We are rapidly approaching our junior year of COVID. We now know that it won’t take two weeks, or even two years, to flatten the curve. Instead, it feels like we are on a loop-the-loop roller coaster that we never asked to be on and that we can’t get off. As soon as we think it’s about to end, it steadily brings us right back up to the top of a gut-wrenching, anxiety-filled drop. Even more so, the ride keeps changing to ensure that we are fully disoriented. The continual ups and downs have left us exhausted, and the mental toll has been and continues to be significant, especially for moms.
Each year has brought different perspectives and challenges. I’ve tried my best to stay positive and see the silver linings in this situation, but with this latest wave, even I am having a hard time seeing that the end is in sight and staying positive.
Spring 2020, I was lucky to be able to tuck my family into our house and weather the storm. I was pregnant with my third child, and it helped me see that life was still beautiful. Summer 2020 felt like a gift; it was exactly what I needed at that moment. Yes, I was still working full time, and I still have nightmares from helping my daughter with first grade coursework, but it enabled us to slow down and spend time with each other that we would never have been able to do otherwise.
I told myself that I needed to appreciate this time because it would be over sooner rather than later, and life would be back to “normal” soon. I didn’t mind staying home and not socializing. It was hard but not insurmountable, and we all thought it would be over soon.
Fall 2020 to Spring 2021 brought challenges because we had to adjust to in-person and hybrid-learning school days, but we made it through. By Summer 2021, things started to feel almost felt normal. Vaccines were plentiful, testing was available, and masks slowly started to go away. It felt like the end was in sight – the sun was shining, and the world seemed to be righting itself again.
Even Fall 2021 was okay – we apple picked, we corn mazed, and we were all looking forward to the holiday season on the horizon. At least for me, it felt like I could breathe better, and I let myself mentally relax.
And then December 2021 came in like a wrecking ball, and it hasn’t let up since. Is it just me, or did it feel like the game suddenly changed overnight and that the floor is falling from beneath our feet again? With this newest wave of a new variant and fun terms like flurona, our mental exhaustion and anxiety are once again on the rise. I keep thinking, “How could we be here? We’re vaccinated and boosted. We should be able to handle this better.”
It feels like Spring 2020 all over again, except it isn’t because you still have to continue. You can no longer cocoon your family in your house and keep them safe because that’s no longer acceptable. You must now live through a pandemic while simultaneously keeping calm and carrying on as if it isn’t happening. Right now is worse than Spring 2020 for us moms; at least it is for me. It’s not getting easier; it’s getting harder if that was even possible. How can it be getting harder?
Or does it just feel insurmountably hard because we are finally feeling the aftershocks of the past two years of mental exhaustion? Have we exhausted ourselves so much over the past two years that we have turned our brains into mush? Now that it seems COVID has settled in, and we’re in it for the long haul, moms are expected to go back to normal to handle the normal mental load of motherhood, in addition to the new COVID-is-everywhere variety of mental load.
Since December 2021 and this new variant, after what felt like a honeymoon period in the summer and fall, my anxiety and stress levels have been at an all-time high. I wake up more times than not with dread for what the day will bring. My mind is on overdrive, trying to manage regular motherhood overload thoughts with this fun new COVID-y twist.
Will one of my kids wake up with a stuffy nose today, and I will have to keep them home? Will I need to reschedule work meetings? Will I have to start going back into the office again, increasing our family’s exposure tenfold? Will I be able to find tests for us if we need them? Will somebody be sent home from school after they sneezed a few times? Will somebody in my kids’ classes test positive today? Is my toddler’s runny nose and irritability from teething, or could he have caught COVID? Do I have to make dinner again tonight? Did I wake up with a scratchy throat from dry air overnight, or do I need to test myself? Is it okay if my daughter has a playdate, or are we unnecessarily taking a risk? Why am I always so tired? Will my house ever be uncluttered again? Have I done enough to make sure my daughters don’t fall behind on their academics? Will this pandemic ever end?