Mothering in the Time of Coronavirus

The perils of self-care

One recent sunny afternoon, on approximately the hundredth day of the coronavirus, I decided to take a nap. My youngest, 18, said he was going for a walk. I nodded drowsily and drifted off to sleep.

What seemed like minutes (but was in fact more than an hour) later, I heard someone knocking softly at my bedroom door.

“I’m not awake,” I mumbled.

The knock resumed, followed by the door opening ever so cautiously. My daughter, 20, was standing there, eyes wide, hair wild, leggings dirty and torn.

“Mom, we went to the river…”

Adrenaline tried to jolt me into action, with only moderate success (this is why I generally do not nap). I must have looked appropriately alarmed, however, because my daughter quickly assured me that everyone was okay.

“…but my phone… it’s in the river.”

“Awake” was not going very well. I did manage to ask why and how. It was a simple accident, the kind that can happen to anyone. “Accident” is how I am also choosing to explain why my son jumped in fully clothed, with no idea of the depth of the muddy, raging waters that have not really fully receded since February’s epic floods. Impaired executive function rears its head at the most unexpected times.

As I recovered full consciousness, my relief that he was safe grew. I also summoned the presence of mind to help my daughter cancel the debit and credit cards she carried with her phone. Then we called Apple and AT&T. She already has a new debit card and a replacement credit card and phone are on the way. (Her driver’s license, sadly, is another story.*)

The newest family joke

This was not the most restful Sabbath ever. And yet at dinner that evening, my daughter and I kept bursting into gales of laughter as my son looked on, perplexed. It’s just that the one time I took a break and napped, the one time my daughter decided to “go out in nature” to relax (trust me, this is so NOT like her!), this was the result. It was so ludicrous that we could not help but laugh. What’s more, in the age of coronavirus, it was hard to see it as all that bad.

Things that have (not) happened since March 2020

  • I learned so many tech skills in so little time that my head still hurts.
  • 12-hour days.
  • 0-hour days (usually on the heels of a 12-hour day).
  • I lengthened my morning yoga and meditation.
  • I refrained from hurling my laptop like a frisbee.
  • No one went back to school.
  • My best friend’s grandmother died of COVID-19.
  • I started memorizing poetry.
  • My eldest, a therapy assistant in another town, started working via video.
  • No baseball, no banquets, no prestigious internships.
  • We reestablished chores and meal prep schedules for everyone currently living here.
  • Entirely too much Zoom (sessions with friends and family excepted).
  • I lost my week in Cincinnati. Then a trip to Canada.
  • We still don’t know when we will see my parents, three state lines away.
  • My eldest was furloughed, then reassigned. More risk, less pay. Still a job.
  • Rage. Laughter. Tears. Gratitude.

Things I have said (sometimes aloud) since March 2020

  • “Could everyone please just leave me alone?”
  • “I’m so lonely I could cry.”
  • “At least the kids are safe at home.”
  • “The kids are still here?”
  • “I love cooking for my family.”
  • “Seriously? These people are hungry again?”
  • “I’ve got this.”
  • “I’m out. Wait, there’s no place to go.”
  • “I love our governor.”
  • “Would it be that bad if the protestors drank the bleach?”
  • “I wish I were back in class.”
  • “Amend that: as long as I can keep the yoga pants.”
  • “What is with all the freaky dreams?”
  • “Hello, insomnia, my old friend.”
  • “I wish things would go back to normal.”
  • “Please, let us emerge from coronavirus with a new and softer normal.”

In this together

I know I am not alone. And I know that it’s a lot. It would be a lot even without all the early childhood trauma, especially in my youngest. It’s even more if you factor in the secondary PTSD brought on by raising a child diagnosed with RAD, which, as near as I can tell, still lurks just beneath the surface. Although he has healed considerably, the circumstances created by coronavirus can put his trauma is on high alert. When that happens, things get bad and when they do, he still blames it all on me. Just because I understand the “why” of this doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could lash out at someone in return. It doesn’t mean I don’t go to strange lengths just to find a place to cry.

Yet here I am, and maybe that’s enough. When I re-read all I just wrote, I wonder if I might be handling this pandemic in a way that is more or less okay–taking things as they come, letting myself have “all the feels,” laughing when I can. As Mother’s Day approaches, may all you moms out there grant yourselves that same grace to be more or less okay. With each other’s and ATN’s help, we will get through this.

Happy Mother’s Day


* Our governor has handled the coronavirus crisis in an exemplary manner, with this exception–there is currently no way to replace a lost or stolen license in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Officials at the local and state level could only suggest my daughter drive without one, and if pulled over, “work it out with the officer.” This is of course a non-starter, especially for someone who happens not to be white. (To learn more, check out my recent essay in Mom Egg Review.) What’s more, the state currently has no solutions, even bad ones, for any of the many situations in which state-issued photo ID is required. Hoping this will change soon.

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