The COVID Trauma Through My Eyes: A Look into the Temporary Stay-at-Home Parent

It’s been a solid 13 weeks since the insurance company I work for sent us home to work remotely due to the pandemic. I thought, “Holy cow, this is a dream come true!! Roll out of bed and just log on to my computer to work, wear pajamas all day, have no one breathing down my neck, this will be a cake walk.”  As they say, ‘the grass is always greener on the other side.’ Or is it?

My wife works in corporate healthcare and quickly her flexibility was gone. She was pulled to the front lines to help as other workers got sick or absent due to fears of catching the Coronavirus.

Now she is gone 12 hours a day working in a COVID unit at a nursing home. It's scary enough that she could contract the virus, get sick and die, but also bring it home, possibly infecting myself or our two children (4 and 5 years old). That’s pretty stressful in itself as we all live in the same home, touch the same door handles, eat at the same table, and sleep in the same bed (my wife and I that is). Just the fear of one of us, or all of us contracting the virus and getting sick was traumatic in itself when you think of the worst case scenarios.

 Suddenly things changed and it wasn’t the cake walk I imagined. Day care was cancelled and so was kindergarten at our local grade school. Most household responsibilities fell on me, with homeschooling, keeping both children busy, and working my full time job. Each day blended into the next as my wife would leave for work and I would try to get my kindergartner to focus on his eLearning, while the 4 year old wanted attention too. I would log on to work, and of course they would need something soon thereafter. I suddenly had to do the same job and responsibilities as I was doing back at my office, but now balance that with being an attentive parent by myself, all day.  Oh, don’t forget the pile of dishes in the sink, the lawn needed to be cut, the living room had toys scattered all over the floor. The house was a mess, my mind a mess, I started to feel suddenly out of control and rightfully so. On top of it, my wife contracted symptoms, had to isolate from us, and I was left to explain to our 4 year old, little girl that “No, mommy will get better.”

 I felt guilty for not being present with our children when working, but then would feel guilty I am not working when with the children. I felt I couldn’t win. I yearned for an adult conversation and time with my wife. I couldn’t even leave the house to pick up something at the grocery store. There was no escape, suddenly all my independence was gone, and I felt stuck (mentally and physically). I was stuck at home literally 24/7, and it really started to take a toll. 

 I finally realized I needed to accept the situation and not dwell on things I couldn’t change. I needed to think positively, project positivity, do positive things. I got back to stress reducing techniques and made an intention to be healthy in my decisions. 

 I currently meditate daily for 20 minutes, first thing in the morning. Before my wife leaves for work I do at least 30 minutes of exercise. When it’s cold outside, I do sit-ups, push ups, pullups and whatever else I find on YouTube or create for indoor workouts. When it’s warm out, I go running and recently tuned up the old bicycle and started riding in the morning. One time, as it started to rain, I rode faster and faster, feeling like a kid again. I felt free again. Also, I go outside, appreciate nature, and get in touch with my “green thumb”. Additionally, I get a good night’s sleep and eat healthy most days. 

 I make a conscious effort to be positive in thought and in action. My wife, being a psychologist and how she educates so many on the power of the mind, I realize it really does make a difference. We are both lucky to still have jobs, can support our family, and have our health. 

 This has been a traumatic experience for everyone in different ways. This has been my experience. Sure I get down and out one or two days a week because of challenging days,  but I get through them and end up having more good days than bad. I now try to enjoy every moment with our children during the day that I wouldn’t have if I were physically at work. I count my blessings that my wife beat the symptoms and still stays healthy and that she can help others. And now, on the other end of things, thinking about just going back into the office and leaving home at home seems like a cake walk. I’m sure when we all do go back to school and work that will be an adjustment as well. I have learned to stay in the present moment and not cause myself suffering by worrying about things I cannot change. The grass is not greener on the other side, it is greenest where you are. 

                                                                                 -- Jack Jourdan

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