This one’s been rolling around in my brain for a few weeks now. Bear with me – it may get a little messy.
On the morning of March 10th I drove to Saskatoon and did some headshots and graphic design brainstorming for some clients-turned-friends starting an exciting new business. I stopped for coffee with them after photos because we haven’t caught up in so long. We went to Starbucks on Broadway. It was crowded and noisy. That afternoon, I took Cole to a piano lesson and then zipped over to the Legends Centre for some hockey photos. The team I was photographing had been playing really well – they were after a championship and had a solid chance at it.
On March 11th, I photographed a dance school in Waldheim. Not a huge one, but still plenty of cute costumes and sparkle.
March 12th saw me at the rink here in Warman, shooting some figure skating photos. The year end performance was around the corner and the kids were so dang excited.
On March 13th our new dog needed a routine vet visit, and then it was WEEKEND!!!
And then everything imploded. We received the email from the school on Monday March 16th. School is closed, you don’t NEED to come get your kid but if we’re honest, we’d rather not have them here right now. (I’m paraphrasing a bit.) So, Cole was home from Tuesday on. No word on whether or not he’d be going back this year and no time for teachers or parents to prepare themselves or the kids.
My booked sessions started cancelling right after that. A newborn session I had booked months ago cancelled first, and I know it was hard for mom to make that call. It was 100% the right decision, and I tried to reassure her of that. I dropped off a couple of wraps and headbands at her house and sent her loads of info on how to take the photos herself. I’ve seen a couple and she did a good job. I still miss the chance to take them though.
That new business I was working on didn’t launch. The trade shows they were preparing for were cancelled and any meetings they had lined up were cancelled as well – not because they couldn’t be done online, but because they lost priority in the chaos of it all.
The hockey team never got a chance to test their skill at playoffs. The season ended quietly with an email and that was it for them. I released the photos to them without any orders collected. It just didn’t feel right to collect money for something that was likely causing some pain.
The dance and figure skating photos were delivered, but I suspect the end of the year performances were cancelled. Most were. I honestly haven’t checked as my bubble has gotten much smaller.
For the time being, I have basically closed my business, cancelling all sessions for April and May, losing thousands of dollars in income. (Dance school season is April/May. That one hurt.)
With my 7 year old son at home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I’ve been trying to maintain the trickle of remaining work responsibilities and my ever-growing mom responsibilities, but if I’m honest they’ve both seen a serious decline in performance. With Cole parked on an iPad I managed to finish editing and printing the dance and skating photos, and I’ve finished up a few other jobs that have been ongoing. I’m working on a website and a price guide for a client, and I’m in talks with another for a full do-over of her business brand. The trouble is, I don’t know when and how all of this work is going to happen. I can’t seem to get any focused time unless he’s playing Minecraft, and I know that hours and hours of iPad are bad for his health. He gets impulsive and sort of snarky after too much iPad time. I know this, and so I’m basically sacrificing his health for my work. Yay for those priorities.
My husband Jared works for the City of Saskatoon in the IT department. Guess who everyone wants as their date to the pandemic?? An IT guy! Yayyyyyy! He’s been “working from home” and because he’s such a hot commodity right now, there’s no room for “home” in that phrase. When he closes the office door that’s it. Don’t go in, don’t bug him, don’t show up with questions. He’s got bigger fish to fry right now. See you at 4pm. (Or 4:13 as it were.)
I, on the other hand, don’t have bigger fish to fry. Or at least that’s how it seems. I’m the cruise director on this ship of quarantine memories. I’m all my son has for socializing and as a result, he’s glued to me. All. Damn. Day. We dismantled the guest room (because seriously? Guest room? Who needs those??) and turned it into a craft/activity room. We draw, colour, cut and glue, build things… there’s a lot of “me” required in that room. He’s not inclined to amuse himself in there while I’m busy elsewhere, which is sort of unusual. He’s normally a pretty independent kid, but these are the days of the plague, and everything has changed. He requires direction and entertainment and new ideas every 15 minutes. What can I do now? What do you want me to draw? Can I have a snack? Can I play Minecraft? What should I do now? What can I do that’s fun? I told him to go outside and play today. I said “pretend it’s recess.” He replied with “I usually have friends at recess.” Ugh. Kill me now.
I’m wearing the mom hat full time and if I’m honest, it’s not the best look on me. I’m not saying I’m not a good or worthy mom – I know I kick ass at being a mom. Not this type of mom though. Not the 1950s mom who made a career of cooking and cleaning and raising her kids. I envy those who are soaking up every minute of this magical time at home with their families, away from the pressures of work (how do they even get AWAY from the pressures of work anyway??) I wish domesticity filled my cup, but I need something else too.
In my normal life, my regular grown up life, I saw people for a multitude of different reasons. I have skills that not everyone has and I am damn good at what I do. I am a problem solver with ideas and inspiration. I’m creative and yeah, I watch a lot of trashy tv while I edit, sue me. I make beautiful images and designs for people and THAT’s what fills my cup to the brim.
Now? I print minecraft colouring pages and draw bumblebees.
