When my kid’s preschool announced that they would be closing, I had plans to blog daily about my experiences in the middle of this widespread social distancing experience. But I’ve found myself without the energy. I told W. I just want to crawl into bed and I said, “I don’t know if this is 3+ years of parenting catching up with me, or an autoimmune flare, or just the world.” He suggested it’s probably a combination of the three. Bakara Wintner did her live weekly Tarot reading from her bed. This feeling is a mood.
At present, my child is absorbed in playing with miniature water beads that we made together yesterday. This activity is for sure a winner: we made them together and he is contentedly pouring them between different containers now and has been for about 45 minutes.
Some background on me informs my social distancing experience somewhat. I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is definitely an autoimmune disease, and polycystic ovary syndrome, which may or may not be. Advice on whether having an autoimmune disease makes one at a higher risk for acquiring coronavirus is mixed, but Mary J. Shomon, a thyroid patient advocate who I trust, published a report suggesting that autoimmune patients should at least act as if they are at a higher risk, even if they are not. This is the point from which I’ve been operating.
I’m a graduate student, a doctoral candidate with a research assistantship. This means that all of my work at present is research driven: my current projects involve collecting data for my dissertation and transcribing data for a study my RA supervisor is doing.
I have a 3 year old son who usually spends a half-day in Montessori while I work on my research in the co-working space on the other side of the building. This is the only time I do work; the rest of my time is spent caring for him or recovering from caring for him because as mentioned, autoimmune disease. (My primary symptom is fatigue, and life is a constant calculation about what I have enough energy to do and how much energy it will cost me to do something. For more on this, see the Spoon Theory.) For about six hours a week, my mother-in-law is with him, and during that time I usually rest or make dinner. On the weekends, my husband spends a lot of time with him, and that’s when I rest or do what little housework he leaves for me. I’m very blessed in that my husband, W., takes care of basically every household task: cleaning, laundry, dishes, packing M’s lunch and snack, getting M. dressed. I hope this won’t always be the case, but right now, my jobs are keeping M. alive, keeping myself alive, and going to school.
W. works at a university library full-time as the director of their copyright and digital scholarship center. Both my university and his university have encouraged social distancing, so he is working from home. He is working fairly normal hours, adjusted due to his not having to commute. From 9 - 5, he is holed up in our bedroom, doing work. He has a lot of virtual meetings these days, as you might imagine, and is also finishing up some pretty big grant applications.
So. W. has to do his work and Montessori is closed. This means that grad school, which has been more of a side gig than my main deal ever since M. was born, has basically been pushed entirely to the side. I can’t work on research at the same time as I’m caring for him, even if he is distracted by TV, because I need to get in as close to a flow state as a mom can get. And then again, when I get mother-in-law time (which is a risk we’re accepting, really, as she has been out in the world and seeing massage clients and getting acupuncture herself but we’ve decided the risk is worth the help), I use it to rest. Or cook dinner.
On top of all of this, M. is going through a super clingy phase. He’s been for most of his life pretty happily to play independently, but not as much these days.
Still, we’ve worked out some routines that make this all easier. We get up in the morning and snuggle a bit and then have breakfast. We play for a while, and then at 11:30 we might watch a couple of episodes of TV, or go outside. We go outside for a bit - on a walk if M. feels up to it, or just to the front or back porch for some fresh air if not. We come inside, put on an audiobook, and M. plays quietly in his room while I rest in there. (He insists now that he can never be alone without a grown up, which is quite a change from a couple of months ago when he was eager for alone time.) We get up and play some more, watch a little more TV, have dinner, read stories, go to bed.
I sneak off to my bed as soon as he’s asleep, and sometime between midnight and 5 am, he asks me to come back to his room. (That part is the same as when preschool was open.)
This is hard and I often want to just resort to 8 hours of screen time a day, but I’m trying not to.
I’m concerned about the impact all of this will have on my dissertation progress, but I’m also surrendering to this being where the world is right now.
And I’m thinking about what I might do one day when I’m employed again, whether that’s self-employment or employment by an organization. These days, I’m leaning toward research communication and higher ed outreach, something alt-ac that lets me translate research for the public. Public humanities or public social sciences, if that’s a thing. (I’d love to do scicomm for Marine Science but I don’t think I have the science background necessary. Still might try, though.) Or professional development, or publishing. Kind of the same stuff I’ve been thinking about this whole time.
I’ve been squeezing in some video game time here and there and did my first Twitch stream yesterday. I created a new channel called momtroidvania. I’m playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the umpteenth time (though I’ve only beaten it once) and found that really fun.
We watched Frozen II. I cried a lot, just like when I saw it in the theater.
But mostly, I just want to rest and rest and rest. I have not yet talked M. into just staying in bed all day, and I don’t think I’m likely to.
I know I’ll miss all of the snuggles and clinginess when he’s a teenager. Somehow knowing that doesn’t make me not want to sometimes have my body to myself right now. (I foolishly thought my body would be my own after weaning. Whoops.)
And yet this clingy guy is the cutest person ever who is super sweet and makes me laugh. Kids. They’re a lot of work, but they’re worth it.