I’m convinced that Mommy Brain is a real medical condition that most mothers I know suffer from. The fog we live in from sheer exhaustion can cloud our judgement, make us forgetful, and leave us yearning for our kids’ bedtime when we can binge Netflix and carbs. I thought my Mommy Brain was bad before the global pandemic, but I swear it’s ten times worse now that we’ve been in quarantine for over two months.
Take, for example, last week. Because of shelter-in-place and social isolation guidelines, almost all of our previously scheduled medical appointments have been canceled or moved to telehealth. However, one appointment had to be kept: dropping off my tween’s broken retainer to the orthodontist. We were happily eating lunch when all the sudden my husband said, “Don’t we have an appointment today?” I glanced at the clock and realized we had nineteen minutes to get to the office across town.
Yes, I’d written the appointment in my planner. I’d even set an alarm in my phone and told my daughter about the appointment. But did I remember? No. Nine times out of ten, an alarm goes off on my cell, and I look up and ask the group, “Does anyone know what that’s for?”
Whatever this new normal is, it’s done a number on my ability to remember and execute the few plans outside the house that we do have. I’m so out of my routine. Before our state closed down almost completely, I had four kids in school, numerous appointments and meetings, errands, and extracurricular activities to run the children to and from. I would go all day, every day, diving into my bed at night only to get up early the next day and repeat the madness.
Before COVID-19 took over everyone’s existence, many parents were so busy that we didn’t have time to let anything fall through the cracks. Doing so would be like knocking over the first domino and then watching the entire lineup come crashing down. For those of us with a bigger family, it was even more true. Each child has their own schedule and demands.
Now that our situation has drastically changed, moms, who often carry the majority of the work load, are left to reconfigure everything for everyone. We’re juggling more roles than ever before, including being our kids’ distance-learning teachers. Oh, and then there’s helping each child maintain mental and emotional stability in the midst of an all-out crisis, in which our children’s worlds have been turned inside out and upside down. Our older kids are missing their proms and graduations. Some kids are desperately yearning to see their friends and teachers.
There is no time for moms to just chill and think in peace. We might write something down or set an alarm on our phones, but when it comes time, we don’t remember what we’re supposed to be doing. Even with the orthodontist sending me a text, an e-mail, and a reminder phone call the day before, I forgot where I was supposed to be at 1:40 p.m. on a Tuesday. I can’t even keep track of what day it is. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast—or if I even ate breakfast. What day of quarantine are we on? It feels like 2,687.
I’m normally a very organized person, but I’m out of my element right now. My kids aren’t sleeping as well, mostly because of quarantine life anxiety, which means I’m not sleeping as well. There are no fewer than ten school e-mails in my inbox every morning. What’s the password to that learning app? Why is the wi-fi not working? Who is crying? What are we having for dinner? How can we be out of coffee?
My kids have missed Zoom meetings. Other times we’ve logged on late or just in the nick of time. We’ve lost assignments. After all, there are four different sets of work to keep track of, complete, and submit. Then there is my own work, which I often do not even start on until right before dinner, because I do not have a single minute to spare until then.
Not only am I a 24/7 mom, nurse, teacher, therapist, and wife, but I’m also trying to manage my own generalized anxiety disorder that is ebbing and flowing per usual. Many, many moms struggle with anxiety or depression, sometimes both, making social isolation even more challenging. The things that often help us, like counseling, exercise, and self-care breaks aren’t always possible right now, or only available in very small and sporadic doses.
I’ve been working hard to give myself a lot of grace right now. This strange, sometimes unbearable situation has many moms frustrated, exhausted, and in a major mommy-fog. Forgetting comes with the territory. Our brains are overloaded, so full of not only our daily responsibilities, but all the bickering and emotions that constantly crop up, because the coronavirus is a jerk. We’re just trying to make it, hour by hour, and hoping we’re doing an OK job.
If you’re like me, and your Mommy Brain is off the charts right now, just know you aren’t alone. Almost every mom I’ve talked to is in the exact same boat, struggling through each day and crossing our fingers that one day we might get our shit together again. Until that happens, we just have to do our best and remind ourselves of what really matters. If our family is healthy and safe, that is what is most important.
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