On Saturday afternoon, I found myself sitting in a camping chair while my one year old chittered happily at the trees in her large outdoor play yard. I watched my husband and three year old set up our tent in the back yard, and while I let the breeze blow across my face I didn't think about work or the global pandemic. I took deep breaths and sat in the moment.
This pausing in presence is something I'm actively working on, and it's tough. Sure, maybe when you're on day three of a great vacation, and you're sitting on a beach listening to the waves crash along the shore, and you haven't checked your voicemail in days, it's easy to unplug, but how do we unplug when every day is the same? How do you find relief when you can't go anywhere or escape in any physical way from where your life is right now?
My three year old pulled the rain fly taught as my husband went around and adjusted the straps, staking them into the ground. In minutes, a bright orange tent was standing in my back yard. I tried to hold that image and smile. I tried to hold space for the gratitude that I felt that we have a yard and a tent and nice weather. They soon joined the baby and I in our makeshift campground, and the four of us just sat and listened to the wind and looked at the trees. It was a really nice moment that was uncluttered with worrying thoughts and unfinished tasks. I need to make more space in my life for this.
The balance between working from home, which has so eloquently been re-framed for me by the many podcasts I'm currently listening to as "attempting to get work done at home in a global crisis," while caring for the kids is really tough. The first few weeks I ran myself into the ground trying to do as much as I possibly could, and my kids started to suffer from the lack of focus and attention and by having a frazzled mom. They are too little to understand any of this, but they could be negatively impacted by being set aside for hours on end in the name of work. I'm also quite fortunate to be doing this work from home and to be on a team that understands these limitations. My managers have made a real effort to spread out all of our responsibilities so that we can all try and find some balance. Because of this, I'm able to be a contributing member to my co-workers but also take the space I need to care for my family.
Reclaiming the weekend is my new goal. If we are to continue to shelter in place for months and months, constantly switching off with my husband with no space for time as a family will be detrimental to the girls in the long run. If we can, and I know there are many that can't, we're going to try and carve out space to all be together. We've been running around for six weeks basically passing the children back and forth in the name of work and chores, but prioritizing time with all four of us is definitely something we should be working towards.
The sun set over our little backyard on Saturday night, and my daughter and I cracked glow sticks and danced around in the grass before climbing into the big orange tent. We played Sesame Street video games and told stories and read books by head lamp, and she fell asleep snuggled up next to me. Sure, there were at least five power struggles when she tried to get out of the tent to continue her glow stick dance party or to run inside the house for a snack, but it was a really nice time. In a time of such uncertainty and fear, making special moments like this are really all we should be obligated to do.