Last week while I was changing Eamon’s diaper, he poked me in the eye. I hadn’t cut his nails in over a week (or maybe two weeks or three?), and his razor-sharp claw hooked me just right. My eyeball filled up with blood and I couldn’t blink without pain. My ophthalmologist couldn’t schedule a video visit, so I booked an early appointment for the next day.
Normally, this sort of thing would be a source of frustration: the ophthalmologist’s office is a thirty-minute drive from my house, and I would have had to rearrange my schedule to fit an appointment I didn’t even want to go to. I’d have to sacrifice work time or rest time just to have this teeny tiny scratch examined and then be given standard-treatment eye drops.
In the time of COVID, however, this trip to the doctor was more akin to a vacation.
Thirty minutes in the car to return Voxer messages. An hour in and out of various rooms, reading my Kindle with no children to interrupt me. A stop at the Starbucks drive-thru and then thirty more minutes in the car to listen to my favorite podcast.
After the appointment, as I turned the minivan onto my street and my house came into view, I imagined Selah leaping into my arms (after a good hand washing, of course) and Eamon covering my face with slobbery kisses. I didn’t miss my kids, exactly, but I also didn’t dread walking in the door.
It’s been a long time since I felt that way.
My family has been practicing social distancing for 68 days now. I’ve been in this smallish house with two very young and very demanding children for 10 weeks straight, trying to do my job while they ask for snacks and cry for attention, with just an hour “off” here and there. (Though even when my body is off the clock, my mind is definitely not.) If you’re a mom reading this, you know I’m not an outlier. This is your story too. This is our collective new normal.
My constant refrain to Dan is that I just want a chance to miss the kids.
I was supposed to have that chance in April. Along with dozens of writer friends, I planned to attend the Festival of Faith and Writing. The festival was scheduled for just a few weeks before Eamon would turn one, and I started dreaming about it before he was even born. It would be the perfect time to wean, the perfect way to celebrate the end of a sweet but suffocating postpartum year, the perfect chance to promote my book and build energy for the next professional and creative season of my life.
I would get some much-needed space and distance from my kids, time to be both alone with my thoughts and together with my friends, and an opportunity to be the creative, put-together, sociable version of me.
It’s a version of me I haven’t seen in quite some time.
As we continue to obey stay-at-home orders, I desperately miss my extended family, my friends, and my coworkers. But what I didn’t expect to miss so much are all the other versions of me I thought would engage in the world.
This summer, I thought I’d be fun-loving, spontaneous Brittany, the version of me least likely to be seen but who comes alive on carefree days with Dan and the kids at Six Flags.
I thought I’d be creative and productive Brittany, a version of me who grabs ideas and nails them down with my computer keys, generates new essays and Instagram captions, submits work and promotes her book.
I thought I’d be shiny, well-rested, tan Brittany, a version of me who has this mom-of-two thing figured out, who has consistent childcare and time to create and work out and go on dates with her husband.
Instead I’m perpetually exhausted, resentful, quick-to-snap Brittany, a version of me who has unwashed hair and hormonal acne and rotates her yoga pants every few days once they are sufficiently covered in kid food and dog hair. It’s the version of me I was last summer, when Eamon was first born, and I never expected to be in such a similar place a full year later.
I suppose what I’m realizing is how much I rely on other people and other spaces to bring out these other versions of me. I’m an introvert, a self-preservation subtype, and an “I can do it all myself” island.
This quarantine has shown me time and again what a fallacy I’ve built.
There is a set of paradoxes I keep coming back to. I walk along their edges, press against their walls, searching for a door I will not find.
- The person I thought I’d be this summer is an unattainable projection even under the best circumstances.
And also: There exists a better version of me than I am right now.
- I am doing my best and I am enough and I am good here in this moment.
And also: I need other people in my life in order to be the truest, fullest version of myself.
I’m not my best self right now. To expect that would be ridiculous and impossible—remember how we’re all trying to survive a global pandemic?
So instead I’m trying (and sometimes failing) to show up as a decent version of Brittany, one who doesn’t yell at her kids for simply being kids, who remembers what’s most important and prioritizes effectively and lives from her values and asks for help.
But honestly, I’d settle for the version who misses her kids.