Motherhood in Quarantine
Apr 27, 2020 • Connie Matisse
I'm thinking about my pregnant friends and what it'll be like for them to give birth later this month. I'm thinking about my friends raising kids alone. I'm thinking about my mom friends who worked in restaurants and bars. I'm thinking about my mom, far away from me.
Even without the excuse of Mother's Day, I've been thinking a lot lately about that part of my identity. I'm thinking about my pregnant friends and what it'll be like for them to give birth later this month. I'm thinking about my friends raising kids alone. I'm thinking about my mom friends who worked in restaurants and bars. I'm thinking about my mom, far away from me. I'm thinking about the million ways that all of us might be experiencing motherhood right now. Fellow moms, I'd love to hear how you're doing. You can leave a comment below to share with everyone, or reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's how I'm doing:
I got a later start this morning than I’d hoped for. I’ve already wasted time fussing with a clump of splinters in my right hand, setting the water on the stove, watching a video of Brad Pitt playing Anthony Fauci on SNL. If I’m lucky I have two hours alone, but more likely our two-year-old will realize I’ve gotten out of bed, and in twenty minutes or so, I’ll hear her tiny feet on the steps. “You there, Mama?” These days, darling? Yes. I always am.
During quarantine, I fantasize about being alone. Taking a bath alone. Reading the newspaper alone. Eating lunch at my desk alone. It’s 5:12 am and already I’m mourning this fleeting moment of silence. A lot impacts how each of us is experiencing this pandemic. Here’s what it looks like for us:
For 8 weeks, my husband, our daughters Lucia (2) and Vita (4), and I have been quarantining in a little house in the woods owned by friends who live in Charleston. A path leads down the hill to the Hungry River. There’s satellite Internet—enough bandwidth for Alex and I to be living in our email and GSuite, but not enough, really, to stream movies online. There’s a DVD player, though, and 1 DVD—Frozen 2. Vita’s made a convincing case for being allowed to watch it twice a day, so long as she plays it in Spanish. “I’m learning, Mama!” Sure, sweetie. Whatever you want.
As the reporting director for our Sales, Marketing, and Creative teams, I’m still working full-time. Alex took a few weeks to clear his head but now has been at the factory a lot, masked, gloved, figuring out how we’re going to make more pots than we did last year, but with 6 people on the factory floor at a time instead of 35. My work and my motherhood are only getting half my brain, but that’s not really new, is it?
My vision of myself in motherhood was pretty off the mark from reality. Before I had kids I’d imagined day after day filled with homemade playdough, construction paper crowns, planting gardens, going on walks. I didn’t imagine myself working 50 to 60 hours a week, distracted by my cellphone, tired all the time, bickering with Alex over work stuff that we probably actually agree about if we could hear each other better. “Stop talking about East Fork!” was an early adopted phrase in both our babies’ vocabularies.
During quarantine, I fantasize about spending more time with my children.
Still alone. Vita, understands that the Coronavirus is especially dangerous for older people, which has her very worried about her grandparents, especially my mom and dad, who live in Los Angeles and are still having to go to work Downtown. She’s had a lot of tantrums—hitting her sister, throwing her fork, stomping her little foot while her face floods red. When I’m patient enough to hold and breath her through it, the feelings behind the anger is always the same—I miss my grandma and I want to know when I can see her again. “Me too, baby,” I say. My mom’s started dressing as Disney characters and having my dad film her talking in character. When Vita is sad, we watch them again.
The third week of quarantine, after I gave up on trying to keep my team’s regular meeting schedule, I gave myself some space to close my computer, turn off my phone, and—in spurts of 2 to 3 hours at a time—give my babies my full attention. A few days I even turned my phone off at 4 pm and didn't turn it back on until the next day. That week Vita told me she had something she really needed to say. “Mama,” she whispered, “ I know I’m not supposed to say this, but Coronavirus is the best thing to ever happen to our family.”
I’m terrible at long-distance communication. I hate talking on the phone. I think a lot about writing letters but then I don’t—when would I? I miss my mom. She loves the phone and is a great letter writer. I’m trying to convince her to move out here to Asheville, but she’s not ready to retire, or she feels ready but she won’t. I can’t really tell. Sometimes I think it’s selfish of me to suggest it. LA is her home. The only city she and my dad have ever lived in. The city they’ve given their entire life to serving. But in quarantine, I fantasize about a big, dysfunctional family compound, with my sisters and brother and parents and kids. We’d drive each other crazy. But we’d be all together. That way maybe I could have a bath alone.
