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.