For Some of Us, We’ll Never Find a Break on the Other Side of This
By Karen Habashi
Photo © DimaBerlin/Twenty20
Sep 9, 2021
If I learned one thing from the past year, it’s that so many people are struggling behind closed doors.
Many have little to no help — they’re experiencing anxiety, depression, addiction and more, and I believe there needs to be more focus on this.
When some think of adulthood, they might think of the freedoms we chased as kids and teens. Those indulgences kids dream up, like cake for dinner, or being able to do whatever you want, when you want — simply because you can.
These dreams are vital, and I wouldn’t dare ask a kid to stop dreaming, but the reality isn’t always so simplistic.
Because not everyone among us really has the opportunity to relax, nor the freedom to do so.
For some workers like healthcare professionals and essential workers like cleaning staff or grocery store clerks, a “return to normal” hasn’t occurred.
Because even when a pandemic tapers, or slows, or becomes endemic, parents remain parents. Doctors remain doctors. And the necessary work continues. There’s no off switch, or a stockpile of saved vacation days to be had.
That feeling that “every day is bleeding into another” that many of us have been experiencing? Where is the off switch?
One of the Toughest Jobs
I didn’t sign up for this. (Many feel this way.)
I signed up for being a parent, but not during a pandemic. And when I read recommendations from local government, and even the World Health Organization, it’s clear to me that not only did no parent sign up for this, no one seems to have a clue on how to make it easier.
Parents already have one of the toughest jobs in the world, pandemic or no pandemic. But with COVID-19, it feels like a science fiction movie.
As a mom who is immunocompromised, trying to navigate this pandemic has been hell.
I want to stay healthy while still giving my kids a normal-ish life. So I keep telling myself “I’m fine!” in the voice of Ross from Friends.
But I’m not fine, I’m exhausted.
I feel like I’m on the verge of a mental breakdown, but I don’t have time for it.
"I want to do nothing, think of nothing and care about nothing for at least a day!"
I want to do nothing, think of nothing and care about nothing for at least a day!
And I can’t be the only one who thinks this way. Since COVID arrived, families have been tested.
I’m sure there are some people who have had great years, and this didn’t really change their life all too much, but for the vast majority of people? It’s been no picnic.
The Newest Normal
With the start of the new school year, and the news about the variant being more dangerous, I’m once again faced with more anxiety about my kids’ safety and mine.
My heart is already racing.
I’m exhausted mentally, even though I keep joking about how much I want them to go back to school so I can finally clean the house, but deep down I’m freaking out.
It actually feels like too much for one person to deal with.
"But I don’t want to feel guilty, I just want to feel renewed."
And that’s why I feel like I’ve reached my limit, and why I’m in desperate need of a vacation from making decisions.
I want some alone time, to do nothing.
I want for a brief moment to feel like nothing is expected of me.
Even when I take time to heal from my invisible illness, there is some guilt. But I don’t want to feel guilty, I just want to feel renewed.
Parent on Parent Shaming
That is not something worth shaming — I want to rid this world of the idea that parents should be martyrs, that they should abandon all personal care for everyone else.
If a mom needs to vent, I want to be there to listen. I don’t want to talk about her behind her back, joining a chorus of people debating what society may believe to be personal failings.
But is it a failure to take some time, to regroup, to be the best parent you can be?
"I want to rid this world of the idea that parents should be martyrs, that they should abandon all personal care for everyone else."
I have heard from people who view parenting in this way, right here in the comments. People, more often than not men, who take the time to just pop in and write: “I’m sorry for those kids.”
I find it’s too easy to scrutinize people for being human. For having limitations. For being open enough to talk about those limitations. I'm not saying that parenting perspectives aren't wide, varied and often radically different from one parent to the next, but I've put my cards on the table. Put your money where your mouth is.
The stigma of being human is real. But what sense is there living in fear of an anonymous, may-or-may-not-be parent telling me my kids are not all right?
Tired Parents Everywhere
Parents are tired.
And if you’re like me, you are grateful and proud to be a parent. You’re just exhausted.
Exhausted because the expectations on me, and parents like me, have been huge. And we have fought to do our best in what can sometimes feel like an impossible situation.
We battle our own health issues, whether they are physical or mental. We do our best to show up every day, we try to make sure we can support our family financially. We try to teach lessons. We try to entertain. And we do it, gladly.
But the gauntlet never really ends. That’s just not usually how parenting works.
So I’m looking for breaks, so I don’t break.
It may sound utopian, but I’m looking for something, even if it is just waking up at 10 a.m. on a Saturday.
As scarce as time to yourself is, when you find a minute or two, take it. You're good to no one, even yourself, if you don't make yourself a priority sometimes.
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