Pandemic Parenting…Yet to end

Today my son is going to a part-time preschool for the first time since the pandemic started. I thought I would feel relief, a break from parenting while working but I don’t. I won’t relax until he is vaccinated, or really until all our friends’ and families’ children can be vaccinated as well. Life cannot begin to resemble normalacy, until there are vaccines available for all ages. The rates of hospitalization and death in children are low, and the long-term health effects of COVID-19 are unknown, though information on lower lung function and increased risk for diabetes has already been documented, not to mention the issues connected to “Long COVID”.

When the pandemic began, March 2020

Bulent went back to in-person classes in September, and I have been home while I work on my own with Kayra three days a week. Before, we had traded hours, so had separate work and parenting time, but no more, or at least not on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday. However, I left my previous role in October and I started an incredible new job in November (more will be revealed) and so thought I would be able to do it for a short period of time. But that short period of time has stretched on, plans changed, the start of our daycare was delayed, and delayed and delayed again, now until fall.

We made it work, Kayra and I, for months. But now it is no longer working for Kayra, so things need to change. We have spent an incredible amount of time and effort over the last two years to provide him the activity and stimulation he needed, to safeguard his mental health without preschool and “regular” playdates, but he needs more than we can provide at this point, which means our decision was made for us.

We have kept our social circle small and have masked in any larger events, including any outings to parks or playdates. We still only participate in outdoor activities. Kayra will be vaccinated soon or later, and at that point, we will re-evaluate. But until then he will continue to mask in any setting where there is the inability to social distance, which basically means with other kids.

The preschool is mostly outdoor, but had never been on our radar because it is only part-time and far from our home. Also, we were not comfortable with the exposure risk when Austin was at a high rate of community spread. However, local numbers are lower now, and through the hour round trip will cut into my work day, I am thrilled for Kayra. He is incredibly social, loves making new friends, and this will be exactly the fun and engagement he wants and needs.

Our two-year quarentine has been difficult, but has only been possible because we were gifted with one of the kindest, most positive, bravest, and thoughtful children that has ever existed. We are so lucky. So many have have lost so much, their liveliehoods, their health-mental and physical, their lives. We made sarifices, to protect our child, and protect others. Today we are seeing the other side of the storm, if cautiously.

First Day Back to School

Shift Parenting during COVID-19

Originally posted on Medium 4/13/2020

Pandemic Parenting Part I

The other day I walked by a neighbor’s house with my small son, and he called out to me from the yard. He has a daughter only a few days older, and a newborn. He asked, “Isn’t is great to be working from home?” I stuttered out an agreement, then stopped and turned back. “No, it is really, really hard.”

His surprise was visible. When I asked him a few questions, it was clear. His life was great working from home. He spent some time in the morning with his wife and kids, went into his office and shut the door, came out for lunch, spent a few more minutes with his sweet children, went back into his office and shut the door, and came out at 5pm, ready to help with dinner and be an active co-parent. His question clarified he had no idea that my work interferes with my parenting or vice versa, since his partner has been at home since the birth of their first child. Sure the Shelter in Place order was chafing, but his work-life continued much the same despite it.

At my home, we shift work and shift parent, and it is a struggle to do both well. My husband is a professor and I worked for an amazing non-profit.

. When it was clear daycares were not going to restart after spring break we set up a schedule so we could have designated work times that best fit our toddler’s needs, our personal skills, and biological clocks.

“Helping” me work

I sit down at my desk at around 7 am and get straight to work. Gone are the morning snuggles and making breakfast and jokes with my 2-year-old. My husband takes care of him, and does yard work, folds laundry and cleans up the flotsam and jetsom that follows an active toddler, throughout the morning. At 1:30 I take my lunch break to put our kiddo down for a nap, and my husband starts his workday. Now that we are limiting outings to prevent exposure to COVID-19, it is a struggle to get him to sleep.

After rubbing his back until he dozes off, with his sweaty hair plastered to his face from the epic nap battle, his open mouth and limp weight against me, it should feel sweet and tender but just make me anxious because I need to get back to work. After I ease him to the bed and sneak out, I’ll work until he wakes up.

After frenetically cleaning up from lunch, which somehow includes both food and arts and crafts, and diving into work while eating the leftovers from my toddler’s plate for lunch, I finish the last hour or two of my workday.

After nap, things slow down, but my day is far from over. We play, read books, and if I can’t convince him that it is a privilege for big boys to help me cook, he watches Daniel Tiger while I cook and hope the social and emotional learning aspects of the show sink in. The meal is made from scratch, since there is really no other option. I didn’t realize how much our household depended on takeout and prepared foods, until they were no longer available. I have even been making my own bread, since it is so hard to get a curbside or delivery spot at the grocery store.

