My three-year-old happily dances around the living room as we watch Encanto for the first time. I, too, am bobbing my head to the catchy songs. I’m instantly mesmerized by Luisa’s anthem—the dancing donkeys, the mix of strength and grace in Luisa’s dance moves, her story. Days later I’m still humming the beat under my breath as the words dance in my mind and I realize Surface Pressure is the theme-song for every mother during the pandemic.
In February 2020, life was finally feeling settled. My daughter was a year and a half old, and my work, social, and family obligations felt balanced after a tough transition into motherhood. Enter Covid-19.
At the end of the second week of March 2020, I went home from the office thinking we would be working from home for the next week. By Sunday, childcare centers were closed.
Pressure like a drip, drip, drip, that’ll never stop, whoa-oh
That first week was tiring, but manageable. My husband and I were both working from home and we were able to finagle our schedules to alternate parenting and meetings. Of course there were the stresses of the unknowns of the virus, but overall we were figuring it out and thought it would be a very temporary arrangement.
But then that first week turned into another, then into another, until daycares were closed until further notice.
Pressure that’ll tip, tip, tip ’til you just go pop, whoa-oh-oh-oh
The months that followed were a jigsaw puzzle of childcare so that we could work. Once daycare reopened (for mornings only), I raced out of the house to be the first in line at drop-off to cram in the maximum amount of kid-free work hours. The afternoons were spent hoping that she would go down easily for a nap (or at least sit in her room quietly) while I worked for a few more hours. I’d finish up my work day after bedtime, only to set the alarm early to start the cycle over again.
Daycare never increased to pre-pandemic hours because of staffing and protocols. Work didn’t seem to slow down for either my husband or I. In a time of unpredictable and not enough childcare, we had never been busier—projects stacking on top of projects. The early flexibility and understanding from employers dwindled because the job had to be done.
Pressure like a grip, grip, grip, and it won’t let go, whoa-oh
And, then there was the runny nose…
Something that is a staple for most small children from October to March had turned into an anxiety-producing symptom. Was it Covid? Did we need to test? She would stay home from school as we waited for the results. This was yet another never-ending cycle of nose swabs, days out of school, and worry.
Watch as she buckles and bends but never breaks…
And then there was the rest of life. Trying to hold it together as we lost a family member and had to say goodbye in full PPE. Soon after that, I endured two unexpected medical procedures in the same month— largely alone—healthcare facilities not allowing additional visitors to appointments.
Pressure like a tick, tick, tick ’til it’s ready to blow, whoa-oh-oh-oh
And all of this with little to no in-person social connection as I overanalyzed every outing and get-together to determine whether or not it was safe enough or “worth it” for the risk of exposure.
Most days I felt like I was stumbling through—like Luisa on the tight rope with more donkeys being thrown on each side of pole. I often felt guilty for how stressed I was, being pulled like a rag doll between mothering and working, never really knowing when one obligation started and another one ended.
The last two years often felt impossible. There was no way to do it all, no way to get it right. The pressures and expectations were never ending. As we round out two years of pandemic life, I’m ready to relax in a hammock with a drink.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Lyrical”.
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