She works in the field of wellness, but, she explains, "I wasn't taking care of myself." How could she? Days before the Shelter in Place order in March, she'd had surgery on her chest. She'd put all the pieces in place to have her 3-year-old son cared for while she recovered, and transitioned to running her business fully digitally, from home. But with the state-ordered lockdown, all of that fell apart. No in-house assistance. No extended family visits—not even from a sister-in-law who lived two blocks away.
She was alone at home with her baby, unable to pick him up and carry him. She got through the first two weeks with the help of her son's nap schedule, and thought, "It's not that bad. We'll treat it like a vacation!" But the weeks turned to months and the family dynamic began to disintegrate. For babysitting help while she worked, she turned to computer screen-time, which she'd previously limited—and her son, in turn, began doing things like throwing diapers her way to get some attention.
Obstacles to building harmonious routines popped up daily. "How do you explain to a 3-year-old why he can't go to school and see his friends?" When a full-on construction fence was installed around their playground, she had to evade her son's direct questions, saying to him that they were "fixing" the park. When she brought her child to the grocery store, people looked at her as if she were trying to kill her child. She didn't want him to deal with that, so they stayed at home.
Exhausted at the end of each day when her husband returned from work outside the house, she was finding her marriage in trouble and her mental capacities taxed by the impossible task of being a working mother in this moment of time.
She sought help—and got coaching both for her business and for her health. As she recovered, she began stepping out with an adjusted attitude. "I just said, screw it. I HAVE TO GET GROCERIES!" So she brought her son to the store with her again—and this time, she just let him roam around. "His favorite place to go is now the grocery store," she reports, happily. "I just went in with a positive attitude. I make it fun—and smile at people."
She has the kind of smile any human being on earth would usually love to be on the receiving end of, but, she says, "It was very interesting to see how few people would smile back." That didn't deter her. Her grocery store has arrows down the aisles, which, she says, "I just ignore. I think it's fun to go the opposite way." She'd see people navigate around her son, not wanting to get too close, and she'd think, "He's 3; he's not diseased!" There were people wearing gloves, because they were fearful of touching products, but she was the one asking the store clerks what was actually in that toxic stuff they were spraying to keep everyone's hands and shelves "clean."
Then she began seeing minds changing, and figuring out how she could help accelerate the process. "I walk around my neighborhood unmasked," she says. "I will walk around even downtown without one until I'm literally forced to put it on."
"I tend to be the person in our group of friends and in our family that people come to already for wellness, because that's what I do. People ask for my opinion." When she gives that opinion, she models optimism and practicality.
"We're to the point now," she says, "where we have a lot of friends who've let go. They still follow the narrative but they're more carefree about it." Her son gets to see and play with other kids, which is nice, and her extended family is visiting.
Her sister-in-law has calmed down, she says. She has many relatives and friends in other cities and states who share her outlook. And her in-law parents have also changed heart, with a bit of nudging. "The first time they came over to visit their grandson during the lockdown, they just wanted to drive up and stay in the car—with their masks on." She had to ask them to stay away if visits were going to look like that; she wasn't going to be able to explain to her son these strange new behavior habits. The next time, she says, they wanted to know if hugs were going to be expected. "Yes," she said, "in my house, we are going to hug." She told them it was easier to explain why they couldn't come over than it was to explain why they wouldn't hug their grandchild when they saw him in person. Then she hosted Mother's Day at her house, and she let them know she would not be spraying anything down. Her in-laws were able to let down their defenses and enjoy themselves. "It was a beautiful Mother's Day," she says—"and after that, everyone realized they were just fine."
"I was like, 'Yeah, you're fine," she says, enjoying the moment. "Everyone's going to be OK.'"