Slippers, Sneakers and Silent Stress

Slippers, Sneakers and Silent Stress

We have been home from school and work since mid-March. It’s been nearly two months and we are in the thick of distance learning (different from homeschooling, as a dear friend of mine who homeschools her five children noted).

Public Service Announcement:

Homeschooling and distance learning are different. When distance learning, the teacher determines the lessons and assignments. When homeschooling, the parent determines the goals and expectations.

As my friend said it, “I get to decide what we’ll do each day or each week. If my kids are having a rough day, I can decide to change course, or just take the day off knowing we can pick it up tomorrow or push it off for another week or two. You are distance learning, where the teacher determines the checkboxes and tells you when you need to check them all off by. I create my own checkboxes.”

Regardless, we are all adjusting to being home together, working and learning at the same time. My job told me not to plan on coming back into the office until July at the earliest. And today, we got word that summer camp is canceled. Oh my.

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day and my husband gave me the BEST present I could ever ask for right now. He said, “The only gift I can give you now is the chance to be alone. Go out and do whatever you want without worrying about coming home by a certain time.”

Really?!

I took a long walk at a metro park and stayed out for three blissful hours of kid-free time. We ordered takeout for dinner and enjoyed Oreo ice cream cake my husband picked up through the Dairy Queen drive through. It was the perfect day.

As a special Mother’s Day gift to myself, the day before I ordered two pairs of sneakers and a pair of house slippers to replace the pairs I have right now. Slippers and sneakers are really the only shoes I have been wearing for the past two months and they are worn through (much like my patience on any given work day).

What Life Looks Like Right Now

As I write this, my husband is in the home office on a work call, two of my daughters are intermittently bopping around the house and coloring pictures at the dining room table, and I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my oldest daughter, who is watching a YouTube video assigned by her teacher on reading double-vowels.

My three young daughters are frequent guest stars in my video work calls. I didn’t think I could relate to Jimmy Fallon on such a deep parent-to-parent level, but if you have seen his daughters interrupt one of his Tonight Show segments, you know what I mean. My kids love to see who my “work friends” are and then show them their latest work of art by holding it up directly in front of the laptop camera.

On a work video call at 9 a.m. last week, I immediately confessed to my colleague, “I already yelled at my kids using my mom voice. You know, the one that says ‘I will murder you if you don’t get it together RIGHT NOW.’ I feel bad, but I couldn’t help myself.” He said, “I get it. It’s the silent stress we’re all feeling.” With this sentence, I realized he’s right.

We are Doing our Best Because We’re all in This Together, but…

…darn it, it’s stressful in ways my psyche hasn’t fully revealed to me. It’s like my brain is protecting me from the true intensity of what’s going on in our world and at home right now.

My husband and I have confessed that this would be so much easier without kids. In another universe, we would blissfully “work together” in the house, eat our meals together, then shut down our work laptops around 5 p.m. each day to cook a delicious and nutritious dinner together while enjoying an adult beverage before relaxing the rest of the night by watching TV, reading, taking a neighborhood walk, bumming around on the internet or calling it an early night to do it all again the next day.

What life really looks like is tag-teaming distance learning between conference calls, nonstop requests for snacks and meals, trying to keep the chaos and clutter under control, and break up fights between our kids, who would be all too happy to watch TV or play on the school-issued iPad all day long (which we do not allow — are we the idiots?).

Understatement of the Year: This is Hard. And Then I Think…

Truth is, if I didn’t have my kids right now, I would be miserable and obsessed with having babies. So, this is actually the best scenario I could hope for.

We’ve had to cancel all our vacation plans for the foreseeable future (rich people problems). However, the part we love most about family vacation is spending time all together as a family of five. Between three kids in school and two parents working full-time outside of the home, vacation is the only time we are together the full 24 hours in a day.

And then COVID happened and now are together ALL THE TIME.

Having babies, a wonderful husband and spending time together is exactly what I had hoped my life would look like. So, taking everything into account, we are doing OK. Still, I sure did love my solo time on Mother’s Day.

Hang in there Ohio — we’ve got this!

About the author

Michelle Dickstein is a Midwest transplant from the East Coast with her husband. Michelle wears many hats as a life coach, writer, public health professional, certified lactation counselor, and certified project manager. Her most rewarding role is mother to three young daughters — two of whom are identical twins — who all get their curly hair from their father, but more than enough personality from Michelle. Her real passion is helping others by sharing her life experiences and she has made appearances on CBS 19 and Fox 8 news as a lifestyle and parenting "expert" (whatever that means). Learn more about Michelle Dickstein Life Coaching, LLC at michelledickstein.com.

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