You're probably thinking that the world doesn't need another complain post about how sucky quarantine life was—especially the early days. My situation ended up being very different than most of those who ended up having to work from home, or work in the office, or emergency personnel or even those who transitioned into homeschooling. My second child, Layla, was born in December and I was on Maternity leave for early 2020. Everything was going great (minus the whole newborn struggles, colic screaming, and toddler meltdowns). I was all set to return to work on March 23rd and bring my two babies with me.
Surprise surprise! I never had a chance to go back. My workplace closed the Friday before I was set to return. Thanks to COVID we ended up closing for six solid months which extended my maternity leave and I didn’t go back. It was always a question of when we’d reopen and if we would. There was such anxiety around being open and the virus and how it was spreading and all of that. I had three months with my newborn and was ready for work again, but that leave was then extended to eight. We finally opened again in September.
Don't get me wrong, now looking back at these nightmare times, I am thankful for the time I had at home. More or more I felt like I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to go back to work. Thoughts of maybe this is my out of the workforce, maybe I can be a stay at home mom, maybe my kids are better off at home only knowing me until they end up in Kindergarten. However, as the days turned to months I realized that I needed to go back. My kids were becoming way overly attached, they didn’t really like not seeing friends. These two are insanely social people (they get it from their dad!).
When staying at home, especially in the pandemic, I felt like I was in a constant fog or being a veil of smoke. We were quarantined and by that I mean that I didn’t leave the house. Period. I didn’t wear a mask because I did not leave my property. That’s how quarantined I mean. Groceries came from instacart or my mom since she was still working outside of the home. My husband is an essential worker (shout out to UPS for keeping us financially stable during this mess). He was able to pick up random things I needed depending on the day. The places I would want to go with the kids were closed so what’s the point? No libraries, no malls, walks in town weren’t worth the while when we have a yard.
March 20th was the last day I left my house until August. And that day wasn’t even a real outing. My mom and I took a last minute you-only-live-once target run to get essentials to make it through this quarantine that we had no idea would go on seemingly forever.
I don’t necessarily love what I do work wise but my job comes with one massive perk—my kids get to come with me. I barely make any money at the end of the day but I see this as way more valuable than some side cash. Layla’s eventual room is two doors down from my office. It’s the same room that Lincoln was in when he was an infant and across the hall from his toddler room. It’s a small early childhood education center and it’s wonderful. What better deal could I have?
Returning from maternity leave the first time was terrifying because he was my baby boy and I had no idea what to expect. If we didn’t need the money at that point than I probably would’ve cut ties right then and stayed at home with him. The longer than I worked and the more benefits that I saw from his growth and teachers and friends, the more I knew that this was the best decision for our family. He was so happy to go to school. These teachers and friends were a part of his family. I loved it. I wanted to continue to work just to provide his education and upbringing for him. I wanted him to have this experience. And I wanted the same for Layla, too.
Due to this pandemic, she missed out on much of the invaluable education and experiences that Lincoln had at her age. Here I am at home 24-7 with a baby and a toddler and I am constantly worrying that I am not doing as much as I should be. Does he know how to count? Can she easily roll from side to side? One of the best parts of our infant program is how the babies get to know other babies around their development level or the teachers who take amazing care for them. She doesn’t get the opportunity to do messy paint projects, and have a group reading time, or make sensory bottles or whatever they do. I just don’t have the time and if I did, I probably wouldn’t want paint in my home on the walls. Which brings me to the worst part of quarantine…
MOM GUILT. There is no greater feeling in the world than being on you’re a game all the freaking time to the point where you are begging to go to the bathroom alone, only to feel bad about wanting that because your kid has been sitting on the couch with some fruit snacks watching Blippi on loop. Can you say excavator song?! Why do we do this to ourselves?
Quarantine was like newborn stage but doubled because you yourself are stuck in this trend. Newborns grow and time goes on. The phases are short-lived and there’s a happy ending when you have a happy toddler. With quarantine life, there is no end in sight, no magical end date to this pandemic and no magical serum to end it all. Even with a vaccine, that doesn’t mean it becomes eradicated or that we’re going to be free at last and not have to wear a mask. Time goes on, but this pandemic doesn’t really.
What will it be? Months? Years? How can we sustain the survival mom mode for such an extended amount of time? At what point are we supposed to accept that this is life now? Gone are the days that you can greet a friend with a warm hug and a kiss. Two babies under two aren't supposed to be stuck home with only mom as their friend. Them needing me is great and all, and to be honest, I’ve very hands on with them. I crawl on the floor to play and we wrestle around. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fun! But it’s not the same as a playmate and they deserve more experiences. Their brains develop so damn fast and time moves forward, but nothing around us changes. Days just quickly fade.
Reflecting, I think back on the things Layla missed out on. She’s never gone on a swing or experienced the noise of the classroom. She doesn’t know the love of her teachers or heard the giggle of another baby. She doesn’t listen to others sing or read her a book. She hasn’t gone for a buggy walk downtown, say hi to strangers and sniffing the autumn air. The worst part is, Lincoln knows what he’s missing.
He wonders where his teachers are. He asks when he can see his friends. Often, especially in the early days, he’d run to the car and say drive. I’d indulge him and we’d do some laps with no destination in mind, just going to get out. It felt normal driving around and yet so weird at the same time. Nothing about this weird life in a pandemic is normal.
There’s also this grieving part of myself that I’m sad for. I thought I’d love being stuck at home with no outside responsibilities. But I’m not. Because my kids are being taken from these amazing experiences that I’ve worked hard to get them. Regardless of my views or how I parent, they’re not being raised normally. There’s in isolation, secluded from the world. There’s nothing about this pandemic that we can control. It's scary to not know when we are safe and when life will be normal again. Or I guess if it will…
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