Dear Pre-Pandemic Self,
I know you think that 2020 is going to be your year, especially after the nightmare of a year you just had. You have dreams of sending your older son happily off to preschool, and basking in the glow of postpartum bliss. You can’t wait to cuddle your newborn in your arms, and breastfeed while binge-watching Netflix. You vaguely wonder how motherhood will be tougher as a mom of two, but you’re not terribly worried. . .Well, my friend, hear this. You’ve been hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hoodwinked, and led astray!
Pre-pandemic self, here’s what I want you to know:
There is no playbook for what’s about to happen. Not a single person on this planet knows exactly how to handle life in the COVID era. Everything will feel overwhelmingly bad, and nobody can tell you for sure how to properly deal with it. The experts disagree, your friends disagree. You will just have to do your best and hope it’s enough.
Nothing good can come of letting yourself spiral. Nothing. Things will become unimaginably scary. If you choose to watch nonstop cable news coverage of the pandemic (don’t), you are going to worry yourself into a tizzy. Stay informed, but limit your consumption of panic-inducing media and try to stick to the science. Again, do your absolute best, and try not to convince yourself you’re doomed.
Things that once seemed normal will seem nearly impossible. Receiving packages delights you right now. But just wait. Once the pandemic hits, bringing a package into your home will be one of the most stressful parts of your day. You will fret, you will quarantine, you will sanitize, you will scrub. And then you will fret anew. It’s like an episode of Chernobyl, except it’s your actual life and not just something you’re watching while stress-screaming at your TV. You will be shocked at how something that used to be so normal, and even enjoyable, can become such a dramatic production. (Don’t worry, you’ll calm down.)
Things that once seemed nearly impossible will seem normal. You used to sign up your preschooler for a day camp every single time school was off. Adequately entertaining him for an entire day was inconceivable. Well, strap in because you’re about to settle in to hundreds (yes, hundreds) of days in a row with both of your kids at home and nary another adult in sight to assist you at any time. As daunting as it sounds, you manage to figure it out pretty quickly, and you’ll start to wonder what it was ever like to spend time alone.
You’ll adapt in the face of unimaginable pressure. You are resilient. You have made it through lots of difficult circumstances, and this will be no different. You’ll be afraid, spread thin, bone-tired, frustrated, sad, lonely, and wistful. But you’ll still wake up every day in the face of it all and you will do everything you can to provide normalcy for your family. You will find laughter in many moments. You even willingly become a teacher/coach/playmate/chef/cruise director. You’ll consider putting that on your CV.
You’ll have your highest highs and your lowest lows. You will definitely not be a model parent every single day. Some days, you may not want to get out of bed. You certainly won’t want to cook three meals a day for the hundred-and-whatever day in a row. Some days you won’t recognize yourself. And other days, you will muster up superhuman patience and take on an experience with your kids that reminds you of how beautiful and amazing they are. And you’ll remember that you had a huge part to play in that.
You’ll have to fight for it, but you will remain hopeful. As challenging as everything will be, you will do your best to remain optimistic. You will do what you can from where you are to make this world a better place. And you will sleep soundly at night knowing you are doing the absolute very best you can.
And finally, Pre-Pandemic Self, one day, hopefully not too far in the future, you will see that the world didn’t end and everything was simple and joyful again. Just remember: times are tough, but so are you.