by Melanie Nicholas
I have been thinking about motherhood a lot lately. I have been sheltering at home with my children for roughly two months straight now, what else do I have to do?
And I feel like I have learned some important things during this time. I have learned that sheltering at home is hard on moms. For many of us, it has meant days of little to no respite. There is nowhere to go, and there is no one to come help.
I have learned that motherhood means continuous work-life adaptation. Who would have guessed that I would add chef, teacher, therapist, referee and hunter of toilet paper to my resume?
I have also learned to really appreciate making a good partner choice. Word to the wise, only raise babies with someone you could live with on a deserted island! You never know when you are going to be at home with them for weeks on end.
I have learned to be extra thankful for a mother that modeled resiliency and always knew to keep a month's supply of staples on hand.
I wondered what other mothers have learned. Since I can’t meet them for coffee, I took a brief and unscientific Facebook survey to ask. Here is what they they said:
We miss our alone time. When you work outside the home, that usually means work friends and lunches out, maybe even a happy hour once in a while. When you work from home but your kids are in school, that usually means uninterrupted time to clean, shop, exercise or watch Netflix. But suddenly, we are all together, all the time. It is sometimes very hard to not yell, “Stop talking to me!” at the people around you.
Our children are stressed out, too. I am a member of a few online groups. Many moms are venting about how awful their children are -- their children won’t sleep, refuse to eat their veggies, dislike everyone, and cry all the time. They always seem to have meltdowns during important Zoom calls.
Moms are recognizing that these negative behaviors are often a symptom of something bigger. Children have stress and anxiety, just like adults. What they don’t have is the ability to vocalize or process it. Sometimes mommas, we just have to stop, drop and hug it out.
We can’t do it all. Mothers have a finite amount of time and energy in the day. I love seeing how many women are taking advantage of this opportunity to embrace children and family as their priority, they are pouring themselves into it. I hurt for the moms that are essential workers, torn between two groups of people that need them. Say a prayer for those women putting in a full day’s work, then coming home and trying to put in a full day of parenting, too. Trust me, they want to be home.
We don’t need it all. There are a lot of women realizing that they don’t need all the extras to be happy. They have lived without hair, nails, housekeepers and parties. I wonder, how many of them are re-evaluating what their futures and careers have to look like in order to feel fulfilled?
A little effort will go a long way. Mothers of littles are in an entirely different boat than I am with elementary school-aged kiddos. I remember what it is like having two in diapers while trying to keep a job and a house and a marriage going. It isn’t easy. All I can tell you is that it will get better! The work you are doing now, to build their skills and confidence, teaching them that they are loved and important, will pay off in the end. Soon, they will make their own breakfasts and help around the house. Moms of middle-schoolers, you are building a foundation of trust with your children and a safe place for them as they enter one of the biggest periods of uncertainty in their lives -- adolescence! Moms of teens and college-aged kids, you finally know where your kids are at midnight, you get to go to bed!
We are all still learning. Some mothers aren’t feeling quite as needed as they thought they would be, and they are ok with that. I heard from several women celebrating that the pandemic has shown them just how much their kids can do on their own. This time has taught me that I am not quite ready for my kids to be big. They are still holding my hands when we walk in the evenings. One still loves to be tucked in, while my other has started muting the microphone on his computer when he tells his dad he loves him. I want to tell you that I will embrace it when they start driving and cooking or working part-time jobs. But I am not sure God made me that way. They are the very most important pieces of me, and I suspect there is a part of me that will always want to stuff them back inside and keep them all to myself.
But other moms assure me this will not always be the case, even going so far as saying having grown children is wonderful.
As one sheltering with children 14, 17 and almost 19 explained, “I’ve learned that I need to do things with them and not for them now. And that I have so many things to learn from them, now, rather than teach them. I’m happy to say, I think we did a pretty good job as parents so far. It’s possible to live with these people happily. That says a lot.”