Mothers in the Pandemic

They say that our lives will never be the same.

The Earth, I imagine, is sighing with relief. The emissions benchmarks we’ve met in just a month would have taken 15 years otherwise. How great is that? And not just for Mother Earth. I too am exalted at all the hours saved by not racing to and fro, all the nerves preserved by not dealing with a single airline, or even a traffic light for that matter.

And there’s something else. Mothers the world over seem to be oddly content.

To be honest, I’m loving this, a friend with a large family told me, with a tinge of guilt. We’ve eaten dinner as a family three weeks in a row. I don’t know when that ever happened before. No one has to go anywhere, and no one is coming to my house. It’s all so easy!

I have heard this from many sides. Sure, it’s no joke being cooped up with active kids when there is nowhere to go. But I don’t think anyone truly misses rushing to after-school activities every day, snacks on the fly, homework into the wee hours. Looking back, it feels like we were constantly on the way to elsewhere. Everything I did, I always had to rush through it to get to the next thing, rush rush rush. Now all the rushing has come to a stop. Why, exactly, did we have to be in such a hurry?

Just like that, I have more time to read. Entire books! I had forgotten how good that feels.

The absence of professional sports brings my sons out of their rooms more often. We play games of scrabble.

The girls emerge from their rooms too, long-forgotten books under their arms, and we read and sip coffee in companionable silence.

Everyone is eager to help, without eye-rolls as before. They deliver facemasks, buy groceries, cart away the recycling – anything to get them out of the house.

We plan menus together.

We talk.

I am reminded of the languid summer days of my childhood.

Don’t get me wrong, I am also busier than ever before. I have friends who are bored at home, and I have no idea how this is possible. Between planting tomatoes, baking sourdough bread, sewing face masks and now stapling face shields, writing blog posts, painting the basement, taking walks, checking in with all my Whatsapp groups, and binge-watching The Last Ship on Hulu (it’s about a pandemic, you guys!), I barely get 5 hours of sleep every night.

But the difference to life “before” is that I am no longer rushing through any of it. Everything now has purpose. The bread I bake feeds people, cheap yet delicious. I don’t resent the time and effort. If kneading dough was a nuisance before, it is now a survival skill. I feel in touch with my ancestors by performing this simple act, a kinship with the women who have faced hardships before me.

If someone waved a magic wand and tomorrow the virus was gone, poof, vanished into thin air (which, you’ll remember, is exactly what a certain head of state promised was to happen in April), of course I’ll be hugely relieved. All this worry will be off my chest, about my family, my friends, our doctors and nurses. I won’t be assaulted by waves of panic every time my throat feels dry, or someone coughs. I’ll be glad for my kids to get back to the business of building their futures, of dreaming big, of achieving milestones.

But I suspect a part of me will grieve over what will have been lost. As soon as the world opens up again for business, this quiet, languid life in our small private world will be over.

And I shall miss it dearly.

Who knew English muffins were that easy to make?

2 comments

  1. There are pros and cons in any situation. I am a senior and have spent much time alone when I felt like being alone, and out and about when I felt like it, to include traveling abroad when I wanted to.
    Now I don’t really have that freedom unless I want to increase my risk of getting really ill. So I choose the past freedom over our current situation. And for those who prefer this current situation because now their lifestyle has changed, its all about saying no to a “too fast” style of life. And yes I know that is difficult!

    Hope the sour bread u were baking turned out well, Eva….sounds like u really r have fun!

  2. Hi Faye! That is so true – it is a privilege to have the choice of doing whatever we want. And these times have made clear to many to not take any privileges for granted. Yes, of course I can choose to continue to stay home even if the other choices are open again, but it isn’t quite the same. It’s weirdly “difficult” to resist the well-meaning pressure of doing stuff again. It’s really harder than I thought to say no to certain things, but I really am determined to not fall back into all of my old habits again, because I truly am happier with much longer stretches of time where I don’t have to rush around from this thing to that thing.

    And yes, the sourdough bread – latest edition – has turned out well! Reminds me to go and get another one out of the freezer for tomorrow. I bake two and freeze one, they freeze very well and taste just like fresh.

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