Pandemic Motherhood

Her mother, she knew, revered light. It was, she’d been told all her life, what we all strive for. That’s why it’s called enlightenment.

Louise Penny, Dead Cold

Light is often something we lack in these dark winter months. Though we may brighten up our living spaces with as much artificial light as possible, nothing compares with the real thing. And once the Christmas decorations are down, our homes can seem even darker than usual!

Compounded with the seasonal lack of light, which is already difficult for so many in the best of times, is the fact that we are still battling a global pandemic. Though curfews (where they exist) take effect long after the last rays of sunshine have dimmed, stay at home orders mean that many of us are experiencing much less natural light than we are used to – much less than we need.

And then there is the metaphorical light many of us are finding hard to locate in these rather dark times. When all we read on the news is story after story about deaths from Covid-19, projections of further loss (both in terms of human lives and economic certainty), and timelines stretching far beyond our already surpassed limit of isolation-tolerance, it seems impossible that this overlong tunnel has anything but, well, more tunnel at the end of it. Or maybe even a dead end where our lives never return to any semblance of the normal we crave.

However, there is indeed light, even if it may seem a little dimmer than usual due to our screened-out, tired eyes. Beyond the doom and gloom reporting lie stories of complete strangers helping one another to weather this storm. The orange oaf has been voted out. Anti-racism movements and wide-spread empathy are slowly starting to heal the centuries-old wounds left by racist, divisive policies and discrimination.

Just a little visual reminder that even in darkness there is light

And a new generation is growing older, stronger and wiser, day by day. They are our hope and our future and I for one am doing my best to help leave this world better than how I found it: for them.

As many of you know already, I became a mother for the first time mere months before the coronavirus changed our lives as we knew them. My daughter, Aria, who was born at the end of January 2020 just turned a year old. She entered a world just beginning to understand the nature of the Corona-beast and crawled gamely into her second year around the sun incredibly and happily oblivious to the fact that her parents were grieving the lack of family surrounding their precious child on her first birthday.

And yet, despite our sadness at not being joined by all our family and friends as we celebrated this milestone with our little girl, the small number of guests did not seem to faze her in the least. Though she resolutely refused to take a bite out of the sunshine cake I had cobbled together for her – let alone smash into it like some babies do on their birthdays – she treated us nonetheless to her sunny smile and bubbling giggles the whole day, only pausing to frown when I tried desperately to get her to ingest some sugar-filled icing. When I finally accepted defeat and released her from her high-chair’s captivity, she babbled away under the dining room table while we ate the cake that was so repulsive to her. As I chewed my surprisingly good (albeit VERY sweet) piece of sunshine, I marveled at how happy she was to just explore her own little world – no comfort eating coping mechanisms necessary for her.

I have read a lot of articles over the past year about how hard this pandemic has been on parents and, don’t get me wrong, it has not been easy. There is a reason they say that it takes a village to raise a child. Parents, especially new ones, rely heavily on their support networks (be it family or friends) to get them through the particularly difficult first few years of a child’s life. The newborn phase in particular is filled with sleepless nights, tears, and more questions than can ever possibly be satisfactorily answered. My heart goes out to those parents taking their first foray into the stewardship of a young one’s life without so much as an hour off to go out for dinner with their partner or a friend. And I can’t even imagine what parents of school-age children are going through. Yes, indeed, this pandemic has hit families hard.

Even when it’s cold, it’s important to get some fresh air (and natural light!)

But despite the obvious frustrations of parenting during a pandemic (my own daughter has not spent more than a few hours away from us…ever!) there is a light to be found not just at the end of this tunnel, but throughout it as well: Our children.

You see, children truly are extraordinary. Even the older kids in my family, who are obviously more aware of the pandemic and the effect it has on their lives (no or fewer playdates, their parents’ exhaustion, being stuck at home way more than usual), have amazed me with their resilience. They continue to see the incredible in the everyday, and still look at this world with wonder when many of us adults have stopped seeing much of anything good in it.

If my daughter ever reads this some day, I want her to know that she has been my guiding light through the past year of fear and varying levels of isolation. Even on the hardest days, when the tunnel we are in defies my best efforts to positively discern a light at the end of it, all I need to do is sit with her for a little while and the haze of despair that temporarily clouds my eyes lifts. She smiles and the whole world brightens. She laughs and the future seems full of promise once again.

I hope she one day realizes that she is the one who helped her mother to not only see but revere light again. And when this pandemic ends, and it will end, I hope to help her share her light with the whole world.

I would like to know, dear reader, what has brought you light in these darker times? I’d love to hear more stories of positivity.

Take care of yourselves. And, remember, Life is beautiful.

xo Erin

Solidarity Sunday #4: Coping – Part One

“…patience and perseverance generally enable mankind to overcome things which, at first sight, appear impossible. Indeed, what is there above man’s exertions?”

– George Borrow, Lavengro

How is everybody doing? Hanging in there OK? Can anyone believe we have been in the grips of this pandemic, at least here in Canada, for half a year already?

As I’ve written in previous posts, the last six months have been hard. I recognize fully that my Covid experience has been incredibly privileged compared to the vast majority of humanity. To start, I have a roof over my head. I’m warm, dry, fed, healthy, safe and am able to bubble up with at least part of our family. Both my husband and I have been able to keep bringing in paychecks and we have only one dependent who is an infant and therefore does not need to be homeschooled (I’m not supposed to be schooling an 8-month-old…right?). So, yes, all things considered, my situation could be much MUCH worse.

However, none of these privileges can fully combat the fact that we are living through a global pandemic, and one that looks on track to last a while longer (PSA: Wear your masks, people!). Not only is the isolation and fear crushing some days but learning to parent while not having access to our much-beloved support networks has been much harder than I could have possibly imagined. Yes, now we have at least one set of grandparents and a few uncles and aunts in our bubble able to help but that leaves two sets of grandparents, many uncles and aunts, and the rest of our extended family largely out of our daughter’s life for the time being. And this alone is, well, heartbreaking. As I wrote in a previous post, this is not in any way, shape, or form what I envisioned for the first year of Aria’s life. Not by a long shot.

Don’t worry, though, dear reader! This post is not meant to be all doom and gloom. I am actually going to offer below some coping mechanisms that seemed to have worked to largely bring me back to a place of calm and positivity in the midst of so much chaos and negativity. I hope they will help someone, anyone, to find even just a little bit of light in the darkness but, remember, it is still OK to not be OK. Take a deep breath. We will get through this, together.

Continue reading “Solidarity Sunday #4: Coping – Part One”