Not too long ago, I came across a meme that said, “All these viral ‘moms are losing their minds’ articles are great and all. But is anything changing? We have a spotlight on moms, and everyone seems to agree that we’re taking on too much. Now what? Are employers stepping up? Are men stepping up? Or are we just screaming into a void?”
I resonated with it in a big way.
Even though I have a great employer with a generous time-off policy and a hard-working husband who takes on his share of responsibility, it still resonated. It felt as though I wasn’t alone and yet, oh so frustrating that nothing was changing in any meaningful way.
Screaming into a void.
That’s it. That’s exactly what this feels like.
So, I did exactly what I do when I need to untangle a big mental block in my head. I sat with that feeling for a while. I wondered why it just felt like I was adding noise to the chorus of women who are tired of feeling like the sole care provider of all the living species: the family, the communities, the world.
I wondered why my body hurt.
I wondered why the weight on my shoulders from the fear of disappointing all of them resulted in such a heavy burden. I nearly fell paralyzed by all the work that needed to be done.
What I came to realize was this: It’s the emotional labor of doing all the hard things we’re always expected to do, with the added uncertainty and anxiety the pandemic casts onto us, that makes this all feel like we’re screaming into a void for help but no one can hear.
It’s the resolve I need to have a zoom meeting with my coworkers knowing that I’m waiting for my mom to call with the details of not one, but two family members’ memorial services.
It’s the calm I need to provide my hysterical child after I just learned another coworker is on a leave of absence and I’m scrambling to figure out how to keep a project moving without them.
It’s the sudden critical thinking skills I need to possess when I can’t get the iPad to log into Google Classroom and my daughter is going for the dog bowl so I need to act fast while on hold with the school district IT.
It’s the patience I need to have when the refrigerator breaks and all the frozen food spoils and the grocery store is out of chicken and the home appliance store says shipping is delayed due to backlogs at the docks due to the pandemic and we’re eating out for the third day in a row.
It’s the fear I have to push aside when I learn my family may have been exposed and we have to figure out how many others we need to tell. And then the added distress because we can’t get a test for another five days, and probably won’t have results for another five after that, so what do we do now?
It’s this rollercoaster of emotions that I go through, day in and day out, that we’re all going through, that leaves us all exhausted and without help.
So how does this rollercoaster finally come to a stop?
How do we learn to cope with the everyday stressors of life being overshadowed by the very real trauma being experienced through this pandemic?
I don’t have the answer. But I do have empathy.
And even though me telling you that you’re not alone solves nothing, it’s true. We are all working through the everyday hardships while also dealing with the unprecedented catastrophes.
We can make it easier on each other, if we also carry that empathy with us and choose kindness over the consternation.
If we can extend the grace to others that we all so desperately need right now and if we can take accountability for our own actions and our own well-being, perhaps the existential dread we feel everyday will eventually become a little lighter as we get through this crisis together.
Like an oxygen mask dropped down to you on a turbulent airplane ride, empathy and kindness could be the deep breath we all need to get through this.