I was six months pregnant when my husband and I relocated to Connecticut, with no friends or family nearby. Newly married and ready for adventure, we moved so he could be an Executive Chef and I could continue to work for a company I love remotely. Plus I could take care of our daughter, and we wouldn’t have to do daycare. At the time it sounded perfect. In reality, it’s not easy.
In truth, it was always going to be hard, but his long hours and two-hour commute take a toll on both of us. I love being home. I’ve built a life in a way that I had not planned. My world is smaller than it was, but no less fulfilling. I love walking more since we share a car. I’ve mastered grocery store delivery when I’d rather spend his days off doing a family activity. I’ve made mommy friends, which I always thought I’d have trouble doing, and I’ve discovered that working remotely can be challenging but also fun.
But there are days that I miss being in an office, putting on business casual clothes, sitting in a spinning chair. There are days where my bubble feels suffocating. Where I’m so tired I don’t think I’ll be able to keep going and days where I think all I’m doing is failing. There are days where the mom guilt is overwhelming.
Guilt is the virus that attacks stay at home parents, work at home parents, and working parents. Guilt is the virus that already lurks in my home, and now Coronavirus is threatening my safe bubble too.
I’m not totally scared of the virus itself. Don’t get me wrong, I have a six month old. I have parents who, although young and healthy, fit the age bracket for concern. I have friends with cancer or who have a kid with cancer. I’m worried for them. I’m worried for the elderly. I’m also terrified of my world shrinking more.
Two days ago I stood in a Trader Joe’s and was trying to control the panic coming over me. My husband couldn’t understand what was wrong. “So the store is ransacked, but we can find fun stuff to make,” he said. “It’s almost St. Patty’s day, so corned beef will be great!” At the time, his optimism felt just as suffocating as the fear that I couldn’t keep going as I had a week prior. He didn’t understand that being at home and trying to work and take care of a baby means having systems. Sometimes those systems are as neurotic as putting the same colored burp clothes in each room. Other times they are logical like loading the dishwasher at night so the sink is free for a baby’s bath in the a.m.
But it’s more than systems. It’s that guilt virus again. I felt it when I saw my brother-in-law’s stock of baby wipes. Not a recent fear purchase, but just part of his usual bulk shopping. Why didn’t I bulk shop? I have a Costco membership. Why was I frantically trying to buy our usual Hello Bello water wipes instead of always having a supply? Especially since everything else gives her a rash. These were the thoughts popping in my head during an innocent FaceTime call with family. Because guilt.
I don’t write this because I expect anyone to feel I’m more deserving of toilet paper. I don’t know who is buying all of the wipes. Maybe it’s out of true need. But I do ask that people think about more than their fear. Think about the elderly person who goes to do their weekly shopping and nothing is there. It’s more than just a product being gone. It’s their routine. Their bubble getting burst. Consider the mom who couldn’t get to the store any sooner who is terrified of being a failure because her child won’t have their usual lunch. Consider your neighbors and friends. Yes, stock up within reason because it’s smart. But don’t hoard. Don’t let fear make you unkind. I recently had a woman angrily look into the bottom of my daughter’s stroller because she thought she saw toilet paper in there. I was rude to her because I felt my space being invaded, but if I did have it and she needed it, I would have given it to her.
I don’t like my routine being messed with. None of us do. I don’t want this messy life I’m leading to be harder than it is. None of us do. I mean, hell, I’m writing this while feeding a small child and thinking about laundry and website designing. My brain is on overload. My heart hurts for people suffering, for people that are scared. We are all already battling demons on top of this new threat. Show love and remember that even the smallest things might impact someone’s world right now.