Since the pandemic started, life has been different for all of us. As an employee who is able to work full time from home, and who is also a mom, my life has changed drastically in the last few months. I have not set foot in my office since the end of February, and my daughter now stays home with her dad and I rather than going to her grandparents’ house during the week.
Trying to work full-time from home with a one year old in the house, one who started walking at the beginning of lockdown and is now running and climbing and generally causing mischief, has been stressful. There are days that I long for the structure of my old life. The nine to five, Monday through Friday, drop-off, pickup, routine that we had all really just gotten used to.
I know I’m not alone mourning this old way of life – for many of us, life has changed drastically. But I also think I, and perhaps many of you, have the tendency to romanticize the things that I can no longer do. I was reminded today that our old lives were not without their stressors when I came across a memory from this winter.
Let me start out by saying, I’m not much of a morning person. Don’t get me wrong, I love the kinds of mornings when I can wake up without an alarm, plod downstairs, make a good pot of coffee, and eat breakfast in the quiet calm of the day. However, mornings like that are increasingly rare in my life (especially since having a daughter.) Before the pandemic, most mornings were a rush of getting myself and my daughter fed, dressed, bundled up and out the door.
These mornings were often a bit harry. If I was lucky, my daughter would sleep until I had gotten dressed and ready for work, and then I’d feed her and dress her and we’d head on our way. But that was rarely the case. More often then not, I’d be woken by her cries before my alarm even went off, fumbling around in the dark for my glasses before I scooped her up and got her taken care of. Then, while I tried to brush my teeth, she would cry, indignant that I wasn’t playing with her or reading her a book.
Many mornings, something had to give. My daughter would sometimes show up to my parents’ house still in her pajamas. Rather than blow-dry my hair in the morning, I’d throw it up in a ponytail and head out the door. But the days that were the hardest, the ones that I simply could not manage, were the ones where I did not have time to brew a pot of coffee.
On the morning of this particular memory, none of us had gotten any sleep. My daughter was teething and wouldn’t sleep through the night, no matter what we tried. Her dad had to be to work early, and so was not able to help. I had managed to get dressed, but my daughter had gotten milk all over me with her breakfast so I had to change again. Nothing was working.
We finally got in the car and headed towards the highway when I went to take a sip of my coffee, only to realize it wasn’t there. Stressed out, and already running late, I decided to go through the drive through at the coffee shop. I just couldn’t make the half hour commute on so little sleep without a coffee.
The line, of course, was long, my daughter was unhappy in the back seat, and I sat there, stewing in my frustration. Why were there so many people in line? Why couldn’t my daughter sleep through the night? Why couldn’t mornings be easy?
My day would probably have been ruined by my sour mood, if not for what happened next. When I got to the window and went to hand the woman manning the register my card, she waved my hand away.
“The person ahead of you already paid for your drink,” she said.
I looked at her for a moment, stunned. Here I was, annoyed at every little frustration, seemingly angry at the world, and yet this small act of kindness stopped me in my tracks. I took a deep breath and then smiled, handing her my card anyway.
“Well, then I’d like to pay for the car behind me,” I said.
I got my coffee and got back on the road, my mood completely altered. This small gesture of kindness from a stranger had lifted my spirits and reminded me of the simple goodness we can find in the world, if we’re not to busy or irritated to look. That day, my morning commute didn’t seem so bad.
This memory, of course, is only one of many. And as I thought about it, I was reminded of the general feeling of disorder and chaos my mornings used to bring. Were those supposedly structured mornings really better? Sure, I would drop my daughter off and then be able to work in my office for the day, but the drop off and pick up stress often loomed large over my day. And most weekday management of our daughter was left to me, her father sometimes working until well after she had gone to bed.
These days, I get up with my daughter, get her some milk, and then hand her off to her father, who has gotten to spend more time with her than he ever has before. I brew a pot of coffee at home and then head to my desk (sometimes still in my pajamas!) While I sometimes get interrupted by a small toddler, squealing and running in to my room with a book in her hands, her joy is infectious, and the work still gets done.
Instead of bemoaning our old life, I’m trying to find ways to appreciate the new. No matter what happens, with the pandemic and with our world, life still goes on. Morning still comes. And the small acts of kindness, both by strangers and by our friends and family, still bring light to our world.
About the Author
Elizabeth Powers is the Electronic Communications Manager for the Congregation of St. Joseph and manages the blog, Beyond the Habit. She sometimes acts as a contributing writer. She loves reading, writing, Harry Potter, and PBS. She is a first time mom, and working to figure it out!