We checked in with moms here at Tidepool asking them to share with us not only some of the challenges they are experiencing while sheltering in place, but also the silver linings they have found along the way. Some are “crisis” schooling and caring for children at home while others are distanced from grandchildren or parenting their adult children from afar. Though each of their circumstances is unique, we are continually impressed by the strength and fortitude these women show despite the challenges we are all facing.
Even though this pandemic has forced us to limit in-person visits, technology has helped all of us stay connected. For the mothers here at Tidepool, that substitute has been crucial for maintaining family bonds both near and far.
Both of Sabrina’s children are attending college out-of-state, and technology has helped keep her family connected from daily check-in’s to weekend Zoom meetings, “I check in with both of them everyday via text or phone call to make sure they are eating, wearing a mask when they have to leave their apartments, and still studying! Thank goodness for technology!”
For Shawn, whose newest grandbaby was born in March, Zoom and FaceTime calls have temporarily replaced being able to be with her grandkids who live close by. But through this experience, she has gained a new appreciation for many things including luxuries taken for granted. She hopes that “we can keep that appreciation and gratitude firmly in front of us once the landscape shifts again.”
For Becky even though restrictions have meant more emotional labor as she strives to address the different needs of her older children, it has also meant less commuting time for her husband and more dinners together as a family. “My kids are in middle school, and we were already reeling over how soon it will be for them to be in high school, then college. I am trying to cherish every extra minute that we spend together.”
Adjusting to a new normal is another common element mothers at Tidepool are facing. For Melissa L, her family has been struggling with sleep creep, “When the only place we have to “be” is a series of Zoom calls and Google Meets, it has been harder to stick to a reasonable sleep schedule.” But she adds, “I’m really proud of the way our kids have been able to flex and adapt to a new daily structure with different expectations. Flexibility is a valuable coping skill to develop for whatever comes their way in the future.”
Current restrictions have meant juggling different schedules and competing priorities for all of the mothers here, including Janet K, “It's an endless stream of Zoom meetings, school assignments, demands, and urgent work deadlines punctuated by ongoing requests for food, recreational screen time, and one-on-one attention.” But she adds, “We're walking nightly as a family to catch-up, decompress, and be fully together and present. It helps us pause together after packed and sometimes chaotic days. I hope that continues after all of this is over.”
With a set of triplets and a set of twins all under the age of 6, Melissa M has found just focusing to be particularly difficult. “Even when it's my turn to work throughout the day, the noise level is constant and the interruptions of little fingers and toes shoved under the door to my office means that I am having to adjust to what my new productivity level is and when I can be most productive.” But she adds, “Even though the noise is distracting, and the chaos is constant, I am thankful for all the big hugs I get every time I step outside my office — all day long.”
Suzanne says, a bit tongue-in-cheek, that the hardest part of being a working mom in quarantine is Common Core math. Teaching her kids “new” math is analogous to learning how to navigate through this pandemic: “How can I help come up with a solution if this is all so new to us that we don't even fully understand the problem?” But something she appreciates during this time is that this experience has meant an increased bond between her two children and a slower pace of life that will be a guide to help them evaluate the way they spend their time post-quarantine. “Pre-pandemic we were always on the move — soccer, social engagements, school events, etc. It is nice to step outside of the go-go-go and find new ways to enjoy our time at home.”
For Stefany, restrictions have added complexity to meeting everyday needs. Having four kids in four different schools has meant four different approaches to virtual learning in addition to two parents working from home. But this together time has also meant opportunities to make new memories. Her middle daughters have insisted on Friday night “Theme Dinners” which is something they all look forward to every week. “From prom to decade dinner to Addams Family, we are enjoying this unexpected opportunity for some fun. Stay tuned for next Friday!”
One challenge many mothers mentioned was the difficulty of juggling time and attention with everyone constantly under the same roof. For Ginny, that has meant trying to figure out the right balance between all of the different roles she plays, including being a mother, wife, and Tidepooler: “I'm so committed to all three of these roles that I often forget to give some time to myself as well.” But being under the same roof has also meant more time for her family to really connect with each other — they have instituted a “no phone or TV” policy during dinner which has been a very positive experience for her family.
For Janet D, this juggling act has been particularly difficult trying to manage her workload with the workload of her children, especially her youngest who is not as self-sufficient as his siblings. Redefining expectations and boundaries, especially around screen time, has helped during “crisis parenting”. She blocks out an hour and a half each day where no screens are allowed and has found her boys gravitating towards playing with each other during this time. “They never played this much together before and I hope they continue to do this!”
Like many of the mothers here, constant change has become a new reality in my home as well. The ever-shifting tide has brought with it a lot of opportunities to practice being adaptable, through trial and error, which has decreased the anxiety in my home. We have more discussions of planning with the expectation that plans will change, so when they do change, it is not as upsetting as it has been in the past. I also have been amazed by how well my children are getting along (most of the time!). Because they have not been able to play with friends, they have become better friends with each other and have learned to more fully rely on one another.
While we recognize that life does not always end up the way that we planned, we also know that it can still be wonderful. Here at Tidepool, we are grateful for the opportunity to recognize the mothers in our organization who have shown us through their examples of grit and gratitude that we can do hard things and that there is always a silver lining.
Happy Mother’s Day!
P.S.Don’t forget to get ready for Mother’s Day! Quarantine means your children won’t be bringing home any “homemade” gifts from school this year.
Interested in hearing more on family, diabetes, and crisis schooling during COVID-19?
Author and advocate Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) joined three moms from the Tidepool team on Friday, May 8, 2020 for a pre-Mother's Day coffee chat about diabetes and keeping our sanity as we shelter in place.