Four days ago, I found myself on my bedroom floor wearing only a pyjama top, clutching a wine spritzer and googling “depression in parents during quarantine.” It was 1:37 p.m. Independently, none of these things are unusual. I love a floor sit. On Saturdays, I take pride in allowing my kids to wear their PJs past noon and I’ve been known to indulge in a glass of Chardonnay at lunch with friends.
But this awkward combination of alcohol, floor sitting and online self-help articles felt acutely unusual. My children were making happy children noises in the backyard but I could not, for the life of me, pry myself off of the carpet to run outside and make louder sounds alongside them. I was immobile. Immovable. Steadfast in my commitment to mourn my pre-COVID-19 life and detest my new role as Director of Camp Quarantine.
The first few weeks were challenging, but I learned how to papier-mâché Jupiter and how to turn my backyard into an Olympic-sized obstacle course. By week seven, though, I found the thought of keeping my beautiful boys occupied for yet another 13 hours repulsive. Sitting there on my bedroom floor I was ashamed, embarrassed and angry with myself for failing as a mother.
Overnight, I had been handed the one thing I so fiercely desired—time—and yet I was miserable. Social media and unrelenting Ikea commercials featuring happy families thriving in isolation suggested that my feelings were abnormal. I was beginning to agree with them. I needed help.
So, I put a pin in Google and reached out to my tribe of fellow mothers to see if I was truly alone within my struggle. Turns out I was not. I presented each of these seven friends a question and their raw and candid responses immediately reminded me that, as mothers, we are resilient, unstoppable altruistic forces. And we are way too hard on ourselves. Here’s what they had to say.
Have you found yourself comparing your parenting to what you see online?
“The best thing I ever did for myself was to stop mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. I definitely compared myself to other moms after my first child. I was always trying to keep up appearances and tried to make it look like it seemed so easy and natural. Once I decided to just embrace the imperfect human that I am, parenting didn’t become easier—there was just less given from me as far as keeping up with the Joneses. I found humor in it all (sometimes the next day, ’cause let’s be honest, sometimes it ain’t funny in the moment), and I chose to be very vocal and honest with friends about my challenges and experiences. Believe it or not, I was not alone! We are not perfect and neither are our kids. We love them to bits, but sometimes we scream. We are all human. Parenting is challenging at the best of times. Let’s all just stop judging and just accept that we are all doing the best we can with what we were given. And for me, that also means not judging that perfect Instagram mom.” —Tara Spencer-Nairn, actor
How has this experience affected your mental health?
“This has been one of the most challenging times to navigate while keeping my mental health in check. I suffer from depression, and this sudden shift in the world as we know it has rocked me to my core. I’ve had to manage my media intake, enough to be informed but not enough to paralyze me. It’s been challenging, but I’ve had to shift from fear and frustration to gratitude. Despite wanting to pull my hair out while homeschooling, I try to focus on the blessing in this time spent with my daughter. I keep reminding myself that she will remember this historic time and I want those memories, for the most part, to be fond ones. Some days are better than others—wine helps take the edge off at the end of the day and I’m finding even just 20 minutes in each day to be alone to breathe deeply and find gratitude.” —Kristin Booth, actor
What is one new thing you’ve learned about yourself as a mother during this time?
“I have a lot of guilt about being a single mom and spending so much time doing a job that I love so deeply. I’ve realized that my job actually allows me an abundance of time with my kids, more than most parents get in other professions—and that loving my job has had a great effect on my kids. I began this isolation with saying that I don’t shine as a stay-at-home mother, when, in fact, I think that’s a lie. My relationship with my kids doesn’t fit into any box. My kids are being raised by an artist. This isolation has shone a bright light on bringing out my kids’ personalities in a slower pace. I’ve told myself many stories about not being good enough. This isolation has given me a chance to grieve and say goodbye to those stories I identified with so strongly.” —Dani Kind, actor
Have you said or done anything that you regret toward your children during this time?
“I love my children more than anything. I love my daughter’s insanely good sense of humor and all the art she is creating. I love my son’s random hourly cuddles and sweet stories. However, I’m working full-time and I’m emotionally exhausted from the last two months. I have threatened to move to my sister’s house, been way too honest about my fears and held them a little too tight some nights. I’ve also owned up to that lousy behavior and explained that my mental health isn’t at its best right now. Some days are great, some awful—most are in-between. One thing I wouldn’t change is being their mama. I’m eternally grateful for that gift.” —Debra Sadowski, CEO/founder, rock-it promotions
How do you balance two children with different needs?
“Having a 4-year-old and a newborn in quarantine has been the biggest challenge I never expected to have to deal with. My whole life, I have planned to space my kids out four years so that the older one would be in full-day school when the new one came along, and lucky me, I managed to pull it off. JUST KIDDING! My older son’s routine is gone completely, and it’s been made worse by the fact that he can’t see friends or go to the park. Grandparents? Forget it. They can’t come near us.
All I can say is that I’m doing the best that I can given the circumstances. Every parent I know is working so hard to keep up with their careers, keep their kids happy, healthy and homeschooled, and somehow manage to take care of themselves as well, when possible. Some days my older son and I blissfully bake bread while my baby sleeps in the sling, snug against my body, and other days I struggle to get everyone fed and cry in the shower. The way we find the best balance is to do things we can all do at the same time. Long walks outside while the baby sleeps, cooking in the kitchen together listening to music (Paul Simon is a current favourite), while the baby watches in his bouncy chair. We’re all working toward the same ultimate goal: sanity.” —Caitlin Cronenberg, photographer
What have you discovered about your children during this time?
“I’ve learned that my three children can rely on each other in difficult times. The past 50 or so days has shown me that these three little beings are a team, a force, an army. I know they will forever have each other’s backs when I have zero left to give. I’ve also learned that they really do love each other tremendously.” —Amanda Hazarie, educational assistant
I welcomed each response like an intensely needed embrace. It wasn’t just the shared confessions that this new norm is incredibly difficult or the consistent theme of lowering self-imposed expectations and forgiving yourself for a bad day that deeply resonated.
There was also the fact that I’m not a complete monster for craving my freedom. I’ve had nine long years to curate a life that allows me to raise happy, healthy children, while chasing my own professional and personal goals. I couldn’t possibly expect to apply old rules to this new life without significant discomfort. The depression was creeping in because I was viewing every single unfamiliar obstacle as a sign that I was incompetent as a mother, instead of giving myself a well-deserved standing ovation every time we turned in a baffling homeschooling assignment or belly laughed playing Twister. We have never had to do this before. Yes, we each hold the distinguished titles of Teacher, Playmate, Psychologist, Soccer Coach, Personal Chef, Wife, Co-Worker and Housekeeper. But we have never had to permanently maintain all roles, at all times, while confined indoors. This is the Hunger Games of Motherhood and it is critical that we recognize we are winning.
So, mothers! Celebrate even the smallest of wins, for I assure you, there are many more triumphs in isolation than there are losses. Soon enough, we’ll be thrust back into frenetic schedules with a side of impossible deadlines. Save the enormous expectations and self-criticism for then. But for now, honor the remarkable, selfless, beautiful work that you have done over the last two months. You are the sole reason I got up off my bedroom floor. We are achieving the unimaginable. And we are winning.
You can read the full article on The Kit.
Amanda Brugel, Seven (Very Honest) Mothers on Quarantine Parenting, May 7th, 2020, https://thekit.ca/life/voices/motherhood-during-quarantine-mothers-day-2020/