Real Women, Real Stories: Pandemic Edition, vol. 3




Heather Connellee, the author of this article, is a mom of 2, business owner, and adventure seeker. She and her family love to travel and take on new adventures. Several years ago she and her husband climbed Mount Kilimanjaro! In this blog Heather shared with us her personal story of getting through some difficult days of the pandemic. Even the most adventurous may not have chosen to take on this adventure!


“I think every working mom probably feels the same thing. You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking “This is impossible-oh, this is impossible” And then you just keep going, and keep going, and you sort of do the impossible.”


If you are reading this, congratulations! Give yourself a big pat on the back because YOU are surviving and YOU are doing the impossible!


MY STORY

The quote above from Tina Fey pretty much sums up the pandemic experience for me. Take it one day at a time and keep putting one foot in front of the other. My pandemic story? Well, I’m a mom of two…Sadie (age 4 at the start of the pandemic) and Preston (age 2 at the start of the pandemic). They were both in daycare when everything hit the fan. My husband is considered essential and had to be in the office every day, now more than ever really. And while we technically met the criteria and could have kept our kids in daycare, we made the choice to keep them home. I have my own advertising agency and my company has always been virtual so no change there, except for the addition of two (very unhelpful but adorable) interns that only know the word “snack.”

“She believed she could, and she almost did. But someone constantly asked for a snack and she forgot”


A PITY PARTY

Our typical pandemic day started just before 5A. This is the time that our son would wake and when my husband would head in the office. He would get in super early to still try to put in a full 8-10-hour day and then try to get home by 3P so I could dive into some uninterrupted work. My new work hours became the following:

5A-3P juggling kids and work

3P-6P dedicated to work

6P-8P help my husband get the kids fed, bathed, and in bed

8P back to work until midnight or 1A

Shower? Dinner? What is that?... Husband? Who is that?

I could relate to both sides of the coin. On one hand, I’m a mom trying to balance my career, stay employed, tend to two toddlers that need constant attention, and keep up with normal day-to-day responsibilities. But I’m also the owner of a company trying to survive, keep the doors open, and keep my employees employed.

I was jealous of the families that had two parents working from home all day, and the stories of people that were bored, and had finished compiling all their photo albums and reorganized their closet 10 times over. What I would do to have a day to feel bored!? Or a day to open my closet just to put on clothes, much less organize my closet. Cue the tiny violins! But I allowed myself to have the occasional pity party or bad day, and then I’d suck it up and remind myself of all the people who were in a much worse position than me. I’d think of the things I was thankful for (my husband’s support, my job flexibility and awesome employees, and the family and friends support from a distance) and I’d strive to have a better attitude the next day!


GUILT

I started to jot some of my notes for this blog, prior to reading Lisa Butler’s earlier blog post. And the first word I wrote down was GUILT. Then I read Lisa’s blog post that also talked about guilt. I think Mom guilt has been the hardest challenge of ALL through this pandemic. Yes, my mind can rationalize that we are in survival mode and it’s okay if the kids watch TV for an hour...or who am I kidding…8 hours. And it’s okay that I might not have realized that they just ate 3 ice cream sandwiches while I was staring at my phone trying to respond to emails and praying that no clients would call, or worse, want to video chat.

There was the constant guilt when I’d hear people tell me to cherish this extra time with your kids. I did, I do, and I get it! But it’s not the quality time one desires when you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. So all those feelings turn into guilt…I’m not spending enough time with my kids. They are watching too much TV. I haven’t bought them an Easter outfit (though we are not going anywhere). I haven’t responded to that email yet. My clients might be annoyed at the fighting children in the background of our call. This isn’t how I envisioned getting extra quality time with my kids! And then, this past winter, our whole family tested positive for COVID. More guilt!

“Behind every great kid is a mom who’s pretty sure she’s screwing it all up.”

“The very fact that you worry about being a good mom means you already are one.”


DEATH BY ZOOM

And then there is Zoom! Video chats may be the death of the working Mom! Yes, video chats are a wonderful business tool and have come to the rescue and allowed us to keep all the balls in the air. But seriously, there isn’t time to shower much less put on makeup for a video call. I knew I was desperate when I found myself chucking candy into the living room in an attempt to keep the kids quiet so I could make it through one very important Zoom call. And then there was the time early on that I didn’t know my call was a video chat, so there I was straight out of bed, complete with pajamas and bedhead. Oh, and that other time when my child was in the background of my video chat, yelling for me to come to the potty because she had pooped and needed help. (Hand to forehead emoji!) But I know we ALL have these stories. And we should laugh about them today and for a long time to come.


HOW I SURVIVED (AM SURVIVING)


I talk a bit in past tense because my kids were eventually able to go back to daycare. And come last fall, my daughter started Kindergarten in person. So we have had some occasional blips of normalcy in the midst of still so much uncertainty.

At the end of the day, I do my best to laugh it off and “let it go!” I know that I am my worst critic so I’ve embraced showing more of my “human side” through this pandemic when it comes to work. Most clients and colleagues I’ve encountered understand the various scenarios that families are facing and offer support. So, when my son barges in my office dressed like a pirate, I introduce him to the folks on my video call. And I’ve learned that I can still provide excellent customer service to my clients even if I don’t respond to their email in the first 20 minutes. I’m learning to prioritize in different ways.

I’m a planner and I love traveling so I’ve been researching travel destinations, reading articles and making lists of future plans to control my wanderlust.

After the initial shock of the pandemic and taking to stress eating, I’ve turned to making better food choices and working out as often as I can, even if it’s just 10 minutes or 25 sit ups. And I’ve allowed myself to decompress with the occasional Netflix series.

And while my extra time with the kids isn’t exactly the quality time I would like, it’s been heartwarming to witness my daughter’s class interactions first hand. (I have a whole new level of respect for teachers, especially Kindergarten teachers!) And I always have something funny, usually something one of the kids said, to share with my husband when he gets home. So, I did get something out of this extra time with my kids. And it’s important to celebrate these small victories now more than ever.

Me to my son: Give your sister a hug, and apologize for hitting her! Son: No Me: Give your sister a hug! Son: I’ll give her an air hug


SILVER LININGS

The silver linings for me have been things like learning not to sweat the small stuff when it comes to work. And again, being able to see my daughter “in-action” during the school day has been priceless.

While we missed family and friends, our family of four enjoyed wonderful summer weekends filled with boat rides, swimming in the lake, hiking and even our first overnight backpacking trip with the kids, with no worries of having to plan around other events or parties. We have had some awesome adventures and made lots of memories.

Yes, I know I said Zoom would be the death of me. But it’s also been a blessing to connect with some friends and family that I hardly got a chance to see even before COVID. Not sure why I hadn’t thought of this before! And we now have delivery from one of our favorite restaurants!

The quote that I have always lived by is “Don’t wait for the storm to pass. Learn to dance in the rain” and these are certainly the words that have been running through my head since March 2020. Today, I’m more motivated than ever to do, to experience, to find myself, to not put off something that is important to me for tomorrow, to fully live life, no matter what challenges life may bring!

“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of chaos, and sometimes in the middle of chaos, you find yourself.” –Boonaa Mohammed



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