Everyone’s still asleep! Now’s my chance to read the newspaper, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll slip back under the covers with Lucia and put my forehead on hers. She’ll wake up and hold my chin with her tiny hands. “Good morning, Mama,” she’ll say. “Hi, baby. Did you have good dreams?” She dreams the same dreams every night. “I dreamed of you, Mama,” she’ll say.
Nevermind. I hear footsteps.
Thank you all for sharing. You speak to me and give me courage and community. We are in Whittier , at the Eastern edge of Los Angeles County. It is July 3 and Covid cases are through the roof right now. I am a mother to twin 5 1/2 year old girls: Josephine and Camille. I am also away from my parents, who are in Oregon . Both are high risk with compromised immune systems and diseases affecting their lungs. My girls are aware my parents are the people we wear masks for. I say “we wear masks for the families here and count that others wear them for grandma and grandpa”. I am terrified they will get sick and both be gone before I can see them again. It seems the initial panic of March and May eased. In June. I began to function and not be too crazy. And I started to believe I’d see them again. Now LA County has more cases than 43 other states combined and I am fearful. One of my daughters has been pulling her hair out. Nearly one side of her head is bald. Stress manifests physically at this age, hah all ages, huh? I worry about these happy, cheerful girls.
Yesterday we cut strawberries up with big girl knives and hunted for bugs-after making plastic containers with tons of holes into sequined forest homes. We buried two large balls of Camille’s hair. And decorated a stone marker for them. Hoping the yard does not get too many more. Thinking of the much larger losses we as a nation, as a world must find a way to grieve. Today we are well and there have been no hair funerals -so a wonderful day. Be safe and gentle with yourselves.
Reading this was like rethinking my thoughts. Reading this was like hearing my kids repeat our days’ conversations well after I know they’ve gone to sleep. Reading this was like my husband and I were re-arguing the same thing again but remembering to hold hands and whisper goodnight. Thanks for this.
It chokes me up to hear Vita say C is the best thing to happen to your family. Through all the challenges and ups and downs you are experiencing, the littles will remember this time so differently than we will. So many memories you never would have had with them will never be forgotten (and will be told to her children). I am having a different experience with my teenager, but still attempting to soak in the extra family time. Hang in there! Glad to see you getting your “me” time with that delicious meal and glass of wine 🎉
I’ve got two little boys aged 2 years and 6 months. I spend a lot of time “counting my blessings” as they say because we are safe and healthy. But I also try to let myself feel frustrated and angry and sad. I try to sit with my feelings and let them move on. I imagine the safety and warmth of my own mother’s arms when I was a child and I work to provide that to my children. Sometimes though? I just wish I could curl up in my mother’s arms now and for a moment forget about the weight of the world. Solidarity!
If you made this a series I would show up and read every single one the minute you send it out. I have felt for a long time that part of my deep love for East Fork is partly just love of connecting with you and these days connecting with anyone who is a mother just seems to carry a little more weight than others. A good mom friend told me recently she felt like she had more in common with a mom stranger at the grocery store than with some of her dearest friends without kids.
Our mornings usually start with a big pile (4 of us and the dog) in our bed for some snuggle time before breakfast, but this morning especially I was just screaming inside for everyone to LEAVE! ME! ALONE! My husband gets up to do breakfast for them (lucky, I know) and I hide under the covers for a little while longer just hoping that those fleeting moments of being alone will be enough to get me through the day without absolutely losing my patience with anyone. Some days are better than others. Some days I’m not even mad at not being the mom I imagined and some days I realize I might never be her, but maybe that’s ok.
Thanks for sharing this!
Love this, and love following your feed lately. I, too, am an Asheville mama to a 9 month old boy, Nolan. For us, it seems we’ve been “quarantined” since his birth last July as we’ve mostly been at home learning to co-exist as mother and son. Just as this Winter was coming to an end, as well as our own hibernation, this pandemic hit putting us on hold for, well, who knows how much longer. We’re doing our best to enjoy what we can – our yard, walks in our neighborhood, the slight view of mountains we can see from the top of our street reminding us that the world is still out there. We are really looking forward to rejoining it!
Thanks, Connie. My kids would agree with Vita, that this is the best thing to ever happen to our family. One thing I can’t really do is escape or distract. I have fantasized about a day trip to LA or a brunch with friends, but I would be running to recharge, which is fair and understandable; but there’s something beautiful about sitting in all of our shit together; and alone. The tired weeks I get grumpy and the restful weeks I get creative. Both a mirror and a model for myself and my kids. Being able to relate to one another in this way feels like we are connected. Life is up and life is down and the moments never stay. Thanks for your snippet ❤️ I’ll be thinking about your quiet early mornings.
