There is no normal anymore
It's impossible for working parents to be all things 100% of the time while living under one roof: full-time caretakers, employees, not to mention teachers, chefs, house cleaners and dog walkers.
I'd been following the global path of the coronavirus, watching international cities shutter, and yet when COVID-19 arrived here in my own community, its appearance came with drama. Overnight, I was at home with two toddlers and a dog (can’t underestimate this 3rd household member enough): running our house and operating as co-founder of Superkin. I prepared for a few weeks at home with one or two massive trips to the grocery store, while my husband, Louis, was still heading out the door every day. His company is directly associated with FedEx, and within days his business nearly doubled. Not anticipating December-level package volume in March, he was working days, nights and weekends to stabilize his business at a new normal, ensuring that necessities were delivered to the homes of more and more people. As I write this in mid-May, the shelter in place order has lasted well past our initial expectations, and I've realized our COVID situation has challenged us in extraordinary ways.
The Early Days
At the beginning of shelter in place, I’d fly solo in the morning, squeezing in a few calls and emails, but I’d try my best to be 100% present for my kids. Of course, I have to thank Disney+ for being there when I needed it most. When Louis would get home in the late afternoon, I’d switch into full Superkin mode and bang out a few hours of work, followed by putting the kids to bed, and then logging back on. Occasionally this worked, but due to the influx his business was experiencing, Louis couldn’t minimize his work hours, and I was juggling all this alone.
Burning The Candle At Both Ends
After four weeks, I realized this intense schedule was not sustainable. I was disappointed because I know I can handle a lot. I've done it before. I can roll up my sleeves and get shit done. I worried that the only option was to “turn off” my work with Superkin until the situation changed, as devastating as that would be. I’ve strategically built my career for this moment to launch Superkin, so it seemed totally unfair that I just had to throw it away overnight due to circumstances out of my control. FWIW, we were just featured in WWD, a total bucket list dream. We had our best month of sales and it was only looking up from there. I was so disheartened.
The thing is, Louis and I have been through a work-life challenge like this before. Not on a global pandemic level - but a very challenging work madness/new baby + toddler level. However, the difference is that the rest of the world was functioning - childcare, school, parks, travel, grocery stores, etc. As many couples experience, in the midst of building their careers and raising a family, we had an unhealthy balance of work versus family. I learned two things from those early days: you can’t burn a candle at both ends, and you can’t be ashamed to ask for help. But this time, Louis’s potential exposure to the virus limited our ability to seek help from our village.
So, we made a difficult decision to physically separate for three weeks. After two weeks of quarantine, we hired a babysitter to be with the girls in the afternoons in our home. While I was grateful for the help, it was also tough to be away from Louis (and tough for the girls to be away from their father) during such an unnerving time, especially while knowing he’s in such a critical, and potentially exposed, business. When most everyone I knew was sheltering at home, he was still out and about. It was strange to even admit to friends that he wasn’t around, and when I did mention it, I realized that having someone in the “outside world” was so rare. He was gone on the weekends. He was protecting himself and his team with masks and constant hand-washing protocols, but he simply didn't have the option to change his proximity to others and the outside world.
Pandemic or not, I am keenly aware of our blessings. We have healthy, happy girls, a roof over our heads and a stocked pantry. I feel so profoundly appreciative of this time I have spent with my girls. I love the extra hugs and “I love you mama” throughout the day. My older daughter is learning to ride a bike, I’ve successfully potty trained my younger one, and we camp in our “Girls Club” teepee for lunches and naps outside (yes, they NAP outside). I love seeing the way my girls interact as sisters and friends (they are almost 3 and 5). Even for me, as an extrovert, it’s been nice to cozy up at home. I love our little squad of girls (Parker, our lab, is also a girl). I look at pictures during the shelter in place and feel an extra bit of love knowing how uniquely challenging and wonderful this situation has been.
At the same time, I have also been lonely and frustrated. During a time in which it seems that everyone is having quality family time biking, baking, or binging Netflix (screw you social media), I was alone with two toddlers and had little adult companionship or relief. Louis missed Easter and the egg hunt in our yard. We missed celebrating his birthday with him (and for those of you with toddlers, birthdays, even if they're not yours, are EVERYTHING). We’ve been on group chats with other couples and we’re the only ones in separate locations. Even our pandemic #porchpic is missing Louis! While most parents are tackling this together, we are experiencing it separately and in our own ways. And at the same time, I am also completely supportive and so proud of what he is building.
I really struggled with feeling so conflicted between my gratitude and frustrations with the situation. Why was it so tough to accept help even though I knew it was best for our family? Why couldn’t I make it work? I felt ashamed for bitching about needing help when there was a global pandemic happening. There has been so much sadness and uncertainty in the world. I couldn’t help but think about the families struggling to pay rent or put food on the table. The healthcare workers working around the clock, risking their own lives to save others. The people losing loved ones and not being able to say goodbye. I didn’t give our situation the credit it deserved. Louis’s business, deemed critical despite not saving lives, was (and continues to be) a critical part of the ecosystem to support the economy amidst the new reality of people staying home.
Gratitude AND Frustration Can Coexist
I recently came across an article that really nailed it for me. The author writes, "You can’t absolve stress with gratitude....It’s not an either-or, it’s yes, and. We can feel endlessly grateful for our health, for the many frontline workers keeping society safe and fed (nurses, doctors, social workers, food service workers, delivery professionals, and so many more), for our children who we love dearly AND feel frustrated, fatigued, and scared." It’s okay to grieve the loss of simpler things: insert tears over long overdue manicure and missed vacation in March to Florida with all the cousins.
Going into Week 10, we are starting to find more slices of time together as a family. And as it goes in quarantine, with each week there comes more science or protocol that changes our reality. I'm so grateful for my family in these challenging times. They motivate me to bring empowerment, connection and style to other parents who are on the journey to growing a family of their own.