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Geeky Parent Guide: The Pandemic Parent (or How I Learned to Acknowledge Exhaustion and Allow Mindfulness to Persevere)

When gifted with the opportunity to contribute an entry to the Geeky Parent Guide regarding how I’ve maneuvered the pandemic as a parent, I was both honored and completely terrified.  As a relatively new parent (to twin 6-month-old girls), it is always exciting to be able to share your lived experience with others; however, my Imposter Syndrome of *only* having been a parent for 6 months (and, therefore, unworthy of speaking to the concept of parenting) was weighing on me heavily.  

As with everyone, my life has not been without struggle over the past year, but I have been incredibly fortunate, as well.  Since the pandemic first took full effect in the US, I have quarantined at home in Los Angeles with my husband, maintained full-time employment, and continued to manage Fanbase Press, all with the benefit of working remotely.  In that same timeframe, we were also very fortunate to become pregnant with identical twin girls, carry them (nearly) to full term, and welcome them to the world in good health.  

The struggles that I mentioned?  In retrospect, they seem minor but, at the time, felt like pushing a boulder (or two) up a mountain.  Of course, there were the general feelings of burnout and experiential trauma from working and living through a global pandemic that we have all collectively shouldered.  But, added to that were some pretty intense and trying times along the way, like the week-long stay in the hospital when the girls attempted to make an early arrival at 25 weeks (out of the usual 40 for those unfamiliar with the baby gestational term), knowing that their chances of survival if forced to be delivered were not favorable.  Beyond thankfully (and with the help of top-notch medical care), the girls decided to wait to make their big entrance until a scheduled C-section at 36 weeks.  




And, now that the girls are here, what has been our parenting experience?  Balancing full-time work and twin infants has been the single most challenging, yet immensely rewarding, experience of my life.  At 6 months, we are surviving colic, teething, and a general disdain for sleep.  Sure, they’ll put on a smile and pose long enough for an Instagram-friendly photo, but what social media doesn’t show are the frequent nights of waking up for one (or both!) girls every hour on the hour, hours-long inconsolable crying fits for no apparent reason, or trying to feed/bounce/maintain calm for a baby while leading a Zoom presentation for work on speaking on a virtual convention panel.  That also doesn’t account for the multitude of my own tearful breakdowns, whether out of pure exhaustion or simply feeling like I’m not being a “good” parent.  But . . . there’s also the moment every morning when you look into their cribs and they give you a huge smile of recognition.  And, when they first giggled or starting “chatting.”  

Now that our country is slowly easing restrictions and folx are contemplating how they will emerge from quarantine, I sometimes stop to acknowledge that in the span of the pandemic, my partner and I experienced the entire journey of becoming parents in a silo.  Two tiny humans grew inside of me, emerged, and now live freely in this world - all with little-to-no contact with other people except the wonderful doctors, nurses, and hospital staff that I came to know over the span of a year.  Of course, there were the Zoom and phone calls with friends, family, and colleagues along the way, but I wonder what it would have been like to experience this process alongside friends and family, to share in the joys (and challenges) together.  

Rather than dwell on what could have been and even what is, I try to remain cognizant each day of my reality.  In writing this article, I wanted very much to avoid detailing a laundry list of my struggles or frustrations in becoming a parent from the past year.  Sure, as I noted above, the year was not an easy one, and my partner and I tackled (and continue to tackle) some intensely challenging times; however, I see the dangers of living in those moments of despair over and over again.  When I feel myself getting lost in hopelessness, I try to acknowledge how I’m feeling and the circumstances that are causing them.  I allow myself to feel those feelings, but I also try to remember that, honestly, it could always be worse.  In those moments of exhaustion or frustration, I could easily become embittered, getting lost in the feeling and losing sight of the hope that could be on the horizon . . . if I let it.  

Sometimes, I don’t always win the battle.  Sometimes, it can be too much.  And, when I’m able, I acknowledge that that’s okay, too; it’s okay to fail, but it’s important to recognize that failure is not forever, and today is a new day to turn it all around.  Most important, I try to remember that help is available.  Whether from my partner, friends and family, or a therapist or other professional, help is available and I am not alone.  I’m hopeful that by practicing this mindfulness and remembering that help is available, I will be able to not only maintain my own well-being, but also model this behavior for my girls.

I am amazingly fortunate to have a loving, generous, and thoughtful partner who truly got me through the past year intact: emotionally, mentally, and physically.  I have two adorably wonderful little girls whose faces (generally) light up when I walk into a room.  So be it if I’m exhausted and haven’t showered in . . . XX days.  I am a pandemic parent, and today is another day.







Resources

 - If you are experiencing symptoms of Postpartum Depression or are unsure what the symptoms are, the US Department of Health & Human Service’s Office of Women’s Health Offers this helpful guide to answer your questions.  It is recommended that you contact a healthcare professional in your area if you are in need of assistance.

 - The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255. It is available to anyone who is thinking about suicide, is worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support.