Well said. I’m a creative stuck in a desk job away from the studio I work in. Luckily my kids are 13 and 15 and my husband and I see them when they get hungry! That does not take the stress off the worry of how they are doing are we doing enough etc. quiet moments I have enough of but I can’t seem to settle into the quiet moments as much as I want!
Omg I love this. And feel all of this. Between no solo time, balancing 3 year old twins, husband continuing to work at an office, and my mother here full time(she usually helps out during work week when I work)-it’s a huge mental load. Thank you for speaking about it all so openly. You are a great writer and really speak to all mommas. Hugs girl
Hey, your writing is beautiful. It hit me right in my heart. I have a three year old and an almost two year old who fight hard and love hard. I try to let myself cry when it becomes to much. I limit myself to reading the news twice a day and never before bed. I try to forgive myself for hard days.
Sending you love.
Thanks for this. We have one almost-two-year-old and this time has been so good and so hard. I’m still learning how to let them coexist. I’m still learning how and when it’s ok to prioritize being a parent instead of a professional. I’m still learning. We lost 3 pregnancies before this one and the extra time together has made me see how much I carry that with me every day. We’re breathing and grieving through each turn. You’re doing your best and your girls see that.
Mom of an almost 5 year old and a one week old. I miss people. I miss diversion from the constant refrain of “mom can you ______with me?” all day long every day. I so hear you when you say that you imagined motherhood differently. When I was working (as a hairdresser – now on forced time off by our state) I imagined how lovely it would be to spend more time with my child. But now, doing it mostly alone, it’s a whole different story. People weren’t made to do life in isolated units like this.
It has taught me the importance of being present. Because if I don’t practice at that… it’s just not happy.
Thank you for writing this. I feel this every day, and I know “stop talking about the Clayworks!” is going to be our kids first phrase. I think full-time potters have a rough time with work/life balance to start, but hearing your day made me feel like I’m not the only one standing in the kitchen at 5:30am, taking a moment of quiet before a little voice calls my name.
Thanks for sharing- these words and the bits of your life you share on social media. I always appreciate your candor and sense of humor!
I was the Executive Chef at a neighborhood restaurant prior to the closures, I have a 3 1/2 year old son and I’m now 35 weeks pregnant with a baby girl. On one hand, sheltering at home has allowed me some time to rest before having this baby instead of working long days most likely right up to my due date, it’s given me some time to get back into creative pursuits that really feed me- and it’s given me so much more time to spend with my son before the baby arrives. On the other hand, I miss working, I am scared for the restaurant industry and for
my restaurant which may not survive this. It’s hard to be home all the time and also never alone, it’s hard to tell a three year old they can’t run over to say hi to the neighbors kids outside in their yard. It’s hard not to see my parents and hard for my son not to see his grandparents on both sides and makes me sad that we won’t be able to have friends or family visit us or meeting the baby when she’s born.
Good stuff. Thank you. My kid/grands/ great grands are L.A. adjacent. Miss them terribly. Daughter and I decided I should skip my monthly trip down in March since I’m high risk. Grateful for texts/phone/social media.
Thank you for writing this. I sat and read it and cried while my 10 month old baby naps in the next room. I am an essential worker but have chosen to take time away from my job to be home safe with my baby. We have been off for 5 weeks now. In many ways, this time has been a huge blessing for me, almost like a second maternity leave and it has allowed me to see my baby crawl and stand for the first time and have time with her during this precious phase. It has also taught me a very important lesson about gratitude for the villages that help us raise our sweet babes. My mother in law watches her for us while my husband and I work, and it can be a delicate relationship, to say the least, but one that I now realize I am SO THANKFUL for. The emotional weight of it all is very real though, especially as a trip to visit far away grandparents had to be cancelled and now means another few months til my parents can kiss this sweet baby. Thanks for opening up the conversation, it’s nice to know we are all getting through this the best ways we can.
I loved your piston motherhood. I am visual artist and have 3 adult daughters- identical twins, and a singleton who is 4 years younger. When I was working, it was in a Boston restaurant that my husband and I partly owned- I had waited table high end for years, then was the pastry chef, manager, and he was the chef. When I got pregnant with twins, my active lifestyle( runner, restaurant worker and artist,) quickly changes. My last 8 weeks were spent in bed, trying to eat enough to gain the recommended 100 pounds that both my midwife and Doctor were pretty insistent about! My husband the chef would send meals home by taxi, and the doctor would do home visits a couple of times a week. The girls were born on my due date, and were over 7 lbs each and 21 1/2 inches long.. My husband was still working 65 hours a week, so I was on my own with no family nearby. Long walks in nature with the pranks or one of my 2 twin strollers became my salvation. I was able to do my commission work during naptime and late at night, and then I went as able to start teaching aerobics at the Boston Y once they were older. I founded and ran a large arts camp for years , and the 3 girls were students, then junior counselors, then counselors. When the twins were in middle school I went to grad school and became a full time high school art dept head. Taught for years and then quit to open a large art gallery where I sold my own paintings and the work of many others. When the art market in the Northeast tanked, I moved to Santa Fe , NM , and my husband found he all of a sudden changed his mind about reinventing our marriage as empty nesters- it led to a sad divorce after 27 good years together. I have been alone ever since( 12 years now, but he remarried immediately.
