Like people around the globe right now, we are living an altered life because of the novel coronavirus covid-19. A global pandemic. A worldwide health crisis. An unrecognizable world where society as we know it has come to a screeching halt. And like everyone else, my family is just trying to get by, day by day.
While I know everyone is experiencing challenges with this crisis—many of which are extremely real, such as loss of a job, income, health care, etc.—this experience and its challenges feel amplified as a parent, especially with a newborn in the house. The fear I feel for my children, and particularly so for my newborn daughter, is very real. I cringe at the thought of them getting sick, or worse, becoming a fatality among the statistics. They say children are faring well when falling ill, but I fear the virus’ unpredictability and its ability to mutate. I fear for what we do not yet know about this virus and how it could impact my children. Even the fleeting thought of losing one of our children brings crippling sadness. I would never recover.
Anxieties about catching covid-19 aside, challenges inside the home are at an all-time high. We have a newborn, which puts us in a unique situation, but then to be quarantined on top of that feels like a double layer of isolation. Taking care of a newborn brings lots of sleep deprivation coupled with tons of stress and anxiety. Add that to the mix of having zero familial or friend support, plus a wild toddler who cannot play with friends, and you’ve nearly got yourself a recipe for daily meltdowns from everyone. I surprisingly made it nearly three weeks before my first cry.
Being quarantined with a toddler is frightening. Spending 12+ hours a day inside (or in our backyard) with our son is not something we (or really anyone) is used to. Some days are easier than others, it’s true, but none of the days are ever easy. Prior to this pandemic, my son and I would venture out for a daily activity each morning: the library, the museum, the park, the playground, the lake, a playdate, etc. He’s a very social kid and we both get a little stir crazy if we don’t go out. Plus, it helps ensure a decent naptime.
But now, we can’t go anywhere. And while we have taken extreme measures in the past three weeks to make sure our backyard is an inviting space for him, none of us were prepared for spending so much time inside our home. My son is doing new things (that he shouldn’t do) like nap-striking, climbing bookshelves and generally just parading around our house like a wild animal. At the end of every day, it literally looks like a tornado hit our home. And when your home manages to look like a symbolic depiction of your mental and emotional state, it’s a bit unsettling.
I am personally trying to focus on the positives, but after three weeks, it has been hard. I love my kids more than anything. I am grateful for our daughter, even if this newborn stage is so damn hard. I am grateful for my supportive husband, and for the fact that he is able to work from home and keep his job and income during a time in which so many families have lost their economic livelihood. I am grateful for our backyard, for the economic means to buy a small swing/slide-set for my son, so he can have some sense of normalcy and playtime during the pandemic. I am grateful for food—for the ability to have our groceries delivered by brave workers who are willing to shop for us. I am grateful that we have the privilege to not leave our house, so that we can keep our family as safe as possible.
With that all being said, it continues to be a challenge to keep it together. To not snap at my son when he does something he shouldn’t. To not get frustrated and upset when my daughter wakes every hour at night and refuses to go back to sleep. To find the time to do the dishes, laundry, cleaning and cooking, and still make time to do basic things for myself like take a shower, get dressed, brush my teeth, etc. To keep a positive space inside my head where I can focus on the things for which I am grateful. To remember to take deep breaths. Nothing about this is easy.