How to Stay Sane During an Endless Winter
There are only so many times we can watch Encanto with our kids, right?
First, a quick editor’s note: I’m Audrey Goodson Kingo, the new Editor in Chief at Mother Honestly. Before joining this inspiring community of hard-working moms, I was the Editor in Chief at workingmother.com. I’m passionate about helping working moms achieve their goals at work and at home—but I promise I’ll always give it to you straight.
Thank you for joining our community of 10,000+ mothers—executives, founders, thought leaders and more—as we discuss the future of motherhood and work, and how women and families can lead better lives at home and in the workplace. Welcome! If you are new here:
I hope you are hanging in there.
That’s my new email greeting. Because, let’s be honest, “I hope this email finds you well,” is pretty patronizing right about now. Who is doing well? Not me. I’ve spent most of January barricaded inside my apartment with two kids, two cats and a cranky spouse.
At the beginning of the month, my kids and I tested positive for Covid-19. Then, my daughter’s daycare shut down for several weeks as the virus made the rounds through the staff and students. Thankfully, everyone recovered, but I’m still catching up on the work and errands I neglected during our quarantine. And, now, frigid temps are keeping me from venturing out to see friends or exercise. Any semblance of self-care is once again at the bottom of my to-do list. I know I’m not alone.
It’s been a winter of our discontent. The western United States has been hit by record low freezing temps and huge snowfalls. A “once-in-a-decade” winter storm blasted the Southeast with snow, sleet and freezing rain. And when it’s not the weather keeping us cooped up, it’s an exhausting combination of rising Covid-19 cases, lengthy quarantines, and staffing shortages that are keeping schools and daycares shuttered.
Our kids are going stir crazy, but our bosses expect us to work as usual. In short: Working moms are at the end of a very frayed rope.
The good news is Covid-19 cases are falling now in many parts of the United States, and experts think the Omicron surge is peaking, or will soon. Still, with a Nor’easter headed for the Northern corner of the country this weekend, many of us won’t be leaving our homes anytime soon.
By the Numbers
37.9% of adults living in homes with children under 5 were unable to attend childcare due to safety concerns, according to the US Census Bureau.
1 in 6 parents said they experienced a school or daycare shutdown, according to a national poll by Axios and Ipsos.
70% of mothers and 54% of fathers report feeling overwhelmed in the past two weeks, according to research by University of Indiana Bloomington sociologist Jessica Calarco, reported in Scientific American.
Parents and caregivers say they’ve hit rock bottom. Childcare directors have closed their centers for weeks at a time in the wake of the Omicron surge, and because they can’t find substitutes to cover for sick staff. Parents and early childhood educators told NPR that, “January 2022 has been the worst month of the pandemic.” Ouch. But, yes.
We are literally screaming at the top of our lungs. A group of 20 mothers in Boston met on a football field to scream for 20 minutes. It was the second “primal scream” organized by Sarah Harmon, a local therapist, yoga teacher and mom.
And, frankly, we’re tired of being a “good” mother. Several new books and movies are confronting the notion “that being a ‘good’ mother means totally suppressing all your own needs and desires and instincts,” writes Sophie Gilbert in The Atlantic. “They challenge the long-standing pact of American motherhood: We give mothers nothing and expect everything in return.” It’s a message we might need now more than ever.
So, what can we do to avoid hitting our mental breaking point?
📞 Phone a friend. A wealth of research reveals that relationships are key to staying mentally strong. Lean on your people.
👶 Fix the childcare crisis. (Paging Congress!) Even a slimmed-down version of the Build Back Better Act would tremendously help working parents in America.
🤸 Ask for flexibility at work, if you can. Survey after survey shows that workers want flexible hours and remote work. If companies want to keep up with their competitors in today’s hot labor market, they’re going to have to bend with the times.
📺 Just let them watch Encanto again. The Disney hit is winning praise from therapists for its positive approach to trauma and healing, from the Colombian community for its joyous portrayal of the country, and from moms and girls who love seeing women celebrated for their strength. There are worse ways your kids could spend two hours. Don’t sweat it.
What’s Keeping You Sane?
We asked members of the Mother Honestly community. Here’s what they say…
“Going to therapy & lots of deep breathing”
“4 p.m. double espresso”
“Working out! It has become my ‘me time’ that I look forward to”
“Morning and/or nightly walks”
“Making time to read every day, even if it’s just a chapter or two. It’s the one thing I do just for me”
“Just driving to get coffee. Gotta get out of this house”
“Doing dry January has really helped my mental state”
Here’s hoping February finds us well. Stay strong, moms.
This newsletter was written by Audrey Goodson Kingo, Editor in Chief at Mother Honestly. Please send feedback, ideas and suggestions (or just say hello!) to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you found this newsletter helpful, please share with a friend!