Before the mandatory social distance quarantine, our lives were the sum of our activities. Soccer practice and games, mommy and me playgroups, storytime at the public library, trips or the grocery story or the mall, manicures and pedicures and dinner reservations with friends. I had taken a year-long unpaid maternity leave from work to be home with my newborn son and toddler daughter, and we literally went out every single morning for an adventure, so that my daughter would fall asleep on the way home and that would commence nap time.
Once the pandemic hit and all that was immediately stripped away, it felt like my life had lost its meaning. All the days were the same and blended together, passing in a blur of endless zoom classes for my third-grader, cooking breakfast/lunch/dinner for my family of five, and so much cleaning up the messes everyone was making stuck at home!
But what I learned from the pandemic was how to slow down and enjoy these moments as a mom. Since we couldn’t go anywhere, we played outside a lot, and that reconnection to nature and fresh air was so important to my physical and mental health. I bought a double stroller and I started taking my three children on daily walks. Before I used to be too busy to exercise, but between walking along the rail trail in our town and hiking in the woods behind our house, I was able to not only stave off the quarantine 15, but also model a healthy and active lifestyle for my children.
Without after-school activities to keep us out until dark, I had more time to bond with my oldest. We spent more time in the kitchen making food from scratch, and it gave me a chance to teach my 9-year-old how to cook. Now she is independent in the kitchen! We did have to figure out a schedule that worked for an infant, toddler, and pre-teen, and I learned that a schedule was the key to success with all of us at home together and everyone underfoot.
I learned the best escape really can be found within the pages of a book. I began to record a storytime bilingue series with my two little ones and my older one as videographer. This instilled a love of books within my children, and editing the videos gave me a creative outlet of my own. I also was able to motivate my reluctant reader by reading the entire Hunger Games series aloud with my oldest, one chapter each day while my youngest were napping. After finishing each book we’d sit down as a family and watch the movies together. And, I started a Spanish book club with a few of my bilingual friends. Reading gave us a chance to relax and reconnect with each other.
Looking back now, I wish someone had told me that the pandemic would not be a quick thing. When they closed the schools so abruptly, everyone expected us to return within two weeks. Then it was four weeks, then it was two months, and then school was canceled for the rest of the school year, and our return was completely online until it finally began to transition to hybrid learning in February, and now schools are almost completely in person yet again. But it ended up being much more than a few weeks--it has been over a year now that we’ve been living in a heightened state of self-preservation and protection. I wish someone had told me not to wait for things to go back to “normal” because stockpiles of toilet paper, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer was the new normal. I wasted so much mental and emotional energy in the early days of the pandemic mourning the freedom and the lifestyle I had lost. Instead, I should have been focusing on everything I had gained--more time at home with my family, which is exactly what I always said I wanted, anyway. Although the virus was the most destructive disaster to plague our planet worldwide in the past 100 years, the pandemic was a gift for my family and me.