“How are you doing, mama?”
A friend casually posted this question on her Facebook page. GIFS and funny comments followed her post. It stopped me in my tracks, though. Because I’m not sure how I’m doing.
One day, I get the house clean, laundry washed, folded and put away, cook food and exercise. Other days, the stress and anxiety overwhelm me. I don’t know where to start so I start all the projects and chores, and nothing gets done. Once bedtime hits, it takes every ounce of my energy to get everyone in bed and finally snuggle under my covers just in time for the baby to wake up.
I have said “no” more times in the last nine months than I have in years. We have missed birthday parties, play dates, family holidays, and most recently, had to say no to attending a wedding. The heaviness that comes with saying no is exhausting. The regret and guilt, the “well, it would probably be fine,” but what if it isn’t?
We’ve hurt people’s feelings for the sake of the health and safety of our family, and it’s heavy.
I’ve been criticized by family that I am being crazy for being as cautious as I have been. I’m a rule follower, so when people smarter than me explain something I know nothing about, I’m going to listen. I’m going to follow their instructions to protect everyone that I love. I’m doing the best I can.
As the wife of a healthcare worker, I get to see the side of the “1%” of the pandemic. I see my husband walk in exhausted — mentally and physically. I see him strip his clothes before walking into our home and directly place them in the washer, then straight to the shower before interacting with anyone. I don’t know how many patients he lost last night. I don’t know how many families he has had to deliver the worst news to in the last 14 hours. I don’t know how many patients he watched struggle to breathe because of this deadly virus. I do know that it is exhausting and unfair that he has to risk his life, along with all frontline healthcare workers, to save someone who wouldn’t stay home or wear a mask or who just had to get together because of the holidays.
Two weeks ago, I broke.
I was crying in the bathroom at 3am after the third attempt to get the baby asleep. Mentally, I am exhausted. I am exhausted from saying no. Exhausted from missing out on things. From continually hearing my kids say, “When this virus is over…” I am especially exhausted for being judged and criticized for following health experts’ advice. I’m tired of hearing, “You just need to live your life.” My life isn’t defined by eating in restaurants, attending birthday parties and going on vacations across the country. I’m living my life; a pandemic-style life.
I know I’m not alone.
I’m a homebody by nature so the pandemic hasn’t thrown me as much as it has others. However, I will admit that I am ready to see family, get on an airplane and see the world, and frankly have plans that require pants with a button. But, I am not okay. I am sad. I feel lonely. My kids are missing family in a big way. It feels like I have tears in my eyes at all times, but I have to keep it together because I am a mom and little eyes are watching.
I’m not okay, but I will be.
I will watch those tiny faces light up next to colorful Christmas lights. I will soak up extra snuggles on the couch. I will make hundreds of crafts to keep those little hands and minds busy. I’m not okay, but right now I have to be thankful for our health and all the goodness that exists within the walls of our home.
If you’re not okay, know that you aren’t alone. Do not hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional to discuss your mental health needs. Find the goodness in your life and cling to it. Call a friend. Ask for help. It’s been a long, heavy year. Don’t be ashamed to admit you’re not okay.
We will be okay.