When the pandemic first started, I, like many of us, freaked out. I live in my New York City apartment with my husband and two-year-old daughter, both of whom I adore (and still do!). But a big part of what makes living in a NYC apartment with two adults and one kid work is that … we weren’t home all that much. My husband and I worked from our own offices outside the home and regularly had after-work events and engagements, both professional and personal.
So when the realization that quarantine was going to be much, much longer than the naive two weeks at home we had initially thought, the walls definitely started caving in on me. Not only was I supposed to keep working full-time, but I also own and operate my company, which employs ten full-time. With clients pulling out of their contracts for obvious reasons, it was the first time in ten years of running the company that I started to feel a little uneasy about the future.
But it became so much more than that for me. Every day I felt like I wasn’t doing my job to my full ability, and I definitely felt like I wasn’t winning any “Mom of the Year” awards. But why? I was finally getting to spend so much more time with my daughter, and she certainly felt like she had hit the jackpot with mom and dad home 24/7.
It was more than that. It felt like I was never doing anything properly because my mind was always somewhere else. And even in the rare moments of clarity or quiet when I could concentrate on work, my mind would start to wander and think about the pandemic, the ramifications, staying safe, was my mom going to stay healthy, when would our lives go back to normal, etc. I’m sure you can relate.
So, I tried, like many of you, I’m sure, to meditate more, exercise more (getting our Peloton was a real lifesaver!) finding cathartic activities- like doing 1000-piece puzzles or binging a comedic series. But none of these elements truly gave back the feeling I had before — the sense of feeling like myself.
Then, we got some good news. Our nanny felt safe enough to go back to our old routine, and we felt the same way (we were so ready!). But with this news came some new anxiety: commuting. Being “out in the world,” and of course, being away from Rose.
When I say going back to “the way things used to be” was like riding a bike, let me tell you, it was the easiest bike ride I’ve ever taken. Going back to the office (albeit, an empty office with just me and my husband) felt normal. Having a routine wherein I showered, got dressed, and brushed my teeth all by 9:00 am felt normal. Sitting at a desk in an office and not at home where thoughts of preparing food, cleaning the house, or doing laundry would always float into my brain felt normal since I was solely focused on work.
Going back into an office was the only form of self-care that genuinely worked for me during these last eight months. It also made my time in the mornings and especially after-work feel wonderfully unencumbered with Rose. I can now focus on her and actually enjoy her instead of constantly checking emails on my phone.
For many, there may not be an office to return to just yet. For others, the anxiety of leaving home may be the exact opposite sensation that I felt in returning to the office. But the thing about self-care is that you’ll know it when it happens. Getting back into the feeling of my “old way of life” by returning to the office has been the best thing for me.