited that he doesn’t know where to look as he runs along, occasionally falling down as his feet try to keep up with the momentum caused by his level of excitement.

If you’ve never watched a 2 year old run in the woods, giggling, you’re missing a truly joyful sight.

Exploring with Sullivan ©

On this walk, as he was running along the path, we came by a woman and her toddler playing on the forest floor. Seeing us, they moved off the path to let us pass.

As Sullivan ran past them, he cried out “LES AMIS! LES AMIS!”. He was so thrilled to see other people, and another small child.

I realized in that moment that with daycare being closed, not only was he not seeing his daycare friends, he wasn’t seeing anyone but his mom, dad, and baby brother. He must be feeling so alone.

Later that same evening, after Sullivan brushed his teeth and put on his jammies, we began the bedtime routine.

As part of the bedtime routine that night, we read books, then I rocked and sang to him, as I told him I loved him and thanked him for a fun day.

When Robert first went to Camp Grandmaman & Pépère, Sullivan would ask to sleep in Robert’s bed. Sullivan and Robert, you might remember, share a bedroom. But these past few nights, he began to choose the comfort (and security?) of his crib instead. Not only that, he’s started to insist on sleeping with his bedroom door open.

That night, I ran my fingers through his hair as I spoke about how we’d get to spend time playing together the next day. I whispered good night, told him I loved him, and left his room.

Without thinking, I closed his door as I left.

He cried. And not just the cry of protest, but the sound of heartache.

When I went to check on him, I asked him if he missed Robert. He nodded. He calmed down in my arms, I told him I loved him, and put him back to bed. As I left the room, I was sure to check that his door was open behind me.

It was this moment that it hit me.

In that moment, I truly realized how difficult this isolation is on Sullivan.

As adults, we sometimes forget that our littles are acutely aware of what is happening around them. We forget how they observe, and try to process and absorb change.

I was guilty of this with Sullivan. I assumed that to him, this wouldn’t be much different than a long weekend, or Christmas break. He’d be able to run, play and cuddle with us every day.

But this boy, my little firecracker, feels things so deeply. I should have known he would notice. That Sullivan would feel a void in the place his brother holds in his heart, in our hearts, and the spaces he belongs in the house.

He misses his daycare friends. He misses his routines. Most importantly, he misses his family – his aunts, grandparents and his big brother.

We are doing our part, and it comes with a huge sacrifice of being separated from our son. We ask that you please do yours.

The sooner Canadians get on board, the sooner this will be over and the sooner our family will be back together.

We are all feeling the change and the challenges. The grief and the uncertainty. Your experience with these emotions might be different than ours, but we are all feeling it.

© Lace&Lavender Photography #FrontPorchPhotos

Please give yourself grace, give your neighbours grace, and most importantly, please #StayTheFuckHome.