It's Week 21 here, and I am still here — sitting in my corner bedroom, typing away at a makeshift desk. And my children are here, too. Nope, they haven't gone anywhere. Can't you hear that howling in the background as I smile into the webcam and conduct our meeting, pretending everything is ok, and that I have smoothly embraced my new normal?
That howling, the wailing, the laughing, the shouting, the screaming — that's the soundtrack of the life of a working mother, now available for all of you to download and hear.
Over 21 weeks of a pandemic, I have heard, read, and received a lot of thoughtful, considerate, and practical advice on how I can put myself first, take better care of myself, and really focus on self-care — really focus on me. And how I can continue to be resilient, persevere, and come out stronger on the other side of this when we find our next chapter... our new, new normal.
Thank you for all the advice you have for working mothers. But here's how we really feel.
Please don't tell me to relax, chill out, or just to destress; I am parenting in a pandemic.
Please don't send me any more inspirational quotes: "Keep calm and carry on," "This too shall pass," and "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning how to dance in the rain." Because unless any of those "inspirational quote people" have raised children during a pandemic, I don't want to hear their sage advice right now.
Please don't tell me that if I went into my closet and maybe put on one of my dresses, I would feel better. Last time I followed that advice, I snagged and stained my dress chasing around my 5-year-old who refused to get out of her pajamas. Maybe it was wrestling her to the floor that caused the snag. We'll never know.
Please don't tell me to meditate or send me any links for meditation apps. Because I am so sleep deprived I will just pass out as soon as I close my eyes… and, I have no space for any more apps on my phone.
Please don't tell me that maybe it's time to wash my hair, to watch a Youtube video and master the perfect 10-minute blowout, and to put on some makeup. Because there's a banging on the bathroom door and one of the kids is screaming, they have to poop right now.
I don't want or need any more self-care tips.
Please don't tell me to run outside and get some fresh air. I would rather hide in the closet for a few minutes and breath in the stale air. If I go outside, the kids will follow me, after all.
Please don't send me another list of Netflix shows to put in my queue to watch to unwind. I still haven't started the other ten shows you recommended. I am still on Season 1 Episode 2 of The Crown… and I think one of my kids just woke up screaming.
Please don't tell me to relax, chill out, or just to destress; I am parenting in a pandemic. Relax, chill out, and destress are no longer part of the working parents' vocabulary.
Please don't tell me to take some time off, recharge and rest, or sleep and regroup. I am happy to do that so long as you can show up to watch my kids while I sleep for two uninterrupted days straight. (If humanly possible, I may not even get up to use the bathroom.) Remember, school's not in session and there's no summer camp. So you will have to be the CEO, the Chief Entertainment Officer.
Please send pizza (one plain cheese and one pepperoni), chocolate of any kind, and cheddar & sour cream chips. And no, this isn't for the kids. This is all for me.
And please don't tell me to put on a mud mask, a sheet mask, a peel-off mask, or a charcoal mask — any type of mask. And definitely don't recommend a homemade banana face mask. We are running low on bananas and who keeps any honey in their cupboard? I can't ask my neighbors to borrow any, because it's a pandemic, and most of them have left the building anyway.
And so please, I don't want or need any more self-care tips. And I don't have any to give you, so please don't ask me either. Like most working parents, we just need our schools to re-open safely and quickly, so we can find a moment to pee in peace.
In the meantime, here's what you can do to help a working parent instead of dispensing what you might consider to be thoughtful, considerate, and practical advice. Please send pizza (one plain cheese and one pepperoni), chocolate of any kind, and cheddar & sour cream chips. And no, this isn't for the kids. This is all for me. It's for us.
Actually, never mind, please just send alcohol as soon as possible.
Preferably prosecco so I can make a mimosa, suck it down quickly, and collapse into bed. And then wait for my kids to come wake me up at 5:30 AM to start all over again.
WRITTEN BYMita Mallick