The last two hours have been good. My husband and I chatted about the books we read as I watched our daughter repeatedly headstand and my son play in his cardboard house, something he made from a leftover Christmas present.
It was the first time that I had “hung out” (outside, at an absurd distance) for almost three days because I, too, received a latent Christmas present: omicron. An anonymous family member brought it with his pot; a special version of Secret Santa.
We are still awaiting results from the rest of my family, so I quarantined myself. As I return to my personal cave (our bedroom), I once again check to see if their results are available. I checked every few hours, not quite knowing what I was hoping for.
On the one hand, I wish their results were negative for obvious reasons. (I don’t want the rest of my family to get this virus!) On the other hand, if they are positive, we will be done with it. After two years of escaping COVID-19, I am completely exhausted.
But… there is another thought lurking in the shadows. A shameful, embarrassing one. A thought my bowels, constricted and sidetracked, begged me not to admit: If the results of the rest of the family are positive, then I no longer need to quarantine. And I like it here.
It’s the closest thing to the lonely cabin in the woods that I’ve only dreamed of for the past two years. Two years filled with homeschooling and intermittent virtual school. Two years of children climbing walls out of boredom, of my husband and I climbing walls with madness; two years of “together”; two years managing the kids and the house while my husband works in the background of any room he can find; two years trying to create normal scenarios (like birthday parties and vacations) in a very abnormal situation; two years of regular responsibilities such as remembering to make doctor’s appointments and shopping for groceries; and two years putting my work on a shelf in order to wear the hats of a stay-at-home mom, teacher, housewife, house manager and personal assistant (hats that I had no interest in wearing ).
“It has been three days since mild to moderate cold-like symptoms, and I have done nothing but read, sleep, write and lie down staring out the window in silence.”
The fact that I am able to take a step back from the job market without our household falling apart financially is not lost on me. Although I am just one of the 1.8 million women who left the workforce during the pandemic (1.8 million women!), Many of them experienced significant financial hardship as a result. . And for many moms, leaving has never been an option. I am one of the lucky ones.
And, as I watch my working mom friends juggle everything, I feel incredibly grateful that I have one less hat to wear. But this is precisely the problem: Moms, whatever their professional status, always wear all hats!
This is not an affront to dads; in particular, the father of my children. He’s wholeheartedly in the trenches with me, sharing bedtime, the middle of the night, endless piles of laundry and officiating. But the invisible homework of parenthood – the wide world of doctor’s appointments, school emails, teacher gifts, birthday invitations, social calendars, vacation planning, summer camps. , pet medications, bandages, etc. They are doing it now and they did it before the pandemic when I was working full time away from home. As I chat with other moms, I realize this is the norm, not the exception.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard an exasperated mother say something like, “Toilet paper doesn’t magically appear in the house!” Someone has to make sure there is toilet paper, and nine out of 10 times it’s a mom. This invisible work is not just physical. There’s a mental load that goes with it, with all the planning, memory, and space for those things. It impacts our well-being, and it’s exhausting. The pandemic took all of that and put him on steroids.
Suddenly, there were more meals, more dishes, more things to manage (thanks to home learning), with the added bonus of a schedule close to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without breaks or on-call. children outside.
So when I suddenly found myself quarantined with COVID-19 – after a good cry, a brief shame and a little guilt – I felt relief. For the first time in two years, I was taking a break. Not just a few hours here and there, but a real, solid break (something I’m aware I might not have if I was a single mom or a critical worker dependent on my salary).
For the next five days (under new CDC guidelines), there would be no fights to officiate, meals to plan, laundry to do, or errands to do. The 748 cries of “Mom” that I usually hear throughout the day should be put on hold. Their father would have to do everything and, in my exhaustion, it was like a relief.
It has been three days since mild to moderate cold-like symptoms, and I have done nothing but read, sleep, write, and lie down staring out the window in silence. I barely watched TV because I don’t want to waste this precious, although sick, passively time.
My fear in sharing this with you is twofold: the first fear is that you will judge me as a wife and mom. There is nothing that I want more than to be one Well mom. It’s something I work on meticulously every day. But the way we define “good” for moms is incredibly problematic.
Take this well-meaning text from a family member after learning that I have tested positive:
“Love to you all. Let us know if you need anything. Love to Lori who took him for his team. Good mother.”
This story – that a good mom sacrifices herself for her family – is a story we need to stop telling. I sacrificed my body – in a way that seems endless – for my children, and I would definitely do it again. But that doesn’t mean I want to be a sacrificial lamb in perpetuity. We do not place this expectation on fathers, just as we rarely describe a man as “selfless.” This double standard is absurd at best and dangerous at worst.
“Despite easily spreading trite sayings like ‘moms have the hardest job in the world’, we are not at all interested in making that job easier or significantly valuing it.”
My second fear in sharing this is that you are mistaking my joy in loneliness for finding pleasure in a virus that has caused so much pain. Like many of you, I have taken careful steps to avoid this at all costs. I saw that he destroyed people, families, systems and hope. It had an impact on all of us, especially those who have lost loved ones and those working on the front lines. AND, as has been well documented, it has taken its toll on women, especially moms. This is the place from which I share.
Just as the pandemic has shed light on the darkest shadows in our society, it has also shed light on the ways in which we fail parents. I’ve read moms and dads screaming their pain, only to fall on deaf ears (just read some of the reviews on this essay). But while the pandemic has hit most parents, it has been the most difficult for moms. And research shows it was so long before the pandemic.
Although trite sayings like “Moms have the hardest job in the world” are easily spread, we are not at all interested in making that job easier or in meaningful way.
We say it takes a village, but few in our society are willing to make this village, let alone vote and pay for this village. We have politicians who continually shout “family values” but provide no support in terms of birth control, health care, paid parental leave, affordable child care, parenting support, or even public education. adequately funded. For, in reality, the proverbial village is not just a collection of individuals, but rather a combination of people and systems designed to support the collective.
As I step down from my soapbox and return to my bed, I lie here thinking about how lucky I am to have relatively mild symptoms. I’m grateful to have a separate area to safely quarantine and a partner who can work from home and look after the kids (not to mention a job that pays sick leave, if he needs it). ).
I listen to the silence and marvel at how much I needed it. I a m enjoy this break, messed up as it sounds. Because in the current climate, getting COVID-19 seems like the only way a mom can get one … if she’s lucky. And it is the messed up part.
As I lie here in the silence of this room, my mind continually drifts to all the moms who don’t have this option. Those who have no respite because they don’t have a place to quarantine themselves, someone to watch their children, paid sick leave and / or access to affordable health care. They deserve better than this. We all deserve better than this.
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