This has been the longest few months of my life- if you’re not including the the third trimester of my last pregnancy. Actually, it’s been pretty comparable to that. I’ve been overtired, unmotivated, unable to concentrate fully, carrying a load way too heavy, knowing that there is an end in sight but never 100% sure when it will come. And then- the aftermath. Having this new life to reconcile, a new routine to establish, working through a new pile of challenges and finding new solutions to them. A brand new balancing act.
Covid 19 has been a real eye opener, especially for working parents. And often especially so for working mothers. It’s no secret that those of us who have children and careers were struggling to find a balance between work, family and self long before Covid 19 hit, but the emergence of this pandemic has highlighted the glaring reality of how big that struggle was.
In some ways, it has offered insight into our lifestyles. Getting up extra early to work our asses off to prove that we really are dedicated to our jobs despite having a family. Daycare dropoffs and school bus meetings and remembering PD days and field trip money. The constant rushing around to get home from work and school, ushering our offspring from one activity to another, eating dinner in the vehicle, collapsing with a glass of wine at the end of the day with little energy leftover for adult conversation or even committing to an hour long tv drama.
In other ways, it has pushed our abilities to multitask and adapt to our children’s needs to the absolute tip of the fucking earth as we try to work from home, manage behaviour and organize their education from the dining room table.
Even for those of us with a dedicated partner, life has been a total shitshow riddled with short tempers, no alone time, a lifelong debt to Minecraft and bordeline alcoholism.
If I’m being honest it’s become obvious to me that while we enroll our kids in every activity under the sun all under the guise of “exposing” them to as many opportunities to enrich their lives, we have been tricked into thinking that all of these things are of higher value than the influence of spending time with those of us that should be doing influencing. Are we literally just so exhausted from trying to give 110% to every aspect of our lives that it is easier to pay for someone else to entertain them once they are home from school while we sit in the waiting room mindlessly playing Candy Crush or scrolling Instagram?
For me, as a working mom, it highlighted for us how much we were complicating our lives, when what the kids really wanted was to be with us. The pandemic slowed the pace of our lives down, and that part was actually a real blessing in disguise. It took the pressure off of always being in a hurry to be somewhere, without actually spending any real time together.
It doesn’t mean that dance or music or sports don’t have value, they absolutely do. I’m just not sure that having to do everything, everyday, has more value than calming the fuck down and living a simpler life.
I think it’s ok to make a decision about priorities right now. What have you invested your energy and money into? What does your child enjoy the most? What do they excel at? Has Covid given us permission to at last admit to ourselves that we cannot continue to be jack of all trades and master of none? Has it given us permission to finally realize that maybe it’s ok to prioritize family over work and things and this never ending quest to have more?
I keep thinking that had this pandemic hit even a generation ago, we wouldn’t be in the same sort of situation. We’d be much more likely to have a parent at home, without work obligations to balance with the care and education of children. Childcare wouldn’t be such a fucking crisis and maybe we’d all be able to take a goddamn breath once in a while. I know, this probably makes me a shitty feminist because likely it would be the woman at home, but right now, I feel ok about that. Trust me, I LOVE my job, but I love my children more. And if it were financially viable for me to stay home and only have one full time job to worry about I would absolutely do it. In the end, maybe me that makes me a good feminist, because I feel that it would be nice to have the ability to choose that. Right now I feel like I am choosing nothing but exhaustion by Method A, or exhaustion by Method B.
So, as we eagerly await to hear how the next school year is going to look, we will have some decisions to make about what life we are going back to. Have we learned anything? What do we appreciate now that we didn’t before? Can we make do with less, and lead better lives? Is the level of busy-ness in our lives indicative of the quality? Can we find a silver lining in all the negative outcomes the pandemic has created?
I guess we’ll see.