Never did I imagine we would be here at a time where grocery store shelves are bare, where restaurants and retailers are too short staffed to run at full capacity, and where families of all ages are terrified to step outside their door.
Every time things surrounding COVID-19 seem to clear up, every time there is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, another variant pops up: Omicron, Delta, Delta AY.4.2, Beta, and Alpha. It seems never ending. It’s now becoming less of “When COVID-19 is over,” and more of “Well, guess this is reality now.” And we have to figure out how to go on with our lives instead of putting things on hold.
That’s where I’m at as a parent.
There are so many things that I have been putting off, holding back on until COVID-19 slows or disappears altogether. But it’s been more than two years now, and while we’ve had some ebbs and flows, we’re still very much in the same place. So, as parents, we’re stuck making hard decisions, and second guessing ourselves the whole way. There are certain things I held off from in the beginning. I pulled my daughter out of all activities, no gymnastics, no swim class, no playdates; just movie marathons and family dance parties at home. I did curbside pick-up and drive-throughs for just about everything. But after two years, I am tired. I can’t keep that up, it’s just not feasible. And not only is it not feasible, I’m not sure it’s that healthy. While my daughter was just a baby when COVID-19 first hit, she’s now pushing three, and that bubble I first kept her in, is way too small to hold her now.
So, like many parents, I’m now stuck in a limbo. Risk exposure and go about our lives? Or remain at home, with severe cases of cabin fever and weakening mental health?
More often than not, I’ve made the choice to go out. Sure, I’m vaccinated, but my daughter is too young. I wear my mask, but my two-year-old will not. She’s in the full blown “terrible toddler years,” and I struggle to get her to let me fix her hair every morning, much less convince her to wear a mask. She won’t do it, and I don’t blame her. I promise I try, like we all try, but at the end of the day, a toddler will be a toddler.
Every decision I make, I second guess. We’re back in gymnastics, and every time she does her forward roll, every time her hands touch the mat, I have a freak out inside my head.
Is that snot on the mat?! Oh, that’s definitely snot! Did she touch it?!
Is that other kid looking sickly today?! Did he just hug her?!
I’ll just change her clothes and give her a shower as soon as we get home, maybe that’ll counter-react everything?
I second guess every single decision I make when it comes to my daughter and COVID-19, every single one of them. I don’t know what the right thing is. And it’s not lost on me that the decisions I make in regards to my daughter and my family could affect others — family members, gas station attendants, the people we come in contact with. I care, and I don’t want to spread the horrible illness around, not to one more person.
And there are some decisions I don’t have much control over. We’re a two-income family. With the two of us pulling full-time shifts, my daughter must go to daycare, which results in even more potential exposure to the virus.
Every time I pick her up, I can’t help analyzing the other children.
Does that child look extra sick today?
Why is everyone’s nose running?!
My mind races on our ride home. And I guilt myself for working and having to put my daughter in daycare.
Why couldn’t I be a stay-at-home mom and protect her?!
But I know daycare is so good for both my daughter’s and my mental health. We both need that break.
This pandemic is changing our lives in so many ways, but especially in the way we think and the decisions we make as parents. I know I’ve not made all the right decisions, that I’ve probably taken some risks I shouldn’t have and probably missed out on some memories that I’ll never get back. As the years go on, and my daughter looks back on her childhood, I pray COVID-19 is nothing more than a section in her history books. I pray she has no idea the wheels turning in the background of her childhood, that she has no idea the stress and turmoil her father and I are under, all due to this awful virus. I pray she has health and normalcy, and that we make it through, that we all make it through.