My husband shared an article with me this morning that hit home in a major way. Parents are struggling now more than ever before, and to put it very simply: the world is not set up to support families.
I made the decision on Monday, two days ago, to "go back to work". A huge decision that I don't take lightly. When this pandemic started I saw that I needed to "quit" immediately to provide the support, love, structure, and attention my children need, and I'm still falling short.
I put this all in quotations because I am self employed. Whether anyone reads the work I create, I spent more than 40 hours a week working to grow my business, my image, my books... etc.
I tried sharing my struggles with those close to me when this first began. I was met with "you're providing them a good example if you work along side them and show them you're not giving up" and that sentiment is really nice, but it doesn't work.
My time is now cut short for everything I am trying to accomplish in a single day. My husband was also working from home before it was cool, and the times we were able to spend together planning our day in the morning, having a cup of coffee after the kids were on the bus to school, having a quiet lunch together, that's all gone. It's gone.
Both of us feel that we have never been busier than we are right now as we both juggle our work, and our children's constant needs.
On Monday this week I felt empowered to go back to work. To finish the second book I've been working on and get it ready to be released into the world this summer, and start a third book while I work to learn illustration so that I can include children's books in my ever expanding list of goals for my life.
When I had a day job, I was a preschool teacher. I actually have the capability to see both sides of this issue. It is because I was a teacher (and a daycare provider at one point), after being a stay at home mom for several years that I can see the demand that children have on our lives.
That puts parenting in almost a negative light, but I've never thought that any parent I've ever encountered was ever prepared for what parenting really entails, and now we are all being thrown into the fire and being told to figure it out on our own. We've lost our village.
It does take a village to raise children. It takes grandparents, teachers, daycare providers, after school activities, neighbors watching your children for date night... etc.
We've lost all of these people in this pandemic, and now not only are we being told to work from home (some of us already were), we are now being told to home-school and provide the same type of structure that was otherwise provided by several other people throughout our children's typical day. But wait, there's more...
Now they've lost their social life.
When once they were interacting with all of those other children and adults on a daily basis, now all they see is their parents, who, I might add, are stressed, depressed, riddled with anxiety, and unable to focus on seemingly simple things. They are getting a look into private conversations, and being tasked with adult responsibilities because we are asking them to "please be independent so we can get anything done!"
And this is all coming from a household who didn't lose their jobs.
Take that, and add the economic hardship of going from paycheck to paycheck just to make ends meet, to not knowing when your next paycheck might be, or if the people around you will give you the benefit of the doubt while you struggle to pay bills on time.
Let's now add the additional hardship of medical costs. Our little family is still paying off thousands of dollars in medical debt because our son spent a week in the hospital in December, only a few months before this pandemic began.
Then our dog broke his leg... And I had to sit in a parking lot and talk over the phone while the vets relayed information to me and I had to make decisions on whether or not my children would ever see their beloved best friend again.
Any other "normal" situation is taken to extremes in these scary times, and add that much more stress and worry, and that amount of stress takes a very real and very painful toll on our physical and mental well being.
Several weeks into this pandemic, and we are all trying to be more OK then when it began, but that does not mean that any of us are OK.
Things need to change, and this isn't something where we, the stressed out parents can simply put a phone call in to a friend or family member for moral support and be all better. In fact those phone calls take time away from all that we are trying to accomplish, and in the end what we need isn't a phone call, it's someone to help, but no one in our village can help. Because #socialdistancing.
All of this is coming from a woman whose marriage is not on the rocks. Whose children are adhering, for the most part, to the structure she's created for them. Who isn't worried about paying bills, medical or otherwise, and can make decisions about the high cost of vet bills to save the life of a small and furry best friend. Who has the ability to make the decision to put her work aside and be a full time mom again, albeit reluctantly.
If this privileged woman right here is this stressed out about motherhood and giving up her dreams, I literally can not imagine what any other family is facing at a time like this.
Going back to work is not going to be what it once was. I recognize that I'll be able to put in half the time I did before, if that, and that I will be constantly interrupted by my children and their needs. Something that I'm just fine with.
This blog post isn't about me and my depression or my stress. It's about families like mine, all across the globe. All of the work that I do, the books that I write, are in an effort to create support for people in situations just like the one we are facing right now, and when it all started I felt like a fraud. Maybe that's a different post for another day. That mentality pushed me down a deep hole of depression, right at the very moment that my children needed me the most.
Yes, a post for another day.
My point is, and I've been saying this for years, but it takes something catastrophic like a corona virus pandemic to really see it, is that our society NEEDS to change it's ideals on money, debt, freedom, and family. So that the next time we face this problem, and lose our village of people, we can make the choice to put our dreams and careers on pause without upending the very ground we stand on. Our worlds have been shaken. Our identities questioned. Our lives and values threatened. What are we going to do it about it now? What can you do now to make your voice heard so that change happens? Will we collectively be more empowered to act, and support one another to make real change that will support families and individuals who otherwise can't afford to survive this?
Now more then ever we need to think outside of the box we have all been living in.