Beginning to See the Light

The constant stress and worry have decreased immensely.

abstract watercolor illustration of the light at the end of a path in the forest
Image created via Midjourney

All of my "memories" popping up from this time last year reflect our first few days of Shelter in Place in Illinois. Schools were closed and remote learning was mostly independent work (which was a disaster). I made a schedule for my kids and tried to keep them entertained through the volume of free content made available by different companies and individuals as they tried to help parents that were adjusting. There were YouTube art classes, virtual museum tours, and sing-a-longs. Our energy to engage in these activities waned quickly as the weeks of isolation dragged on.

I remember when we thought that school would be back to "normal" in the Fall. However, our district opted to be 100% remote. We've had to try to find a schedule that works for the parents during the day, taking shifts in monitoring the three-year-old and keeping an eye on the older two while they attended class via Zoom. Both of us parents have adapted to catching up on hours of work in the morning (me) and at night (my husband) to make up for constant interruptions during the day (though admittedly, I now enjoy my morning time alone and probably won't go back).

We have followed every recommendation of the CDC, to the letter, which means limited interaction with other humans. Any gatherings have been with only one or two other people, and outside. Our only travel was via one road trip to Galena, Illinois, staying at an Airbnb for an attempt at a summer vacation. We haven't seen any family except via Zoom.

I have worried about our mental health. Articles have been written about how parents and children alike are facing serious strains on their mental health. Usually, these articles will end with some "practical tips" like "take 5 minutes per day for yourself!" or "try to find some time alone!" Makes me wonder if those articles are even written by parents who have young children. Because when you are in a crisis, it is often hard to find the mental energy to deal with such a crisis.

And yet... I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

When we'd reached a breaking point with remote learning, my fully vaccinated mom came to stay with us for two-and-a-half weeks. This was followed by my fully-vaccinated dad arriving for a three-week stay (still here). Having another adult in the house has been a monumental shift, because the extra set of hands can be the childcare provider and elementary school "assistant" during the day.

Then my older kids started hybrid learning on March 9th. Four days per week, 2.5 hours per day. On April 12th, they'll return to school five days per week from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm - nearly identical to a pre-pandemic school day. My three-year-old has been enrolled at a Montessori school for half-days, starting April 5th.

And my husband and I are vaccinated. He is fully vaccinated, and I have received my first dose. It took all of my willpower not to sob while I received my shot. I'm beginning to imagine gathering with other fully vaccinated people. The constant stress and worry have decreased immensely.

We're not completely there yet, but as quickly as life changed in March of 2020, it feels like we are rapidly making progress. I don't know what "normal" will look like and still think we won't see that for a long time, but the things that will make me happy - having my kids back in school and seeing other people — are within reach.

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