On March 12, 2020, I learned that my children were not going to be attending school for the unforeseen future, and my work in public education was going to change significantly. I initially met this change with a massive sigh of relief. Gone would be the days of waking at 5 am to get myself ready, make breakfasts, get my kids up, and us all out the door by 6:45 am so I could get to work. No longer would I race to their school to pick them up from child care as early as I possibly could, which was generally 5:30 pm. My mom's guilt immediately decreased as I thought about all the time we would have together and how great it would be for us to breathe and just relax. That lasted about 2 seconds. I was immediately pulled out of my dream world when I heard that my kids would not be at school the next day, but I needed to be there. I quickly secured child care and prepared myself for the unknown.
Thankfully what emerged from all of this was flexibility with my work schedule. I would work from home four days a week and go into the office one day a week. I breathed as I arranged for the care of my kids and prepared myself to work at home and teach my children. I wasn't all that worried about it because I taught for eight years before becoming a building administrator and now a central office administrator. I thought to myself, "I've got this down!" My daughters and I created a schedule that gave us time to move, complete our work, and have some free time. It was beautiful and felt so good. I entered the first week confident and relaxed.
What I didn't realize until much later was that I was too relaxed. I would wake up when my youngest woke up, put on my yoga pants, and a hat. We would run/walk around the block to get exercise, and then I would make breakfast for my kids. I would get in front of my computer at 7:30 am and begin working while my kids started their daily schedule. My oldest would go to her room and dig in. She was completely independent, and beyond needing quiet, she didn't need much else. My youngest was a different story. She would pull her computer up next to me and needed help every step of the way. Even when she knew exactly what she had to do, she would feign ignorance. I would breathe as I tried to engage in all of my Webex calls and support her studies. The end of the day would roll around, and I honestly wasn't sure what I got accomplished beyond my daughters getting their school work done. My "To Do" list grew every day, while I remained in my yoga pants and unshowered most days. By 5 pm, I would put something together for dinner and pour myself a drink. I began to become irritable and resentful. At the end of the night, I would crawl into bed, exhausted.
This way of living continued for about three weeks. One Sunday night, I had an epiphany. I always said that I would love to work out in the morning, but I just couldn't. I couldn't wake up at 4 am to work out as that just sounded inhumane. It hit me square in the eyes "I could now wake up at 6 am and work out, shower, and be in front of my computer by 7:30 am!" What the hell was I doing wasting away this gift? From that moment on, I decided that on the days I was working from home, I would get up, work out and shower before I needed to hope online for work. I expected the first day to be tough, but it wasn't. I immediately started feeling better. I was happier and more upbeat. By the evening, I was still mixing a cocktail and zoning out, but it had been an improvement.
A few days later, I decided that I would embark on a 30-day alcohol and refined sugar cleanse. I was ready. The first week was easy because I think my body needed a break to clean itself out from all of the toxins I had been putting into it. I started making fruit and veggie smoothies and making a liver detox smoothie for breakfast. Between the exercise, healthy eating, and showering, I began to feel like a new woman and enjoyed the time I had at home with my kids. While juggling working, teaching, and being a referee (I mean mom) was terribly challenging, we settled into a routine and made it through the end of the year.
We are living in a challenging time in our world, and I recognize I have it easy compared to many. What I have learned through this is the importance of taking care of yourself. It was so easy to slip into habits that didn't support the wellbeing of my mind, body, and soul. I felt overwhelmed by the circumstances and sought out numbing behaviors instead of behaviors that required me to stay present and grounded in this terrible time. I am so thankful I had the realization I had on that Sunday evening because it made all of the difference in my life and the lives of my daughters. I needed to take care of me and put my wellbeing first so I could be the best mom for my kids.
Messages to my Daughters: Taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you will do in your life. When you take care of yourself, it supports you in being your best self. There will be people out there that encourage you not to take care of yourself, tease you for doing it, or even make you feel bad for putting yourself first. Don't listen to them. Listen to the deep knowing that lives inside of you and follow it.