I can’t decide if I’m lonely or if I need to be alone. The answer is probably both, to be honest. My family has been in voluntary isolation for close to two months now. I’ve been with my three small children twenty-four hours a day. I’ve left a handful of times for grocery runs, but other than that, my view has been my four walls.
All the time.
I go back and forth between desperately needing time with just adults and desperately needing a few minutes to myself.
Even though I’m with my husband a lot more than usual, I feel like I barely see him. Our kids are out of sorts. Their routine is non-existent, they are bored, and they miss their normal life. We are their only constant and their only comfort. Our seven and four-year-olds are in our bed more often, suffering more frequently from scary dreams and restless nights. They come to us when they need a break from each other, too.
It’s our job to meet their needs, and we feel honored to be their safe place and their home. It’s not taking a toll on our marriage because we are in full agreement about how to parent during this unprecedented crisis. The kids take up a lot of our time right now, but while their world is in chaos, we don’t feel comfortable turning them away. We can get them back on a schedule when their life is somewhat normal again. Right now, they can have us when they need us.
It’s just that once you add our three-month-old baby to the mix, time alone together is scarce, to say the least.
I feel like one date night would be a sweet elixir to my thirsty soul. I need to put on my best smoky eye and a plunging neckline and canoodle with my man in a corner booth, but it just can’t happen right now. We can sneak away to have a glass of wine on the front porch while they sleep, but it’s not the same as leaving them in the care of a trusted sitter and having a few hours alone.
I need to talk to my girlfriends. We have video meetings and we text regularly, but it’s not the same. Sometimes I feel more lonely after we hang up. I just need to see their faces in person. It would be amazing to schedule a real GNO with sushi and cocktails, but I would be just as happy to eat dark chocolate with almonds and curl up on someone’s couch for a chat. I’ve never been a hugger, but I can’t wait to throw my arms around the women who keep me afloat. Life is lonely without them.
I desperately miss my parents. They’ve missed my son’s birthday and Easter already and we still don’t know when we will be able to be together. We usually see my dad and stepdad at least once a week. Since we went into isolation to combat the spread of COVID-19, we have seen them twice, and only at a distance. My mom had to cancel a trip here, and the rescheduled date doesn’t seem promising, either. The baby has spent half of her life in our home, and my parents have barely seen her. My kids miss their grandparents, and I do, too. They’re part of our “normal” and their absence feels foreign and strange.
I miss the hustle and bustle of our usual life. I feel really desperate to interact with people face to face.
But I also feel like I need time alone, and with three kids cooped up in the house for two months, it’s been hard to come by.
It’s not that I don’t try or I’m “not prioritizing self-care” or whatever else people say about moms who lament their lack of alone time. I am doing my best. I try to sneak it in.
This week, my husband took the boys outside to play, and my baby fell asleep, so I ran a bath and grabbed a book. With all the kids occupied, I thought I could steal away for twenty minutes to recharge. I ran to grab a towel out of the dryer, and when I came back, my preschooler was butt naked climbing into my bubble bath. Apparently, he came inside to pee and figured he’d enjoy a nice hot soak. Just as I got him out and dried off, my older son came stomping through the house and woke the baby. My husband offered to take all three of them so I could take my bath, but by that point it was cold. The moment had passed.
When they fall asleep at night, I could take a few minutes to myself. Sometimes I do. But that’s also my best hope for a few minutes alone with my husband.
I need both, and most days, there’s time for neither.
Please don’t think that I’m complaining about the safety measures in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. These measures are smart, and I am fully committed to following all the rules. I want to see this curve flatten.
I recognize how lucky we are to be home, healthy, together, and not suffering financially. Believe me, I am fully aware of how much harder this would be if any one of those circumstances were different. I am not looking for the gold medal of suffering here. The relative ease of my life right now doesn’t escape me. Lonely is not the worst thing I could be. I get it.
But while I am feeling grateful, I am also feeling isolated. I feel stranded in my house. I don’t think I’m being the wife or mother I am when I’m at my best. Some days, I’m making bacon pancakes and flawlessly executing this crisis-schooling thing. I spend those afternoons frolicking in the yard with my bathed, sun-screened, well-dressed babies.
Other days, I’m just pressing “keep watching” on Netflix, and trying to make it to bedtime without crying in front of my pajama-clad, cereal eating kids.
This is such a frustrating and emotional time for so many people. I know I’m not alone, and that actually helps me. I know this will eventually end.
Encouraging memes and endlessly positive people encourage me to reframe my perspective. I don’t need to do that. I already know “we are not stuck at home; we are safest at home.” I promise the privilege of that hasn’t escaped me.
But I’m just having a tough time feeling lonely, and I am anxiously awaiting the day when it’s safe to go back to some kind of normal.
Right now, I’m lonely. And I need to be alone. That feeling is just really confusing and sad.