If you’re anything like me, a stay at home mama who is also a work from home mama that needs her routine and me time to survive, you might not be doing so well. We are more than a week into what I am calling our “new Coronavirus normal,” meaning many of us are slowly or actually very quickly losing our sanity being stuck at home as both chief entertainment and education officer, while also figuring out how to get work done and how to manage some time for self-care.
Let’s also be clear here. I believe all moms work—it doesn’t matter if it’s in the home or outside of it. If you are a mom, you work. Regardless of where we work, the burden of life in the times of Coronavirus falls mostly on us. It did pre-coronavirus and now it’s been multiplied by at least a million (or at least that’s what it feels like).
I depend on the time my son goes to school to exercise, get work done, and take care of myself. That’s a large chunk of time (7:30am to 3:30pm) that is now gone. As of now, my husband still goes to work every day. Not only am I trying to find little pockets of time to work while also being responsible for our son who is at home remotely learning because schools are closed until further notice, but I’m also the one responsible for managing and having conversations about our feelings and emotions, and making sure we have all the supplies we need. I’m mentally exhausted.
As someone who is a control freak, I feel very out of control right now. Nothing about this “new normal” is in my control and this leads to major spikes in my anxiety. The not knowing how long any of this will last or what life will look like two months from now, and the thought of having my son home indefinitely even through the summer when he should be at camp makes my depression come out of hiding.
Actually, what I’ve realized, is that social distancing and being home with my son all day every day reminds me of how I felt when I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety after he was born. The difference between that dark time seven years ago and now is that I am still capable of getting out of bed, functioning, and trying to find joy in these unchartered waters we all find ourselves in. But, it’s not always easy and it’s definitely not perfect. Here are seven ways I’ve been managing my anxiety and depression during the “new coronavirus normal.”
Focusing on Today
Yes, it’s scary to feel like you have no control over the future and to not know how long any of this will last. That’s why I’m trying not to think too much about the future. What good does it do us to think about two weeks from now, even two months from now when we have no idea what will happen. Brené Brown calls it “dress-rehearsing for life.” We can’t dress rehearse for what we don’t know, but what we can do is focus on just today. What can I do today to survive? What can I do this minute? We can simply try to focus on the next step in front of us to help us keep our anxiety and depression more in check.
Lowering My Expectations
I know you have all seen tons of color-coded schedules of activities created by moms for their kids all over social media. I have not gotten on the schedule bandwagon yet, but I will most likely end up making one too because my son just does better when he can see a routine laid out before him and he knows exactly what to expect. It helps me too because I have something concrete to point to if he melts down. But, even with a schedule, I’m going in with zero expectations. Maybe it will work. Maybe it won’t. Maybe he will love remote learning. Maybe he won’t. I’m not going to stress about any of this and I don’t want him to stress either. If we don’t follow the schedule exactly as it is written, who cares?
Finding Virtual Support
We are built for connection, so with most of us practicing social distancing, we have to get creative. Lots of communities are providing virtual support groups right now to help us cope with our feelings of loneliness, fear, anxiety, and sadness. The Motherhood Center of New York has moved all classes and support groups online, making virtual therapy and support available no matter where you live. Mother Honestly is hosting virtual happy hours for moms working from home. Lisa Tremayne, maternal mental health expert and psychologist has put together a New Mom Peer-to-Peer Support Group to help new mamas struggling with their postpartum mental health. Perinatal psychiatrist Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, has teamed up with pediatric critical care doctor Dr. Anita Patel, and OBGYN Dr. Tara Abraham to start a COVID-19 Maternal Well-Being Facebook Group. Attorney Daphne Delvaux is doing an amazing job on Instagram keeping us informed of our rights while navigating the implications of the Coronavirus. And for some humor, check out “Bradbucks” on Instagram TV and for something that feels like a warm hug, visit Glennon Doyle’s Instagram and listen to her read excerpts from her new book, Untamed and host “family meetings.” She also reads to our children!
Focusing on what I DO enjoy.
I hate getting on the floor to play with my son. I’ve never been that mom. There are a lot more hours in the day now where I have to either decide to get on the floor and play or figure out how to not have to get on the floor and play. With that being said, I’m trying to lean into motherhood more right now because I know I won’t have this quality time with my son when he gets older. A good friend told me to find stuff to do with him that I like too, which has really helped and given me so many more options of how we can spend time together. We can bake together, draw and color together, do yoga together, walk the dog together, and watch movies together. I don’t have to dread each day just because I’m not really into playing.
Dancing. A lot!
On the nights I’m in charge of bed time, my son and I have a one-song dance party in his room before we read books and he goes to sleep. Usually, I’m so tired by then that dancing is the last thing I want to do, but I always feel better after we dance. Dancing ALWAYS makes me feel better. Dance with your kids or by yourself, but when you find yourself feeling anxious and or sad, blast that music and dance. There have been tons of virtual dance parties online to make you feel less alone while social-distancing.
When I’m depressed, I don’t want to do anything except for sleep in my bed. I’m also content sitting on the couch and mindlessly watching TV. When I’m anxious, movement helps calm me down. Since I usually run anxious and depressed at the same time, the couch or bed usually wins out, but I am making myself go outside with my son every day, even if it’s for ten minutes to walk our dog, even if it’s just to sit on our patio (and maybe do some jumping jacks). We all need movement, fresh air, and sunlight right now.
Staying Connected to Friends and Family
I don’t know about you, but I would really love a hug from a good friend or my sister or mom or dad right now, which is why I’ve never been more grateful for Facetime, Zoom, and the House Party app. Get on one of these and have a virtual cocktail hour or dinner party. Schedule specific times to meet up with friends and family each day to feel less alone. I have even been scheduling virtual playdates for my son, which helps him feel connected and also gives me some time for myself.
I also want to acknowledge that writing this article brings up so many conflicting feelings—feelings of guilt and even selfishness because I know there are people out there who would love to be able to be home right now, but they go to work every day to be able to have an income and to help from the front lines. I may feel a lot of anxiety and depression right now, but I also have tons of gratitude to be able to stay at home with everything my family and I need and for the men and women who work at our hospitals and grocery stores and pharmacies to allow us to have what we need. I constantly feel the push pull between thinking about how this affects my own mental health and then thinking of how deeply this “new Coronavirus normal” affects so many people who are losing their jobs, access to free meals, and more. I think it’s important to be transparent about all of this. For more from Motherhood Understood, join the conversation on Instagram.