Since the chaos of the COVID-19 took hold of the United States, I have been hunkered down in my home (like many others), watching the news, reading Facebook updates, responding to my students’ emails (now that we have transitioned to remote learning) and watching my son (who is now almost 15 months). Beyond the anxiety of worrying about the threat of the virus to my loved ones, my transition back to a stay-at-home mom has left me with a new set of frustrations, self-loathing, and anxiety.
When Theo was born, I stayed home for the first six months of his life, after which I returned to my life as a teacher at the high school level. The transition, like many working moms, was extremely challenging. Balance between the time needed for grading, lesson planning, and being an emotional support for students clashed with the time needed to care for my own son (not to mention myself). However, I slowly adjusted to the mind-numbing routine between my two newly at-war lifestyles. It took nearly four months to feel some semblance of control of my life (and to feel semi-comfortable in my role as a teacher/mother)…then the ear infections started.
To spare you the elaborate details, I will list the highlights: in four months, Theo had four ear infections, RSV, and influenza A.
I thought I was going to have a mental breakdown and we were barely through second semester.
This happened before the transition to remote learning, so I had to continually call off work (the fear of running out of sick days was real), which was hard to do because A) lesson plans are a HUGE pain to make and B) I felt guilty knowing, due to a substitue shortage, that my coworkers would have to donate their prep times to cover my classes. And my life as a mother was turned upside down. Theo wasn’t eating normally, losing weight, and reverted back to the disjointed sleep schedule from his infant months. Everyone was tired. Everyone was over it.
Then the pandemic happened. Like many of you, this unprecedented shift in day-to-day life has left us in a state of shock and anxiety. To be honest, if this would have happened a few years ago, I would be concerned, but not as hyper-aware. Theo changed all of that for me. Even before COVID-19, I worried (perhaps overly) about the health of my little human (who seemed constantly in a state of pain and anger due to some newly developed infection), not to mention the new financial dip my husband and I experienced due to ER visits and his recent surgery. (Theo was, thankfully, able to have tubes put in his ear, despite some hesitations to schedule his surgery; that same day the first Coronavirus case was confirmed in our county and the patient was at that hospital). The combination of these two factors developed a new level of anxiety and fear.
Fast forward a couple months, and the whirlwind of feelings have not lessened. Still, as I move day-to-day, I try to remind myself that I am one of the lucky ones. I am so grateful that I still have an income, a house, and a family that is healthy. However, there are times when fulfilling the role of the returned-stay-home-mom has made me feel less in love with my role as a mother.
Before I trudge further down this line of thought, I must say –again– that I love my son. Still the monotony of the day (matched with the mental exercise of teaching an id-driven toddler how to be… well, a human) has begun to take it’s toll.
I remember the moment I was looking in the mirror before my next Zoom conference with the high school staff (listening to the Calm app and applying concealer– basically because these quarentine Zoom meetings are now my only social gatherings), and I said aloud: I love my son, but I hate being a mother.
And that was just it. In that moment, a flood of tears jerked their way into my eyes as this thought fogged my brain. I loved Theo, but I hated what it takes to be a mother.
I hate the lack of sleep. The constant fear of helplessness and inadequacy. The fear that I will have a bad day and snap on my child, leaving some lifelong damage on my barely one-year-old son’s life. The worry about Theo not eating as much as other babies his age (he is still less than 20 pounds). The newfound fear that whenever my husband goes to work, or if I leave, that Theo may be exposed to COVID-19.
What’s worse is that I hate the guilt and shame that comes with this feeling. The thought that circulates often is that self-degrating view: I am not a good mom.
I don’t deserve to be a mom.
That last thought is both hurtful and is unfair. Still, I cannot stop it creeping up from the edge of room (especially after the 3 am feed).
No, I do not truly think I am a bad mother. I care for Theo more than I can put into words. And (even though I have come close to losing it in my mind’s eye) I would never let harm come to him. Still, this doesn’t make it easier when you are on 24/7.
Yes, I do realize how fortunate I am to be able to be a mother. But that doesn’t always make it easy.
Moms need a break sometimes, but we don’t always get it.
I wish there was a solution to this. I wish there was some personalized vitamin supplement for the tired-overworked-mental-destroyed mom, but there isn’t. It is a day to day battle, where you sometimes just watch the clock, counting the minutes before that next naptime (for both of you). Where you wear headphones on walks, half listening to one of the many mediation apps (simple habit anyone?) in one ear, letting the other listen intently to your child’s incomprehensible ramblings.
Motherhood is a struggle. It is a challenge. A major shift in your life. A remaking of your soul. And it is not easy.
But, it is possible.
I am not a perfect mom (if there is such a thing). But I know I fiercely love my child. It is possible to love your kids and hate the job. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a good mother. It just means you are one.