Are you feeling confused, alone, unsure, scared, cautious, hopeful and even angry? Those are a lot of conflicting feelings, but I’ve felt all of them in just the past few days as the coronavirus and everyone’s reaction to it has altered our everyday lives. That’s what happens when the world goes into panic in a way we’ve never really seen before.
I’m questioning my own feelings as a mom and as a human in these times of unprecedented change. Things have changed so quickly in terms of how businesses are reacting to what’s going on that I feel we’re in the midst of a coronavirus panic.
As word of the potential enormity of the crisis quickly spread, my number one concern as a mom was my ability to keep my family healthy. If I am restricted from going to the store, or stores shut down, do I have enough food to feed my family? I only go grocery shopping about once every couple weeks. I like to use things up until we’re low on everything and just about out, and then I replenish. That made me nervous because I was at that point in my grocery cycle where my frig and cabinets were mostly empty, and I was ready to do a big grocery shopping trip. But I also read and heard people were hoarding items, and food shelves were empty. The day all of this started appearing on my social media feeds, I didn’t even have a car to alleviate my fears, because my daughter took one car to work and my husband took the other car to pick up our son several hours away.
My son’s university sent students home for at least a month and told them to do class work online. That made me even more worried about my lack of food in my house because my college-age son eats a lot. I had asked my husband to go to the store and get groceries on his way home with our son, but he didn’t do that because they got home later than expected. So at 10 p.m. at night I went to the store. I was a little concerned to see entire sections of our large suburban grocery store emptied — no toilet paper, no soap, no hand sanitizer, no bleach, no paper towels, no rubber gloves, no bread, no bagels, no rice, no tortillas. Some of those things were on my list; some weren’t. But the store had plenty of other food, and I felt reassured by that. I mostly buy fresh fruits and vegetables and some canned and frozen foods anyways. I bought a little more than usual, and the cashier asked if this was my regular shopping trip. I wonder if she asked everyone the same thing that day. I felt judged, but I didn’t care. My responsibility was to my family.
When I got home I felt relieved filling up my frig and my cabinets, almost like I did when I was getting the nursery ready for my first baby. As a mom, sometimes we go into nesting mode when we feel we have to be the protector of our family.
That experience of feeling a little uneasy about my ability to care for my family did not spread to my work life, because it is not as impacted by the social distancing and closures since I work at home anyways. I feel this is not that different for me. I have an assistant who works in my home office a couple days a week. She came in last week, but I am still unsure whether or not to have her come into my home office this week. I think I will leave it up to her.
I do feel that some of the business and government closures are a bit too much. I do recognize that COVID-19 is contagious, but so is the flu. I recognize that it’s more dangerous for older people and those with compromised immune systems. And I have my parents who I’m concerned about, as well as my father-in-law and even my husband, who has a bit of mild asthma, and my daughter, who takes medication for mental health challenges. I don’t know how that compromises her immune system. My family generally always seems very healthy, so it really wasn’t anything that concerned me initially.
My kids are both teens and are not feeling concerned at all about the pandemic. They want to go out and enjoy life like they would any other day. I have discouraged them but haven’t stopped them from going to friends’ houses. They are both working, so if they can go out and interact with the public at work, it’s hard for me to convince them they shouldn’t hang out with a few friends at someone’s house.
I keep reminding myself that this will pass and that it’s really not anything for the vast majority of people to worry about. But I’m consumed with reading about it. And that’s ironic, because I’ve been complaining that the media is covering it too much. Yet I am spending hours every day for several days in a row reading about it and watching things related to coronavirus. And I’ve really been distracted from getting work done because I’m so consumed with reading about it. The same thing happened after 9/11. I often dive in obsessively when I feel compelled to learn about a crisis that affects me or my family or my community, even if it’s only indirectly.
So I was initially very uptight about the media reporting mainly on the fears and the extreme stories, which is what a lot of the media does because that’s what draws people’s attention. And that’s the media’s job is to draw people’s attention and to warn people, and sometimes they do it to excess. When I worked in the TV News department of a CBS station in the Midwest, we called it snowmageddon when all the stations had “team coverage” talking non-stop about an upcoming blizzard and recommending that schools close and everybody stay in. Sometimes it turned out that there was only an inch or two of snow after those predictions. Nobody can really predict with certainty when it’s going to be one inch or eight inches. Sometimes the predictions of eight inches come true, and people get stranded. But many times the predictions were the worst case scenario that didn’t occur, and people’s lives were upended and inconvenienced for nothing.
I do see that there is a group think mob mentality going on right now with the businesses and the closures. And I do think some of it is related to people being concerned about the liability of not following the protocol that everybody else is following.
So it’s a confusing time because we don’t really know how we should react or even feel about the situation. I am concerned about everyone’s health, but I’m also concerned about everyone’s economic future, which can impact people’s health. Severe financial stress can lead to emotional challenges, physical illness, substance abuse, crimes, and years of debilitating stress. I’ve been there. The Great Recession wreaked havoc on me and my family.
I do wonder how this is going to affect me, my business, my ability to pay my bills, my ability to even feed my family. I am really wondering what is going to happen over the next several weeks if more businesses close. I work from home, so it’s kind of a no-brainer for me to just stay in. And I’m ultimately the kind of person who researches so much that I hear both the negative and the positive and realize in the end that the best approach is, Don’t panic. Don’t worry. In this case one of the worst things in the long run that you can do is worry, because worry actually compromises your immune system. That puts stress on your body. A little bit of stress is good. It keeps us working and focused. A lot of stress is bad and could contribute to weakening your body’s ability to fight the virus.
So I’m grateful my family is safe and healthy, and I hope yours is as well. I’m so glad this virus has not been dangerous to children and to generally healthy people.
I do hope everyone takes a breath and enjoys this time with the people they know and love and enjoys that closeness at home, one on one — not each person hiding in their room staring at electronics or consumed by reading and watching things about coronavirus. I want to take a social media and smartphone and Internet break and get back to feeling like things are normal and get on with the things I want to do in life. Sharing my thoughts in a blog is one way I do that. I hope you find a way to do it as well.
Even if you can’t take your kid on a playdate or enjoy a dinner with a friend, give another mom a virtual hug. Call and reassure the people you know and love that you’re there for them if they need anything or if they just need to vent. And let’s all take steps that keep everyone safe and healthy now and in the future.