Over the past year I have mothered like I never imagined. It was not the motherhood we learned of from past generations. It was not the stay at home mom who couldn’t socialize or the overworked mother who felt guilt from spending too much time in the office. This was a mutated version of motherhood. The kind where you are both of those versions living in a pool of guilt and loneliness combined with the anxiety and fear of living through historical events that you could not have imagined in your wildest dreams.
There was no preparing for this type of mothering. No guidebook on how to navigate being a wife, being a mother, ensuring proper nutrition and education while the world around you is burning. In 2020 I was mentally grasping the battle for equality and supporting it, while attempting with very little information or consistency from experts to keep my immediate and non-immediate family safe from a deadly virus. All the while forcing a smile in the support of frivolous projects on video conferences call five times a week.
I believe that the level of caregiving that parents have had to endure will heavily impact us for years to come. I walk away from it both traumatized and empowered. Of course I am grateful for the extra time spent with my son, watching him grow in a way that as a full-time working mother would have otherwise not been possible. I watched my son take his first steps, perfect his first words. I have memorized the notes of his laughter like a maestro at an orchestra; to me it is that beautiful. At the same time, I have grown attached and routined.
Now, still heavily in a battle for equality, still in a pandemic it is time for us to re-enter the world separately. I accepted that he craved knowledge that I could no longer deliver to him in the middle of this balancing act and signed him up for school. It wasn’t time to turn off survival mode but to adjust it to a new version of survival mode.
Sending him to school meant it was time for me, my self to emerge beyond motherhood. Yet again, I was not prepared. I did not know how to exist separate from the daily grind that had come to be a part of my identity. Who was I before the turmoil? Who have I become? Who do I want to evolve to be? It was time to rebuild mentally, physically and emotionally.
I do not know the correct response for this, I presume it will take time to find it. I do know now that I am now resilient, a word that I seldom used to describe myself. I know that I am able to laugh and express gratitude even at times of uncertainty and fear. I know that I am eager to make up for lost time. I want to show my son the world that I once knew, that he has been so sheltered from. I know that I am alive and fierce, I want to move my body and test its limits in ways that I never have before.
Being able to catch a breath and emerging from the survival mode of quarantining while working and caring for a child feels like a second chance at existence. A canvas we are to paint even more beautiful than we thought possible.
I wish us all the ability to emerge with grace.