It is almost a year since our lives were impacted by the pandemic. Eleven months since our families and kids adjusted to school and workplace closures, wearing masks and being home together…a lot. As a mom to four kids, I often feel responsible for keeping it together, always having a smile, giving a positive affirmation and being the glue that holds our world in place. However, I see headlines on my news app that make me fearful, confused, disgusted, or, I will admit, even make me cry. And I expect myself, because I am always counted on, to make sure all will be well. I apply the Band-Aids and kiss the places that hurt. I “hold down the fort,” as they say. But staying strong for 11 months? My energy can feel like it is running out.

My kids are ages 7, 8, 10 and 12. They are old enough to realize the world right now is not as it should be, old enough to ask questions that many times I do not have an answer. Our routines, our holidays, our birthdays, our work and school, and our activities – all different.

As summer 2020 ended, my husband, a corporate attorney, was still working remotely in an extra room upstairs. The kids were loud and bored and ready to see their friends. I dreamed of 15 minutes of quiet. We were forced to make critical decisions about schooling with still many unknowns, ultimately deciding to send our older kids to in-person school but homeschool our younger ones entering first and second grades. I purchased a white board, ordered credible curriculum and turned my dining room into a classroom. My older two kids go to school with plexiglass partitions at their desks, daily temperature checks and wear a mask seven hours a day. Talk about different for all of us.

Then my fears shifted from worrying about the virus to worrying about long-term social and academic repercussions in this new world of not touching, not hugging, keeping our distance and washing our hands constantly. I experienced different emotions during these months: grief, fear, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed.

I hit many walls, emotionally, physically, even creatively, as my writing takes a backseat. I make mistakes, I pivot, I find things that work for short periods of time and then go in other directions. I’ve learned what is harmful to my mental health: comparison, judgement, gossip and negativity. Social media is sometimes best to ignore.

What does help when I feel burnout creeping in is moving my body, staying connected to trusted friends and family, breath work (there are many helpful apps!), but most importantly, deciding what matters each day. Having a clean house may not matter today but going on a family hike does matter. Or mommy-daddy together time matters. Or fill in the blank matters. It changes, but naming those things out loud to myself, in my journal or in a prayer keeps me grounded, keeps me thankful, keeps me hopeful. I do see the light at the end of this long and winding tunnel. I feel it and believe it.

– Julie Hilton

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