My first week of home quarantine with my daughter was a shock. If you’re a parent you can likely relate. Her 2.5-year-old routines were turned upside down, and many of my entrenched habits similarly came to a grinding halt. It was hard on both of us.
As I grappled with having two full time jobs — parent and professional — my first reaction was to search out the bright sides: We now have an abundance of quality time, I told myself. I get to hear her giggles and smiles, and answer her questions. I am here to dry her tears and show her new things. But as the clock ticked on, something about my mindset felt forced. I was trying to navigate this season of uncertainty with a simple, uniform perspective: One of positivity.
What happens when we allow ourselves to feel first?
What was lost in my positive spin was the complexity and dynamism of deeper feelings. Upon reflection I realized I was avoiding uncomfortable feelings of grief and uncertainty, as well as understanding what had not been working for our family.
Question: What was not working in my day-to-day that I was unwilling or unable to either admit or notice until COVID-19?
By day 3 of social distancing I was feeling tender and overwhelmed. My reflection showed me how my now halted rigorous working routine had left little time for my daughter. We got up in the morning, ate breakfast, and after a walk with the family dog or some reading she went to daycare. Seven hours later I would pick her up, we had a little playtime, then dinner, bath and bed. Time together to build a foundation of connection was sparse.
Question: What was the unintended consequence, unseen impact or negative result of that unsustainable system or operation?
My reflection has left me more aware of my feelings of pain around not being able to give my daughter more of myself and my time, more of the energy she needs to be healthy. I noticed feelings of loss after not spending the quality time with her to go on adventures, snuggle together, teach her new words and watch her grow. What were the full consequences of these choices? I don’t know. But I can see today her personality shifting with the renewed time investment COVID-19 has forced. She is happier, more carefree with every day we spend together.
Question: How do I feel now that I have gained some measure of clarity, insight into my former habits/patterns?
Schools in New Mexico have closed for the year, as has our daycare. But I already know we’ll not be going back when it reopens. These changes in her — and in myself — are too meaningful, too pronounced, to ignore. Our new path forward already includes change. Instead of working 9-5, I’m working 8-3. Our in-home caregiver is creative, attentive and I can pop my head out of the office for a squeeze or snack time. Our formerly busy schedule is still busy, but not crushingly so.
Question: What process of repair and acknowledgement of [name the emotion here—grief, loss, disharmony, unproductivity, conflict] is necessary to move towards healthier behaviors?
I am working to lay down new neuropathways of habits: working out at home, cooking all my own food again, spending more time with my daughter, meeting clients exclusively online, and writing earlier in the morning and later at night. I’m not pushing for a return to the way things were. I am seeking out whatever this next reality looks like.
This pattern of reflection isn’t just about daily life, values or parenting priorities. It is equally applicable to my business, and to yours. Here in the new world of COVID-19, our business and personal lives have been unceremoniously mashed together.
So today, for all of us, these questions about business practices have become paramount: What wasn’t working? What negative effects came from those broken systems? What can we do to repair/rebuild? These are questions for all of us, in all aspects of our lives.
Asking them led me to here, writing to you.