For the last three months, quarantine, social distancing, and fears over COVID-19 have broken me down.
The parts that usually weave effortlessly together to make me a full mother are so tiny now that I can no longer find them when the lights go out.
I am living somewhere gloomy between the blurred, in-between days.
I’m napping on the couch. I’m zoning out. A cheerful theme song from a children’s TV show plays softly in the background.
Things have been so surreal, that’s it’s been difficult to be “on” as a parent around the clock. The drawn-out hours have kidnapped me and buried me in their folds.
And I put up no fight. No protest. I just go. It is only now, as our lives are starting to open up again, that I feel myself crawling out of that dark hole.
Motherhood is still in crisis, however.
I am surviving this insidious virus by hiding in my house, washing my hands, wearing my cat-pattern mask, and socializing only with seven other members of my family, who are taking COVID precautions as seriously as we do.
Despite my six year old seeing and playing with her cousins again, I fear she is still missing out on me being fully present.
She doesn’t understand why her world has been flipped upside down. Often, she will open her mouth, and a long list of demands and grievances will spill out.
Even though I’m beginning to see a light at the end of this quarantine tunnel, I don’t want to build forts or make cakes or paint rocks anymore.
I’m so glad I no longer have to pretend to be a teacher. I hated the schoolwork.
Those damn assignments. Even though we are free from distant learning now, I don’t feel like having a dance party in the kitchen every night.
Too much has happened in the past three months. It will take time to process it all.
Every morning, I’m still being woken up far too early.
It’s no longer even a school day. When I open my eyes, there is a brief, sunny patch of time in my mind until it hits me all over again.
Up until now, it seemed there was no way out of this dead-end world until it opened again.
And it’s starting to, but our progress seems awfully slow.
And we’re also scared of it all coming back and being in lockdown again.
I am trapped under a cloud of self-doubt. How can I look after my mental health and my daughter’s at the same time? How long will I be able to walk this tightrope balance? There is no safety net or what to expect book for this.
My parents are my anchors in a world gone crazy, but am I the tether my little girl needs me to be?
Everything seems familiar when our family is finally allowed to get together. Who thought we would ever miss hugs so much?
Yesterday we visited my in-laws. I didn’t realise how much I missed them until I got out of the car and there they were, already waiting for us on the porch, similar expressions of joy stretched across their faces.
The usual tiny cups of coffee were absent. There was no ice cream or wine. But remnants from the old world remained.
That same fig tree. The riot of blooming flowers. Nonna running back and forth on the grass, chasing her beloved granddaughter from a six-feet distance. Nonno showing my girl his pride and glory: his garden. Just like every summer. The tomatoes. The cucumbers.
Everything on offer, including four plants we somehow ended up adopting and bringing home.
My six year old has her small pot in her room, the little green buds just starting to shoot out of the soil.
“It already grew from yesterday, Mama,” she proudly told me today.
And I thought, yes, we are all changing, and changed, because of this invisible enemy that has brought us to our knees.
If we are very lucky and incredibly blessed, the lives of the ones we love the most will still be here once we take down the invisible glass that separates us.
In the meantime, we just have to sit down with the unknown, wait, and learn to listen to ourselves.
Oh, and hold on tight to that worn-out patch of hope, hidden inside all of our pockets.