Coronavirus Diaries: The First Week and What’s Ahead

Today’s one of the better Mondays. As usual, Eddie woke up at 7 am and played with toys and then asked for TV. Our remote is in our cellphones. Thankfully, the morning was quiet. My husband leaves for work at 5am or earlier depending on his shift. We’re thankful that his job is not closed. They’re talking about the possibility of being closed. My mom is still asleep. So is my toddler. With all the chaos and noise around me, I look forward to quiet mornings to myself where I retreat into my office to blog, read, write, and plan the day over coffee. In my household, it’s the peace after the storm from last night.

The coronavirus-related shutdown and closings are starting to get to all of us—except the baby. Ava is too young to remember this event at all. She’s living the life of a typical 2-year-old. She’s much more expressive in words and phrases, though some come out as baby talk. She’s almost getting the idea of potty training. She said “Potty” and “pee pee in potty” and took off her pants and diaper and sat on her potty. I thought she’ll make it this time. Then, she got distracted by a toy and got up, and ended up peeing on the floor. Of course, she gets excited and points at the floor and announces, “I PEED!” with a big smile. I said, “Yes, you peed. Next time, try peeing in the potty. Pee pee in the potty.” Shaming a toddler for missing is the wrong approach. While I grab a mop, Ava points again to the urine puddle and exclaims, “DINOSAUR!” We couldn’t help bursting out laughing. It was round puddle with a longer trail on one side that resembles a neck. I could see her toddler logic. In toddler land, it’s the usual stuff.

Eddie is still confused to why school is closed. He’s getting used to his new routine. If he had his way, our entire house would be littered with all his toys without sparing any single square-foot-space; he’d also watch TV and Xbox all the waking hours. Of course, we wouldn’t allow that. We’re letting the kids watch an extra hour or so of TV. On nicer days, we encourage him to go on walks with us or play in the backyard. We had him read and math on the computer. He loves Splash Math, where he practices math problems. He hates his leveled reading and it’s a struggle. But that what he has to do to earn more TV time or activities like baking cupcakes or other fun activities. His teacher has sent us more activities and resources. Two times a week, she’s reading to all the kids virtually and conferencing with us weekly.

My husband and I are trying hard like we’ve never to maintain our sanity and manage our lives. We’re dealing with uncertainty, challenges of parenting kids including one with special needs, job security, finances that are affected. Yesterday, we went for a walk but ended up losing it. Eddie was throwing tantrums. Ava had her needs. And we both were exhausted and frustrated.

Perfection, Martyrdom, and Fear are the monsters to be tamed.

Perfection. I found this funny meme and many of us can relate. A “practically perfect in every way” type of person will not get undue admiration from me. My reaction will be my middle finger. Fuck you, bitch! Lolz. Not to diss a classic. Afterall, it’s one of my favorite childhood movies and I memorized all the songs. I also watched Mary Poppins II with my kids, and I hated it. I found the new Mary Poppins’ self-righteousness cringeworthy. The songs were not at all catchy. It’s hard to match the magic of the original classic.

Maybe this is proof that times have changed. Most people I know would not respond well to a perfect ideal anymore. If I saw someone who’s perfect and has it all together, I find it difficult to take that person seriously. They must be overcompensating or hiding something. We all know that perfection is impossible.

Trying to make everything perfect is a coping mechanism for some people during times of uncertainty. But, your sanity will be the cost and it is not worth it. Real life is not a Pinterest board. For me, I’m realizing that it’s not about sticking to a perfect schedule and having the perfect activities. His classroom teacher sent a suggested routine. My stepson will have days where he’s unfocused and behavior issues. Accept it. Take it one day at a time. Be flexible and adaptable yet consistent.

His tantrums will be exhausting. I learned to acknowledge it. I’m still learning how to redirect and help him with it.

Or maybe you don’t have kids, but trying to stay productive. If you’re not able to accomplish your set goals, take time to reassess and evaluate the whys, hows, and whats. Then, adjust accordingly.

Remember, productivity is not a measure of your self-worth. 

Coronavirus Quarantine Tip: Take many small breaks throughout the day. It’s helpful for everyone, including myself. Yes, this is the time to distract the kids with their TV show while I sneak off and have a chocolate bar all to myself. I don’t have to share if they don’t see it or don’t know that Mommy has chocolate.

Martyrdom. Take the movie, Bad Moms. If you haven’t yet seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it. I laughed hard. I relate much more to Mila Kunis’ character than any of those lifestyle bloggers with smiling family pictures and a cute story of their kids before a recipe. Can we just get straight to the damn recipe? And how the fuck do they manage their kids to be looking at the same direction and smiling at once? OK. At least I can thank the blogger for a good cupcake recipe and I can use cupcakes to bribe my kids into good behavior and completing their school lessons during the shutdown.