My adult life is gone and I’m so freaking jealous of my husband. I loathe his closed door and his grown up meetings and “Oh, hey, let me show Georgia to my work colleagues on our team video chat!” (Georgia is the rescue pup we coincidentally adopted 1 month pre-plague.) I feel so resentful and that’s not fair to him. It’s newborn days again! He’s trying to make the best of a crappy situation too. Getting hundreds of people set up to work at home over the course of weeks instead of months is a lot. He’s under immense pressure and expectation, all with a simmering undercurrent of societal panic. We’ve always been open about Jared’s anxiety and to say that COVID has worked him over big time is an understatement. His anxiety attacks are up and my spidey sense is constantly tingling. I’m hyper alert when it comes to his mental health and it’s so goddamn exhausting. My own coping skills are being tested and I’m sorry to say, they’re not enough most days. I’m feeling over emotional and tired and unmotivated and quite frankly, angry. We’re usually a pretty good team, but we seem to be fighting our own battles right now without a lot left to support each other. The good days are continuing to outweigh the bad, but omg the bad days suck ass.
By the end of Jared’s workday I’m too tired to even consider starting my own work. I’ve already scheduled and executed every minute of the day for Cole, made and cleaned up breakfast, 2nd breakfast and lunch, walked the dog (oh yeah – we’re supposed to be socializing her at this crucial time in her mental development but guess how much THAT’s not happening!) video chatted with both sets of grandparents and on extra special days, I’ve also shopped for and washed the groceries. (Who among us ever thought we’d be washing the groceries? Anyone??) I have nothing left to give, and I especially have nothing creative left to give. I have the mental capacity to watch tv and, very sparingly, read the news. Then it’s off to bed and repeat again the next day.
I didn’t think I’d find isolation this hard. After all, I spend most days alone already. I have a strong introvert side to my personality that craves solitary time and independence.
But. I’m not alone here. I’m the most sought after person in the house and I’m doing things that I didn’t know I’d need to be doing.
We finally got connected to Cole’s class through Google Classroom and they set up a meeting for the kids to have a small sharing session with each other. I couldn’t gain access to the meeting and I almost cried. Literally, my face got hot and I just kept trying and trying and trying. First the audio would work but no video. Restart the software, now it wants an app update. Restart again. Now we’ve got no audio or video. It took almost the full half hour of the meeting to gain access with video and audio. Normally, stuff like this doesn’t phase me. I am a technically capable person who spends most of the day on a computer. But on that day, with the pressure of Cole sitting next to me with that hopeful look on his face and the sound of his friends sharing stuff we couldn’t see… it nearly broke me.
To say this sucks is an understatement. “Find a hobby! Slow down! Cherish this time!” I call bullshit.
I have a hobby. One that I love. I do pottery – making bowls and mugs and shave bowls, all different finishes and colours with carving and carefully applied handles… It takes time and focus and it gives me such a sense of satisfaction. The Potters Guild has been closed since mid March, so I don’t get to do that now. New hobbies are flitting in and out of my sphere, but nothing that really sticks. I’ve baked cinnamon buns and meal planned and although I haven’t entered the sourdough stage of this pandemic, it’s looming.
And then, there’s sickness. I haven’t even started down the road of “what if one of us gets sick? What if Cole gets sick? What about our parents??” I honestly can’t even go there. I’m treading water here and denial is a strong support system for me right now.
This is damn hard, and I guess the point that all of this rambling and complaining is leading to, is that it’s also ok to admit that it’s hard. I didn’t ask for this. None of us did. Does that mean we love our families any less or lack appreciation for the simpler things in life? Of course not, don’t be stupid. All it means is that we’ve been thrust into a situation that will have lasting effects for our businesses and our relationships, and we’re all struggling to find the new normal in it all. I seem to pendulum between acceptance and blind rage. Some days are great and I do the crafts and keep the entertainment coming and go for exploration walks and make special memories, and then other days I’m completely saturated and have nothing left to give so I park him on an ipad and watch 90 Day Fiancé on my phone.
A friend recently texted and said “Today is the day I got sick of my kids… It’s always feeding time. My kids aren’t funny. They’re always there and I don’t want to snuggle them. Or touch them. Or have them touching me. Or breathing on me.” She knew I’d understand without judging because I’ve shared the same feelings with her. We would both happily die for our kids, but stress is a funny thing. It makes our emotions go crazy and it makes us second guess our priorities.
I don’t know that I have anywhere else to go with this. I feel like I was going to mention the curated social media view of home isolation and how it’s basically a lie, but the train of thought has escaped me now. I won’t be able to retrace my steps either because I’ve been interrupted 5 times already to look at and appreciate lego creations and analyze drawings and discuss minecraft plans. (To be fair though, that lego fireball he built was pretty cool and the minecraft plans are among the most creative things I’ve seen my boy come up with.)
So, I’ll end with a cliché. Be kind to yourself. I mean it though, cut yourself some slack and feel the feelings and stomp and cry and laugh maniacally. Let it all happen because, honestly, this is fucking difficult and at the end of the day, you’re stuck with yourself. No sense making an enemy there.