At 7pm, my husband takes a break from his work to come down for dinner, and often has to go back to his office to finish recording his class lectures and provide support for the students who have found their whole world rearranged. After he leaves us, kiddo and I play some more and read books until bedtime, around nine since he is ready to drop his nap, but we are not, because we desperately need those hours of productivity during the day.

So now it is 9:30 or 10 pm, my husband and I convene and have a conversation for the first time that day, watch the latest news on COVID-19, take care of personal emails and some basic chores. Things like cleaning up the kitchen, emptying the dishwasher, and price shopping water heaters, since ours started leaking through our kitchen ceiling last night, generally fun, exciting and romantic things. Then we decide if we will do the right thing and go to bed early or just take a goddamn minute to relax and end up going to bed way too late, to repeat the whole cycle the next day.

So, no, neighbor, no, working from home with no childcare is not fun. It is not extra time to spend with my child. It is a battle to carve two eight hour workdays out of one, to simultaneously meet my goals at work while taking care of my child’s needs, physical, emotional and educational. It is survival. Every moment is a struggle to not drop and shatter the ball. It is watching your kid play “work” and have your heart drop into your stomach when they play-act and say “I have a meeting, I can’t play with you now.” It is having to drop out of a meeting, — or worse, not being able to — when your child wakes from his nap screaming from a nightmare stemming from the anxiety caused by the cancellation of his whole world of routine and order, and you hear the plaintive sob, “I want my mommy.”

Working from home while parenting feels like that little hitch in your throat when you see your child about to take a fall because they were running too fast, there is nothing you can do to stop it, and you know it will hurt, that it will be bad, and you just hope that in the end, it won’t require a trip to the hospital.

Finding my way back

Creating sense of normalcy in a new post pandemic world

I am working on finding my way back to writing, finding my way back to my creative space, and my voice. I will be reposting some previous essays originally published in other locations, and using them as a springboard to move forward. The toll of moving back to the US, navigating the job market, re-acculturating was a lot. I had to redefine myself multiple times in the last few years.

I moved from being an ex-pat to a “local” but with a different understanding of life and feeling apart and displaced. I left my role as an educator, which I had been for over a decade, to then create space for myself to fail (and succeed) in a new career. I started a new life as a mother, and a parent. With each new transition I lost part of myself and developed new facets of myself, which I didn’t always fully understand.

These years apart from the world, quarantined, set apart, with no vaccine in sight for the under 5 age group have allowed our family time to bond and better understand each other and ourselves. This time has forced me to take the time I needed to develop and reconcile my sense of self(s).

Over the last few years, I have taken risks, made changes, made sacrifices, and at this point would change none of them because I learned from all of them, and they have brought me to where I am now.

Giving Thanks without Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I loved the food and family and gathering with friends, especially as it was one of the few non-religious holidays. I love stuffing and gravy and cranberry sauce, but I had never thought about how the smell of the pies baking was shadowed by a history of colonization, of genocide, and stolen children, stolen lands and languages.

But over the last few years, I have become more unsettled to “celebrate” it. I have noticed that in many ways it has been recast it as a day of gratitude. However I should be grateful every day, and reshaping a day that celebrates colonization and genocide of peoples and cultures seems like another act of aggression. And one of erasure. Again.

So instead, my four-year-old and I spent today learning about indigenous people and colonization. Today we talked about the real history of Thanksgiving. After some discussion of Pilgrims, family history, whiteness and white privilege, his response was, “We killed the indigenous people?!?” Why would we do that?!” So simple. He learned about the history and at four, quickly extrapolated the historical significance.

It sparked a conversation about money and capitalism and land use and culture, at an age-appropriate level. In that moment, when he was so sad that white people were oppressors that they had killed indigenous people, I wanted to comfort him. I wanted to assure him it’s not us, we didn’t do it personally, it’s not our fault.

But that’s not true. If you look at our nation’s current policies and political situation, it’s still happening. Tho bodies of stolen children are still being found on the grounds of boarding schools. Activists protesting pipelines and tribal sovereignty are still being arrested. So if we don’t learn, and we don’t do something, it is our fault. It was and continues to be. So as a parent, I had to dig past that discomfort, own it and continue the work.

We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving this year, but instead reflected on history and how we can contribute to change, each day and every day. Because just like being grateful, this is work that needs to be done every day, not just once a year.