In the end of the movie, she learned to set firm boundaries and do what’s best for kids, and herself. You can’t pour from an empty vessel. There’s this martyr-complex among certain women. I’ve seen this pattern before. I hate how our culture has this unrealistic expectation of motherhood and romanticizes the mother being sacrificial to the point where no other adults in the family share the burden or the mother sacrifices to her well-being, strength, and mental health. This isn’t healthy for anyone. When you are burnt out, it isn’t helpful to anyone.

Take those two memes below that I’ve seen.

I get the sentiment behind it, but it speaks volumes of our cultural attitudes. For example, Dad is a grown-ass man. Why isn’t Dad taking care of the kids or vacuuming the floor so that Mom can rest? On the second meme, a sick person shouldn’t be cooking. Is takeout not an option? I’m sure the kids would love pizza. I understand if it’s a single parent (regardless of gender). I don’t want to speak for single parents. My husband was a single father before we married. I’ve had friends, coworkers, and others who are single parents. Building a support system is important. When I was single, I used to babysit one of my friend’s kids so that she can get some time to herself. If you have friends who are single parents and sick, why not offer to help? Babysit, come on over and help with laundry, cooking meals, and anything else. It’s important to find yourself a community.

Honestly, what is behind your guilt for being a real human? Why are you ashamed to ask for help? And why are you constantly trying to prove yourself to be better than others? And why are you judgmental towards others who are struggling or someone who actually practices the discipline of self-care? I knew a woman who used to judge me for taking evenings off to go out and have dinner and drinks with the girls or going to a networking event to build my business. Why the need for a misery-fest and what’s the reward for winning that misery contest?

I don’t people with martyr-complexes are necessarily bad people. They never learned appropriate boundaries. From what I’ve seen, people who grew up with dysfunctional families or wrong ideas from certain religions grow up not learning appropriate boundaries. They may lack emotional maturity, or learned destructive thought and behavior patterns. There may be other deeper issues. My advice is to seek a therapist who can help in identifying those destructive patterns and help you learn how to have appropriate boundaries. It’s like those warnings in flights. All airlines remind you to put a mask on yourself first before helping a child or another person with theirs. Otherwise, there’ll be two unconscious people. A martyr won’t put on the mask on herself, but struggling to put it on a young child who pulls it off or otherwise because she’s gasping for air. A martyr will complain about how the child isn’t appreciating her struggle or sacrifice and manipulate with, “I did this for you back then when the oxygen masks dropped, why are you not returning the favor? You are moving far away for this job in another town. What about me?” That martyr would also be looking around to see who needs help with their masks and maybe judge others for not putting it correctly. Then, she blames her breathing difficulties on everyone else except for her poor choice of not listening to the directions and putting the mask on herself.

Don’t be this person.

In case you’re wondering, what is the deal with boundaries?, Mark Manson explains it. Also, research codependency and boundaries on your own. Another thing is that mothers with codependent relationships with their kids can cause harm. I have a mother in denial. Growing up was chaotic. I had to learn boundaries and how to have healthy relationships later, because my mother doesn’t have a good sense of boundaries. It’s her family history and being married to a narcissist, alcoholic, gambling addict (my Dad who’s been kicked out of our lives). Don’t repeat the pattern. I decided that dysfunction and codependency is going to end with me.

Panic. It is perfectly normal to feel scared, angry, confused, and even grief. Panic refers to how you react with those strong emotions. Definitely not easy for those with anxiety. Those are the people who hoard, freak out, and react inappropriately. Panic leads people to do irrational things. It isn’t healthy for the body or mind. It leads to burnout, and perhaps other destructive habits. The Medium has a great article on how to prepare ourselves emotionally for what’s coming by Elad Nehorai. 

I could read this article over and over to face this pandemic. Do not deny or fail to acknowledge how this pandemic can have an emotional/mental toll on you. BTW, tell those toxic and annoying-as-hell pollyannas to fuck off (or just delete them). Denial or sinking your head in the sand isn’t the answer, at least for me.

If you struggle with anxiety, please connect with a therapist or counselor. Many of them are offering their services through phone, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts. Please take advantage of it. Being unable to fight this monster of panic by yourself is not a sign of weakness or shameful. Getting help is a sign of strength.

So there you have it, in my household the monsters of perfection, martyrdom, and panic cause havoc among this pandemic. Keeping them dormant and under control is the key to sanity.

What other monsters have you discovered?

 

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