I am so close to my 3 daughters now, although they live all over the country. They are kind, loving, creative and very successful- everything I hoped for as a mother! There were isolated times in the early years/ there was a very tough balance between my work and my running the household, but they were always supportive, and now we all laugh that my good Mama karma came back to me! I admire you for what you are doing, and love your posts and your pottery ! Thank you for being a progressive and such a good employer in your area! Sincerely, Nancy
“It’s like having a newborn,” I told me friend the other day “I should be sleeping but it’s the first time I’ve had alone all day so I’m going to stay up every night way too late looking at things of no importance”.
I had grand plans for this – I always have grand plans. It’s the execution and follow through – so why should this be any different. My husband has a horrible genetic condition and each day together is a gift in good times. Now we live under the strictest of quarantine conditions in the epicenter of it all. I have three kids that mostly like each other – but I have three kids nine, eight and five. It’s exhausting. But we are happy and healthy and fortunate. Ten years ago, our life wouldn’t have been this way. I worry about the people that are struggling. I remember paycheck to paycheck and crippling credit card debt.
The kids seem happy. “How’s everyone holding up?” My friend just lost his Mom weeks after losing his Dad to Covid. What can we complain about? (If you’ve met me, you know the answer is EVERYTHING but trying to keep perspective).
I’m baking a ton of bread. Watching it rise in my mixing bowl brings me joy. Kneading bread beats punching walls. It continues to rain. Rain all week. Come on, Sun. Give us something. I started a sourdough starter. I named it after my mother. Her name is Susan. I feed it once or twice a day. Each time, I start singing “My name is not Susan.” I fear I’ll never be able to have a real conversation with another human again as a two decade old subpar Whitney Houston tune ruminates… I’m an introvert but I’m approaching peak weird. I don’t do zoom happy hours or birthday parades. I find new recipes to feed my family. Which is better than the take out we had five nights a week before this.
Making cocktails from David Lebovitz’s Drinking French. Cocktails are nice a few nights a week – it’s that old pearl of wisdom…Cocktails – They’re like breasts – one isn’t enough and three is too many. (See? PEAK WEIRD). It keeps things in check at least. No one wants to emerge from this crisis with a new problem. It’s fun for us – something my husband and I can do together. We’re cooking together. Sharing things like we did before life got in the way. Then the moon changes and I’m ready to run for the hills. “I never get a break!” I yell. Then the moon changes again, “Come on children, let’s snuggle!” Tomorrow will be eight weeks.
Puzzles, board games, chalk stenciling of rainbows of hope – these things aren’t happening here. A few weeks back we started “Little House in the Big Woods…” haven’t had much time for that lately. The laundry never stops, the dog hair is always there. No one is visiting – why do I care? I still care. The order keeps me sort of sane. But does it really?
This is the most accurate thing and I loved reading it. Phew. I also have been getting up at o’dark thirty, trying to work my full time job. My littles wake up and I am constantly—all day long—going back and forth between “I just need to be alone so I can figure this out” and “I just want to be alone with you both right now and forever.” It’s so hard and emotional for me because my work has blown up. And I’m thankful because it pays our bills, especially being self-employed. But it is also hard for me to manage. And I am so tired. So tired. It’s been a really long few months.
Connie, I always enjoy your writing, but this really struck my heart. It’s also a poignant reminder of sweet memories from when our two sons were young. As a longtime working from home mom, I fully appreciate the tug-of-war and blurred lines between obligations to my family, my clients, and myself.
Now, I’m sharing my wfh life with my husband and our youngest son, who is a senior in college and never returned to campus after spring break. We’ll be celebrating his graduation at home, this Saturday. Who knows what he’ll face after that?
Another son is half a continent away, working remotely with two roommates and two cats on the coast of your lovely state.
Mom and Dad are 300 miles away, confined to their rooms in what was previously a vibrant senior community. I’ve become their remote personal assistant, navigating deliveries of essentials and slowly learning how to manage their financial affairs as their dementia gets worse. They never complain, but I know they are suffering from social isolation.
