Traveling is a big part of my job. Since I work remote traveling is a means of connecting with coworkers, vendors and building relationships that otherwise are lost. Connecting with others is one of the most important things for me. I am a working mother with 2 children+2 pets, recently engaged, and back at school working on a second undergraduate degree in Anthropology. My support system is small because my family lives on the other side of the country and have pre-existing medical conditions. My life is as hectic as any mother’s. As COVID-19 cases and deaths peaked a few weeks back, I realized that this is the first time in my lifetime that a pandemic has caused an uproar like none other and created what feels like a new, dangerous reality. A new life with distance learning, closed businesses and local shops shutting their doors permanently, toilet paper a scarce resource, in-home theatre movie releases, wearing masks in public and a wave of zoom meetings. Mom’s and caretakers are in a unique position because your actions are not only yours to bear, but those of your family and children around you. These changes have not been without hardship and as I am entering day 72-ish, I wanted to share my experience so others know they are not alone in the fear, anxiety and challenge of encumbered new beginnings.
First, a quick recap of how the coronavirus made it into our homes, unofficially. At the start of January and up until the week before the nation began to shelter-in-place, I traveled to several locations for work including L.A., San Diego, Sacramento, and Dallas. My first few trips were early in the outbreak when the U.S. was only starting to discuss the novel coronavirus that was sprouting in Wuhan, China. At that point, I wasn’t worried at all for our well-being. There are diseases around the globe that are endemic to regions outside of the U.S. that never have any significant impact on the U.S. population. A new coronavirus strand that was impacting China’s population was upsetting , but rationally thinking I wasn’t fearful. As the weeks went on, news coverage intensified and discussions about the virus started at a local level with our friends, family and schools considering what was next. Surprisingly, after my last business trip in early March I was accepted into ASU’s Anthropology program and met with my fiancé’s marriage proposal. Joyous times (I will share about later), but it was only two days later that California issued shelter-in-place orders that shut down all schools and non-essential businesses. My kids were initially unaffected as that week started a planned 2-week Spring Break. This was a godsend for us because it really helped give us an opportunity to help the kids adjust to what would soon be a two month ordeal. However, within that two week period, I fell mildly ill. My symptoms were a headache, stuffy nose, and cough, though absent of fever. After having traveled for many weeks prior, I was fearful of having contracted the virus and spent the two weeks social distancing in my room to keep the kids safe. However shortly after I recovered, my fiancé fell ill for over a month! Again absent of fever, but he had a cough, stuffy nose, shortness of breath, headache and body aches. Though neither of us was diagnosed with COVID-19, it was a fearful and dramatic time early into the SIP.
After a rocky start, sheltering in place continued over several weeks (72 day-ish today) and many challenges came my way. First, Marcos and Jenevy’s, 8 and 6 years old respectively, school confirmed that in accordance with the county board of education and health department schools would remain closed through the end of the school year. Wow! I did not see that coming. As a working mom of school age children, I have an advantage of dropping off kids at school and allowing teachers to take on the brunt of teaching schoolwork and social and emotional development. In traditional times, I am supplemental and a reinforcer of good work ethics, embracing learning and being kind human beings. However, with spring break over and SIP in full effect the school shared their distance learning plan. The distance learning plan was thoughtful and engaging (go CA’s Monterey charter schools!), but little did I know that the journey would bring on a time where teacher/parent roles swapped. As school started up under the new distance learning plan, I received weekly a schedule with zoom sessions the kids had to attend, often overlapping since they are in different grades, and assignments that had to be completed by the end of each week. Workload was reasonable for the expectation of 2-3 hours of school work daily plus physical activity and lunch/snack times, however, the kids are novices at the interworking’s of an electronic device. No, we do not live under a rock, and yes, my kids use iPads to play with apps and watch shows. Experience using electronic devices for those limited purposes was not enough for them to open their schedule, access their web browser, and manage multiple logins. They needed more from me than ever before. Do you remember from earlier that I work remote from home? Ok, so now that I am working from home indefinitely without relief my schedule is more busy than ever finding ways to manage their tasks as well as my own. While I am grateful that my job allows me to care for my children in this time safely and without financial hardship, the situational change has been tough on my physical and mental health.
Remember my new fiancé James? He is a Vice Principal and Science/Math Teacher for a local school, as well an incoming Principal for the 2020-2021 school year. These are exciting times for him to be a part of a new way of learning and bring his flair to the school community. He is managing at least 3 zoom sessions throughout the day to meet with his class and additional zoom meetings to stay abreast of the coronavirus impact on the educational realm to build a re-opening plan. I am extremely proud of his accomplishments and know that this shutdown has been hard on him too. While I am an introvert and relish all of the down time I have, he is an extrovert and a people person who is falling apart being at home 24/7. Plus…..he and I are at each other’s nerves trying to plan a wedding, managing the kids and dealing with our own fears stemming from COVID-19. Relationships are always tough and lots of hard work. I never imagined the day that I would be in tight quarters with my significant other. I have it easy because James is a calm, cool, collected man, but I quiver at the fear of how not-so-happy couples are trying to keep it together. Despite our annoyance, we are strong as a family and will weather the storm.
Since the shelter-in-place was initially instituted in March, I have slept less than 6 hours a night with most nights involving me going to bed in the wee hours of the night trying to catch up with classwork, writing, and scheduling that I cannot get to in the daytime. While I feel alone in a house full of people, I appreciate checking in with classmates, friends and family to build a community that supports each other during hard times likes these. Soon we expect the shelter-in-place orders will be lifted and everything will be back to normal; still for me the anxiety of what’s next even after the promise of normalcy is still a probing question in my mind.
So there! My journey since the novel coronavirus took over mainstream media and wove into our lives. Not exciting, not controversial or inflammatory, simply my truth, a woman, a mom recapping this new life as we know it.
Thank you to @19_diaries on Twitter for starting a community space for contributing Covid_19 stories as this pushed me to document my story.