January 2023 started with a bang in my house. Literally. On January 2 of last year, my husband fell down our stairs carrying a carpet cleaner. He didn’t break any bones, thankfully, but he was holed up on the couch for the better part of two weeks. It miserable. For all of us. He was hurting and frustrated. I was running everywhere – kids to school, me to work, then to extracurricular, checking in on him throughout the day, making dinners, etc. It isn’t an experience I want to relive again.
So when January 2024 rolled around, I was gleefully anticipating a “normal” start to the year. I even joked with my husband on New Year’s Day about our trials from the prior year and it was going to be “New Year New Us.” Little did I know what was ahead.
- January 8 – Early dismissal from school for predicted rainstorms.
- January 16 and 17 – School closures for freezing temps/inclement weather
- January 22 – Daughter’s campus closed for broken boiler. But, turns out it didn’t matter about the campus closure, because said daughter tested positive for COVID
- January 24 – Youngest son tested positive for COVID
(I live in Orleans not Jefferson Parish, but you JP moms could add January 24-25 school closures/virtual learning for busted water main).
To recap for us all (not that you even need a recap, because you’ve lived it, too): there is not one week this month that I have been in my office every day. I am behind on all fronts, at work and at home, and when my son wasn’t feeling well, I cried waiting on his COVID test to come back positive, because I knew he was sick. And that meant that I needed to pivot. Again.
Since 2020, we’ve become accustomed to pivoting, and adjusting, and rearranging schedules, meeting over Zoom, and working from home. But even if we are accustomed to it. We’re becoming tired from it. And more than tired, weary. I think this is in large part because as a society we are constantly plugged in. We bring our laptops home, and our work email is on our phones, so even if or when there is a situation in which we need to work from home, we can. And while this technology is helpful in some ways, it can also make things more challenging, because there is always the option to be “on.”
To lay out the bare facts, I am (and should be!) very thankful for a salaried job, and one that offers me the flexibility to work from home. I recognize that my situation is a gift. But with that flexibility comes expectation. I have plenty of PTO, so I “could” take the time off. But the truth is, if I don’t do the work now, it still has to be done later. And by me.
So what is a mom to do when she just cannot deal with all the chaos and nonsense? I don’t know everything a mom should do, but these few things have helped me few this hectic season. Maybe they’ll help you, too.
Reframe and Reset Expectations
This one is hard for me. I’m a planner and a list-maker and a hard-core Type A personality. I crave routine and daily rhythms are very important to me. When that is all thrown off, I feel a bit like I’m drowning. So when my head is swirling in a sea of uncertainty, I have to remind myself (and now I’m remind all of us): Stop. Breathe. Take the To-Do List and rip it up. Well, don’t rip it up but re-evaluate it. What can reasonably be accomplished today? This week? Then move all the rest to a later date. Let go of your previously held expectations. The to-do’s will get done, eventually. They always do.
Sometimes when we’re feeling overwhelmed, we turn inward. We internalize our worry and shut everything and everyone else out. But when we’re feeling overwhelmed, the opposite is often what we really need. If a friend offers to drop off coffee while you’re working from home with kids or are sick or out of school, take the coffee. If your mom offers to send you dinner, accept the dinner. Allowing ourselves to be loved by others allows to 1) be loved and 2) recognize that there really is goodness out there even if our current situation feels pretty bad.
I’m sure there will be a divide here, as to whether this really matters, and some pushback against “toxic positivity.” But that really isn’t what I’m suggesting here. Practicing gratitude isn’t the same as toxic positivity – One says “Everything is great!” (even if it isn’t). The other says, “Things are really hard, but I am grateful for this delicious chocolate chip cookie especially in the midst of this really hard day.” Taking a moment to acknowledge the good can make even the darkest of seasons a little brighter.
Yes, reader, things are really tough right now. These past few weeks have been a gauntlet for so many of us. But, sitting in our misery will not help us out of it. So, do what you need to do to remember that good times are coming. My coworker says she needs to get outside and take a walk to shift her focus. Do that if you need it. The bad times have been upon us, but the good times are coming. After all, it’s almost Mardi Gras, y’all!
So here’s to all you mommas out there. Going to work. And staying at home And working from home. And supervising virtual school. And doing all things. Because that’s what you do. You got this. You are Superwoman, even though you shouldn’t have to be.