By Sarah Shell
Welcome to Part 1 of our Anxieties of Motherhood Series. Over the next 6 weeks you will hear from a panel of moms who will share their honest real-life mom-truths. Motherhood is incredible, the best thing you will ever do – but we have found that being prepared and aware was far more helpful than being handed a sugar-coated surprise. Most of us are surrounded by offerings of sweet water, but we know the value of a friend who gave us some truth serum. There’s an entire community of moms who understand and are here for you. You are not alone.
Pandemic parenting comes with a list of fears, failures, sticky floors and compromises. It puts ‘the good-ole’ days’ of parenting to shame. It’s affecting us mentally and physically, and it’s pretty darn lonely. Finding covid-safe and reliable child care has been the ultimate accomplishment, but one few have achieved. We are on our own, clean home be damned. And if you work from home as I now do, that door between your office and the rest of your home (if you even have that division), is the twilight zone that members of your family dare not open.
Throughout the pandemic my greatest anxieties have been tied to how Geddy is experiencing his tiny world. Without the ability to interact with kids his age, or anyone else outside the virtual world, I’m extremely sensitive to information and interactions to which he is exposed. If a neighbor says hello to him from across the street, he will talk about it for days. His excitement is palpable. So any contact he has with a human outside his home is a moment of him absorbing and navigating how to interact. This moment, because of its rarity, is just so critical to his development. If that experience is filled with him learning negative behaviors, the weight of its impact is very heavy and obvious. Because there aren’t a feast of similar but positive experiences to drown it out. Were this not a pandemic, he would not be so impressionable, these interactions would not be so defining, and I would not be so sensitive to them.
My anxiety of Geddy’s tiny world expanded to my anxiety over my presence in his world. As you are reading this on my website, you are probably aware I am an entrepreneur and a dentist. When the pandemic hit, I put a pause on seeing patients in dental clinics and took the opportunity to focus full-time on Geddy’s Mom, which ironically meant less time being Geddy’s mom. Pre-pandemic, we were lucky enough to have part time child care and bi-weekly home cleaning which allowed me to practice dentistry and return home with nothing on my mind but quality time with my baby and husband. Flash forward a year and a half and I’m an entrepreneur with a business whose values and impact I am so passionate about that it’s what I think about every moment. I have a home that I am doing a poor job of scrubbing down every weekend. My workout routine has taken a backseat to work/geddy/cooking/time with my husband. Our child care has been intermittent, but when we do have our lovely nanny, I’m spending every moment getting work done, instead of taking a moment for self-care.
Launching a company during a pandemic was not my plan, but I grabbed the opportunity when it presented itself. Because along with the pandemic came a surge of Work From Home parents and Virtual Learning children, which meant greater exposure to chargers in the home, and I could not in good consciousness delay the launch of the child safety product that would mitigate this hazard. If anything, it lit a fire under me to progress the company forward. I was feeling the weight of one more child being injured by this hazard lying in plain sight from which images of the victims are burned in my mind.
Running this company means I am constantly splitting my attention between Geddy and work (and my husband! Hi! Didn’t forget about you!). I am positive Geddy notices this intermittent presence because when I am fully present for him and making eye contact and my phone/computer are far from reach, he appears to be levitating. He is just so happy to receive my full attention. Which reflexively makes me mourn the time that I was in front of him replying to emails on my phone. But I do need to work, and so I eventually return to the email while feeling a mix of guilt and sadness. My inner dialogue turns to: Perhaps in these moments Geddy feels less important than my work? He is not. How do I show him that? Perhaps he noticed when I was passively responding to him while returning an email? Maybe he thought I wasn’t interested in what he had to say? I was, I promise you little guy I was so interested. Perhaps he is internalizing that adults are more interested in staring at these tiny screens than interacting with other humans? Sadly that’s often true, but please don’t turn in to the zombie I appear to be in this moment. Are these behaviors I want him to be observing at such an impressionable stage? No. Absolutely no. But what choice do I have? It’s the dialogue of Work-From-Home parental despair and it’s a continuous cycle.
I beat myself up for all these lost moments I could have had with him. I remind myself this time is precious and others remind me that I will miss it in a few years when he wants nothing to do with me. And that’s been my daily battle for the last year.
I go in and out of questioning our decision to keep him home. I know it’s a decision many parents struggle with. But from this vantage, as I write this while Geddy is running around the house pointing out all the hexagonal shapes he spots, I can tell you that he’s happy, he’s healthy, he is learning and growing. I don’t know how this quarantine lifestyle will influence his social skills and behaviors, that is something I will find out and work with once the pandemic ends. I do know that beating myself up with that dialogue takes away from my focus when I’m working and my presence when I’m momming. So let me go confidently in the way we chose to spend our pandemic, take the opportunity to close my door and get my work done and be ok with being extra sensitive to Geddy’s experiences. One day I’ll explain to him that those moments I was typing away instead of throwing the ball were moments I was able to put in to place a device to improve the safety of his peers.
I wish for myself and parents going through similar anxieties the comfort and confidence in our pandemic parenting choices, whatever they may be. We will get through it. And the floors will eventually get scrubbed.
Stay Safe (and sneak all the hugs you can),
Sarah Shell, DDS
Founder & CEO – Geddy’s Mom