FULL QUARANTINE MODE with Two Babies: How to Survive the Pandemic and Be Happy PART TWO

Taylor Keating

What began in March took a full month or two to face reality of never leaving my house. Okay, I realize that that’s dramatic, but that’s one thousand percent how I felt at the time. I was in full denial mode and trying to maintain these insanely high expectations that I put on myself. It finally took a crash burn before I was able to let go and give myself some grace. A pandemic was going on, everyone was struggled and it wasn’t even that bad if I just take a breather and watch YouTube with the kids for an hour. People have it far worse.

The hardest part was going from a three month maternity leave in the dead of winter into an unending quarantine. Newborns already make you feel like you’re stuck at home and glued to their constant feeding and sleeping and pooping schedule. But factor in the anxiety of getting sick and it was a nightmare.

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I had an expectation that I’d be heading back into work. I was beyond comfortable with that decision. My son had just started toddlers and daughter would be in infants, and both would be no more than 20 feet away from me at all times (an office and classroom away). There was such comfort knowing that I could go see her when she was sad (or more likely when I was!). My biggest worry was trying to figure out how to get them both out of the car with a car seat and all of their things for the day. What I was struggling with was what to pack them to eat and how many bottles to bring per day. Not how to survive a super contagious virus.

Instead, I got a household lock-down. I didn't plan for this. And if you know me at all, you know that I am a planner by nature. Since Layla was due to start infants in a week, I had every single bottle labeled with her first and last name, a new sleep sack just for school, her diapers boxed and labeled with several packs of wipes to keep there. She was ready for school and I was ready for this new mom of two journey to begin!

And it began…Layla attended for three days that were short and sweet. News had begun to swirl with heavy infection rates and scare headlines that more and more people were dying. I kept seeing threats of full country closures and news from Italy about how bad their situation had gotten. This caused a lot of parents to not be in and it was a quiet week. Layla did three days of transitioning for an hour or two and then boom—school closed. I honestly thought it was going to be a quick, temporary thing. Maybe a week or two, a month tops, and then right back into the flow. At that point the experts were saying two weeks was enough to air everything out, stop spread, and be back to normal.

But a week went by with nothing. Then another. These first few weeks were great! I knew that I was on borrowed time with two babies at home. It was fun to have bonus time with Lincoln, but battling a newborn who had no sleep patterns and a random eating schedule wasn’t easy. Every moment of every day was worrying—whether it was about attention for each child or food for each child or keeping up on diaper changes. Lincoln was 18 months so he needed structured time and was used to being on a pretty concrete schedule. It's freaking hard juggling it all.

For me, the toughest part was trying to wrap my head around the fact that there is no end and we don’t know anything. I know that’s pretty far out, but at the end of the day, we don’t. Stats change regularly, the incubation and spread rates change. You seldom find a situation more intense than this where you cannot alter or change a thing. There’s no dates to lift curfews, we don’t now if things will fully close again. Everyone is constantly living having to think that the world may shut down again without a moment’s notice.

If there is a single silver lining in any of this it is that my children are small. They won’t remember the year 2020 or the coronavirus so intensely like I will. They aren’t in public schools that are doing some weird hybrid learning or fully virtual. They are adaptable and will prevail from this weird pandemic life we’re in. I don’t have to explain the virus more than we wear masks to protect ourselves from germs. I’m grateful that I moved when I did so that my children have a large yard and an area to roam and explore while stuck at home.

I myself have adapted. On tough days the children had quick meals like microwave mac and cheese and snack bars. At one point I was counting the pouch tops that I went through a week! I wasn’t stressing about quantity of milk they drank or servings of veggies. Instead, I got smart. I bought them each a water bottle that they could have all day long. It was easier to see how much they were drinking. I got special plates with sections to make sure that there was proper portions. The stress started to fade away and these busy moments were made easier.

Once the food situation was a little bit more managed, I started to think of ways to engage my toddler without breaking the bank. Amazon is a serious Godsend because I found dozens of wooden puzzles, education toys, and fun sensory items for both kids to explore. I tried to search for things that provided both structured and unstructured time. I could be nursing the baby while Lincoln played and he was self-sufficient in this. There was so much pressure taken off my back to be more hands on because he was still getting these great learning moments.

During the beginning of quarantine he was only 18 months old, but in my weird, panicky, mom brain, I couldn’t waste a minute. His language was thriving and I feared failing him. If I didn’t give him opportunities to talk and learn then who would? It would’ve been so easy to just plop him in front of the TV so I could have a cup of hot coffee, but being my enneagram 8 and unhealthy perfectionist, I can’t do that.

Sure, there’s a conundrum around expectation versus reality. In the midst of a pandemic, this is double magnified. Friends with older children posted about their homeschool woes and my sing friends were posting about the million and one shows that they binge watched. Dozens of DIY projects began to appear on my feed and others starting and finishing new hobbies, like scrapbooking and knitting. In my head when I think of no responsivity and being stuck at home, this is my expectation. It should be wonderful. I had so many hopes to get all these projects done!

And yet, nothing was getting done. The first month of two I was mentally exhausting myself. The baby’s naps were being tracked down to the minute and I was stressing over little things like was it dark enough in her room or was there enough tummy time. Did Lincoln get his snack or did I totally flake? Nobody, pandemic or not, can keep up with this train of through. Nobody.

Acceptance truly is what changed my quarantine experience. I had to look at myself and realize that I had no idea when and if this was going to change. I didn’t know when I’d go back to work again. But I knew that I couldn’t keep stressing like I was. I knew I couldn’t give my kids all this crazy work and time and energy and not crash myself. The first thing to go was the activities and timing myself all day long. I finally went with the flow for the first time in my 29 years of life.

My two babies were healthy, and happy, and thriving. Despite these activities that I was throwing at Lincoln, he was still playing and enjoying himself and learning without me having to tell him. Babies touch you and drain you and cry and need you. Tending to these needs and responding to their wants is more than enough. One day if he watched an hour of TV or 5 minutes, it didn’t matter in the long run. Whether we painted or played, it didn’t matter. They were happy.

To be honest, a massive weight came off my back when I realized that I was doing this to myself. The pressure I felt was self-inflicted. Now that I’ve let go of the control, I can ride this pandemic wave as long as we’re happy, and healthy, and safe…we’re all good.

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An early childhood educator at heart, now raising two toddlers with big feelings and writing about mom life through a real lens.

Ridgefield, CT
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