It is 6:00 a.m. on a cold Monday morning and I am sitting on the floor in my daughter’s room with the phone propped up on a basket while my mother in Kentucky sings to us via Facetime. It is our daily ritual and my daughter loves it but the sound of my mother’s voice brings tears to my eyes that I am not always able to hide. My mother has only met my daughter once, when she was first born 10 months ago. This is not how I thought my experience as a first time mom was going to be. I imagined my family all around us providing my daughter with all the love and belonging that I experienced growing up. But like so many other mothers in the world, that simply cannot be. I miss my family, I miss my old job and I miss my friends. I have a serious case of pandemic fatigue. When this all first started in the spring, I was a new mom and had been trapped in our house for fear of catching the flu and transmitting it to our newborn. Consequently, I was really looking forward to spending some time outside with loved ones and exploring the city as an expanded family unit. I would ultimately spend time, a LOT of time, with my loved ones but not the way I planned. My husband and I work from home and my mother-in-law takes care of our daughter while we work. Our lives went from robust, certain and full of beautiful possibilities to the exact opposite. I am anxious, stressed and now have the responsibility of trying to complete my education remotely. It has not been easy. My husband and I have found creative ways to make the best of our situation and we love spending time with our little bundle but we do miss going to concerts, the movies and even to a bar for libations. While we can wrap our heads around why we cannot participate in social activities right now, our hearts still long for them.
I watch the numbers increase in Illinois with cases reaching over half a million as reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health. I grimace at the thought of the upcoming Stay-At-Home advisory for the city of Chicago, my daughters’ restless nights, and keeping up with my many school assignments. My fatigue continues to grow and I know I am not alone. The Institute For Women’s Policy Research reports that there are 3.8 million college students that are rearing children while in college with over 70% being women. Being so physically isolated had started to make me feel a little socially isolated and too pessimistic about my situation. I decided to follow the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidance about pandemic fatigue and both acknowledge and address the profound impact the pandemic has had on my life, in addition to doing things that make me happy while still practicing safe social distancing habits.
I joined some social groups at NEIU and started asking other NEIU parents how they are coping. I was pleasantly surprised by the optimism held by most students. Graduate student Amanda Sanchez, parent of one school aged child and an essential worker, acknowledged that dealing with COVID19 has been difficult, especially trying to stay vigilant about adhering to safety procedures. She said, “We try to maintain calm and positive as much as we can.” Sanchez also enjoyed taking her classes online since it gives her the flexibility to complete her assignments on her schedule. When it came to relieving stress, she was an advocate of open communication and getting outside (with masks) to get some fresh air and spend quality time with her daughter. Sanchez’ positive sentiments echoed those of a graduate student, part-time worker and mother of two with one on the way, Luci Groters. She tried to safely spend time outside at places like the Botanic Gardens and forest preserves. To keep optimistic, Groters said her family comes together in faith. “We read the bible and pray for America, especially we pray for the pandemic to pass soon.”
The year is not over and it appears that we will be dealing with pandemic and pandemic fatigue for quite some time. But if this time period has taught me anything, it’s to treasure the sweet moments in life; my new found support system, the love of my family and the sweet sound of my mother’s voice on Facetime. After all, this too shall pass.