’I am home fighting a battle. I am considered non-essential and furloughed from my job. The fear is real.’: Mom out of work during Coronavirus quarantine, ‘‘right now, I need to focus on things I am grateful for’

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“While the world fights this pandemic, I am home fighting a battle within myself. I am considered non-essential and currently furloughed from my job. Only two things are expected of me at this time. 1. Stay home and 2. Care for my children. Some would say this feels like an impossible task and other would say it is a privilege. Each day, each hour, feels like a combination of both.

Prior to this stay at home advisory, Coronavirus, and our current reality, I found myself amidst a personal crisis. We were heading into spring sports season for basketball which would involve practice 3-5 times a week including up to six two-day travel tournaments. Theatre show season, dance recital season, graduation season, etc. We would be adding extra dance practices for finale and the spring school talent show. Our spring calendar would be littered with arrows and asterisk marks, but in the end, we typically viewed our spring season schedule as a sort of a beautiful chaos. It included many late nights and would require my husband and I to divide and conquer for 3 straight months, but the bittersweet end to the season would bring the finish to another school year. It was filled with excitement, relief and celebration.

Courtesy of Adrienne Anzelmo

But before our typical spring schedule even had a chance to get started, I was already struggling. I began to feel as if I just wasn’t enough for my growing children. When my kids were little, the care taking was the only real, consuming task. As they have gotten older, not only do we have to care for them but we are also in charge of navigating so many important life lessons, teaching them responsibility, and demanding accountability. I felt like I have been failing. As if I was running out of time each day to give them everything they deserved and needed from me.

I have never regretted being a working mom. But, as my babies were born, there was a part of me which always wondered what it would have been like if I had taken another path. 4:30 a.m. alarms and waking up sleepy faced children, 12-hour days outside the home and late-night dinners almost never as a family are our ‘normal.’ I have never considered leaving my job, but I have often wished for more of my life back. Time to spend with my kids when the bus rolled up and delivered me a tired hungry child at 3 p.m. I longed to have dinner on the table at 5 p.m. or imagined what it would be like to have my kids running and playing in the yard as I breaded chicken or peeled potatoes.

Instead, our local boys and girls club cares for my oldest son until it is dark out most days. My daughter joins me at work after school where she is often forced to entertain herself as I tend to things which require my ‘manager cap’  and not my ‘mom cap.’ And even though I have no regrets, I always wonder what it would be like to not have to schedule three appointments in one day so it is ‘worth’ taking the day off from work. I have wondered what a slower paced life would be like. A life where I am not always saying ‘hurry up’ to one child or another. A life where I am not always chasing a deadline or answering work emails late at night. I wondered what it would be like to give 100% of myself to just my kids and my family. An opportunity that seemed so unrealistic… until suddenly, it wasn’t.

Our world has been brought to an aggressive halt with little to no warning. My children are grieving for the many missed opportunities promised to them this spring. So many events and traditions they were looking forward to were taken. Seeing their faces as cancellation emails, phone calls and announcements came ending their spring sport seasons, school events, play dates, and birthday parties was heartbreaking. They expressed anger, loss and sadness as they stared down the squares which now sit empty on our family calendar,

As an adult, I am also suffering. I have spoken to many friends and  we are all reeling from the change. There is the stress of this virus, the state of our country and the demands placed on us as parents now being temporarily responsible for our children’s education. I have sat worrying about the uncertainty of owning a small business right now and the economy in general. I have been swallowed up  emotionally at times watching daily news briefings and seeing the death toll rising each day. I have laid in bed at night and considered what it would be like to have to send my husband or one of my children to the hospital to suffer with this illness alone, unable to be with them. The fear is real, heavy and unknowing.

I worry what ‘normal’ will look like when this is over. I worry about all the essential workers I know who are putting themselves on the front line every day to keep the country running. These are the people I love and care about working to help to mitigate this terrible illness ripping through our country. But, I have vowed not to let the unknown control me. I am working hard not to let the fear of our current situation be my emotional default. I am stressed and this is hard, but I must be more to my children than the fears I harbor. I have been given the gift of time amidst all of this and I need to appreciate it, embrace it and be thankful, even when I am scared, tired and fed up. Right now, I need to focus on the many things I am grateful for.

I am grateful for the late-night bedtimes and no alarm clock. For the family walks and time in our backyard. Grateful for the sounds of bouncing basketballs in the driveway and sidewalk chalk. For snuggles in bed and back to back episodes of Paw Patrol. For pajama days, board games and homemade forts. Grateful I don’t have to constantly try to find the balance as my work obligations bleed into my time at home. Grateful for the time to read books, bake cupcakes, exercise, laugh, hug and be present with my children.

Sometimes, it’s not easy. I have three children of different ages all with unique needs. The common thread is they all love to call for ‘Mom’ a million, no, two million times a day. But, I have no giant pile of laundry mocking me. We have sat down to eat dinner as a family every night for almost a full month. We have learned to be resourceful with paper goods and I have had time to show the kids different things… things I worried I would never really find the time to teach them. For my son, how to keep his closet clean and make his bed properly. Time to hold him accountable to a more extensive list of chores. Time to stay up late binging Netflix and sneaking off for walks alone with him when he fills me in on all the middle school drama. My daughter and I have baked and danced, and she’s had a chance to teach me all the trending Tiktok dances. I curled her hair and we have done face masks. We played ‘Yahtzee’ and ‘Guess Who’ and started a 30-day yoga challenge where the girl who’s always going 100 mph was forced to slow down and lay side by side in shavasana with me. She has learned to cook and set and clear the dinner table on her own.

I think these times with my children are far more important than any classroom assignment they have completed. I commend the teachers and the district where my children attend school. They are working hard to give their students content, but these kids will inevitably be behind next school year. The curriculum will be universally delayed. I’m sure administration will make the appropriate adjustments. In fact, I worry very little about this. My children are completing their assignments for student accountability, but we have bigger lessons happening here.

My children are having contests to see who can pump their legs harder and go higher on the swing set. They are making up silly backyard games and scootering up and down neighborhood streets. They are slowing down. They are learning to do laundry and push a lawn mower for the first time. They are missing friends, sports and simple things they always took for granted. But just maybe, this will be what inspires them in the future. Maybe they will return to life in the fall as different people, trained by this experience to see life through a different lens. Maybe my children, along with many other students, will now be humbled by their free public education. Maybe they will place a different value on hard work. Perhaps they will grow to respect our health care workers and grocers more than they would have. Maybe they will stop to appreciate the simple liberties they were stripped of in spring of 2020. And just maybe, this will be the change the world needs to stop pushing so many of the wrong agendas.

I started this season amidst a crisis…. And that crisis is still ever so present in me… But the demons I am fighting are not the ones I expected.

My takeaway from all of this is…

Perspective.

Stay healthy, stay strong, and hug those babies for as long as you want… because if you are as lucky as I am then you are short on many things right now, but time is not one of them.”

Courtesy of Adrienne Anzelmo

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Adrienne Anzelmo of Massachusetts. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories by Adrienne here:

‘His dying wish was to be home. I never got to thank him for drying my tears when I was broken inside as a victim of bullying.’

‘My child is transgender. But she is not the one who changed – I am.’

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