We’ve all lost a lot. But, hopefully, we’ve learned some valuable lessons too. I just keep reminding myself to take a deep breath and stay in the moment, as much as possible.
Best wishes to you and all the other moms out there.
This message was so welcome this morning. My son, who will be one next month, is so amazing. He will take his first steps any day now, and I am beyond glad I will cheer for him and see his excitement, instead of that privilege falling to a staff member at daycare. Yet I know even he feels the stress we all carry, and gets bored in the house, and is more temperamental than usual. He has completely lost the ability to sleep in his crib, and we’ve had him in our bed again in an attempt to get a few hours rest without screaming. My back aches from contorting around him, and he likes to kick. But when he wakes up and sees me, he breaks into a smile that strikes me to my core. I’ve given up trying to do a normal amount of work, and am skating by, letting my identity shift into our home. There are hard days, and hard hours, but good ones too. I am grateful for everything I’ve built with my family and friends. I’ve been talking constantly with my sister in law, quarantined with three kids (including a three month old), finding solidarity in the fact that no, not everything is fine. She and her husband have decided that anything said in quarantine doesn’t count after. It is such a challenge to be kind. I am trying to be kind to my partner and child, and kind to myself. There has been so much kindness in this quarantined world, and when most things return to normal, that’s something I hope will stay the same.
Trying to home school my 4, 6, 8, and 11 yr old through tears this morning as I wait for my husband to get home from his 12 hour shift at the ICU. Our peak is supposed to be the first week of May and it is ramping up. Because he is in direct contact with Covid I don’t really have much support or help…I have severe asthma so we can’t sleep in the same bed or be that close either. I am an artist that after taking a decade off was trying to re-start my career and get back into painting. Thats all been put on hold….I feel like anything for me has been put on hold and then I feel selfish for feeling like that because we have it better than a lot of people, we have a job, a house, food…..I just feel really over whelmed and lonely. I have enjoyed more time with my kids, I have enjoyed more time outside, I have enjoyed the rewards of teaching them, but mentally, I am exhausted…its kind of like when you have a new born and you see your former self just slipping away. There are good days and bad days, its still early enough to hopefully turn today into a good day. Reading your story, reading these comments, getting to vent, it all helps. Thank you for a safe, judgement free zone.We will all get through this and be stronger for it.
Thank you for sharing. I’m a new mom and I’m beginning to relate so much. Yesterday, my darling girl turned 16 weeks. I went straight from maternity leave into working from home. So it sort of feels like an extended leave but with the love and stress I feel for both my work and my baby co-existing in her nursery (literally, it’s where I set up my make-shift office). My mom is amazing and wonderful, and is currently in an ICU four hours away. We can’t visit due to all of the hospital restrictions currently in place. We are living for the once a day FaceTime call the hospital allows. My daughter is her first grandbaby. It’s a lot. to process. Knowing other mamas are processing a lot of emotions now (and really, all the time), helps me feel connected and grounded. Sending love to you and all the moms we know and love.
Lovely story of finding your way through these difficult times, and the wisdom we sometimes learn from our children. My baby is nearly 30 years old, lives alone in another city, and I insist that she call me every single day so that I know she’s ok. If she calls twice, I panic when I see the caller name because I’m afraid she’s sick and how will I get there fast enough if she’s having trouble breathing.?How will I make a the long distance drive in time to look after her, to not be separated from her if she has to be hospitalized? You see, even when they grow up, it doesn’t get any easier when there’s trouble like this in the world., but I take so much comfort in a comment she made several months ago when I had to reschedule a dinner with her to help a former student who was struggling. She told me to go ahead, that he needed me and she understood because the one thing she had never doubted in this world was that her mama loved her. It sounds like your babies won’t doubt that either.
It’s now 11am and I’m just starting to sit down for a full 8 hour work day crammed into 1.. maybe 2 hours before one of my 4 year old twins comes and finds me hiding in a little corner of our home. This morning I’ve already given my kids more attention than I used to be able to do in a full week. (we danced, we painted, we exercised, we overcame tantrums) And it’s only 11.In reality the only thing I want to do is anything but work (thankful to have a job and a wonderful partner) but instead garden outside, paint with my girls, make bread, clean the house, resurrect all the creative things I used to do.. and after a month of sort of “figuring this whole thing out” I’m finding so much peace in these simple things, moments with my children that otherwise would’ve passed by too quickly. This is the first read – out of a lot of them bombarding my inbox these days – that hits true to home. Thank you for posting.
I miss my mom so much too.