Real Stories: Pandemic Edition, vol. 10
Intro by Lisa Butler:
This month Liz Kent, owner of Perissos Therapy, shares her real life experience of juggling 3 kids, homeschooling, owning her own therapy practice and working from home. Oh, not to mention just all the other normal life stuff. By sharing this pandemic story, we hope to show that therapists have real life struggles too. In regards to the pandemic, we’ve had very similar experiences as many of our clients have had as well. And I think it’s safe to say that we are all still trying to figure it out! We hope you enjoy Liz’s story.
Welp, here we are. Almost 20 months into the pandemic. Comfort levels with Covid precautions range all over the map, even amongst my friends. I can talk to certain friends who understand certain aspects of my experience and perspective and other friends about completely separate stressors. If there is one thing we all have in common, it’s that this has been hard. And yes, I’ll say it-I think it’s been particularly hard on moms of young kids. The pandemic and the way it impacts each of us differently is a constant reminder that we need to do less mom-shaming and more mom-supporting, even when we don’t agree. Even when our comfort levels vary. Because we are all just doing the best we can.
Some days I feel like I am crushing it-getting kids where they need to go, actually staying (semi) on top of all the house stuff like laundry and dishes. And some days my brain feels like mush. Like, literal mush. I packed empty containers in my daughter's lunch box one day recently. Over the summer, I went to get gas and stood at the pump for a solid five minutes, then closed the cap and got in my car. It wasn’t until I had already driven away that I realized, I never actually pumped the gas into my car. My husband asked me one Friday night if we were getting cheese pizza or pepperoni and I think I stared at him blankly for two minutes before he responded, “I’ll just decide.” The amount of extra managing, navigating and decision making I feel like I have done for the past 20 months (on top of all the normal “mom stuff”) has left me feeling like my executive functioning is somewhat impaired. Planning and organizing are more difficult than they used to be for me. I find myself distracted more easily. Most of all, it has left me feeling tired. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally.
When the pandemic started, my youngest son was 5 months old. Five months old. That was the time I was supposed to be nearing the top of the climb out of the early infant months and starting to find a groove. But of course, having three kids home 24/7, while my husband and I worked from home kind of threw a wrench in that whole “finding a groove thing.” But we were eventually able to get them back into some form of childcare (after four months at home with us), with which we felt comfortable sending them part time and we got a little reprieve. Except, not really. Because during that little bit of part time childcare when my kids were being cared for by someone else, I was busy catching up on all the things I hadn’t been able to do in the four months before (well, really nine plus months since before I’d had my third baby). Oh, and also working. And let me tell you, work was BUSY. As the owner of a psychotherapy practice specializing in maternal mental health, I began to realize in those early months of the pandemic that I was not the only mom feeling extra stressed out. We had referrals streaming in and I was bringing on new therapists to meet the demand. Oh, and somewhere in there I decided I didn’t want to attempt virtual school with my kindergartener (with an almost one and almost four year old at home also) and we switched to homeschooling right before the school year started.
And we survived that first year. We made it through the agonizing decision making of how to spend holidays, navigating relationship dynamics that were only amplified by the pandemic. We managed to figure out how to keep our kids active and occupied during those long, cold, dark winter months. (On the plus side, we all have really great winter gear now in case we get a blizzard this year).
Some really great things actually came out of this time for my family. My oldest really thrived doing homeschool kindergarten (and I enjoyed it more than I expected to). I was glad to have the extra time with him. We found an amazing outdoor/nature preschool program for my daughter. We developed closer friendships with the couple of families with whom we were “podded up”, including reconnecting with a high school friend of mine who homeschooled my son two days a week with hers so I could work.
And then we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We started to get vaccinated. Spring came and we were able to socialize more outside. Things were looking up. We made travel plans again! We even envisioned a semi-normal school year for our kids. And then like a ton of bricks, it all came crashing back down as “delta” surged and we prepared yet again for the agonizing, navigating, worrying, managing, decision making cycle all over again. While there had been a little reprieve, I think we eventually just got so used to all the extra layers of planning and decisions that went into every. little. thing. that at this point, it all seemed normal. Sometimes I even feel like I’m not “worrying enough” about Covid because frankly, I am just so darn tired.
I keep going, because that’s what moms do. I get up every morning: workout, get dressed, get my kids fed and ready, tackle the ever-running, never-ending to do list of work and “life stuff”. Try to find time to enjoy my family. Catch up with a girlfriend. See my own therapist. Empathize with the other parents at school pickup about how hard this year has been. Run my business. Pray that someday life will return to “normal” (who even knows what that is anymore?) But man, am I tired. So, if you’re feeling it too-please know you are not alone. And on the days when you’re feeling good (and not quite so tired), be sure to give a compassionate smile (under your mask) to the mom with the tantruming toddler in Target or the mom who sends her kids to school in their pj’s because she just can’t fight that battle that morning. We are all in this together.