I keep hearing about how much strength and resilience this pandemic year is providing us. Now I don’t, as a general self-imposed rule, swear on this blog. But damn it, I am tired of working my resilience muscles.
I get it, of course. How the pandemic is putting so much into perspective. Last weekend, I drove through a snow storm, with an anxious 7-year old in the back seat, asking me if we were going to be sucked into the abyss.
If you know me, you know that driving is one of my least favorite activities. And this snowstorm situation would otherwise have been one of my biggest nightmares.
But as I drove along, devoting my full concentration to the flakes flying horizontally at top speed at the windshield, all I could think was this. “I’ve remote-schooled 2 kids for nearly a year. A little snowstorm doesn’t faze me.”
Resilience, I get it. And yet, I still feel like a caged wild animal most days.
March 13 will mark an entire year of being home, and I find my head hitting the COVID brick wall near-daily. When employers say things like “oh, working parents have figured it out by now, and we’re back to normal,” I want to scream. (And scream, many parents did, into the NY Times-supported hotline featured here.)
Is it still called resilience if you carry on because you have no choice? How about when I declare, many days, that I simply quit, and there’s nothing to quit?
Princeton Professor Miguel Centeno wrote about resilience in a recent essay entitled “There Is, in Short, No Planet B.” In his piece, he explained that:
“At its core, resilience refers to the capacity of any system – a human body, a city a tropical forest, a building – to recover from failures and/or continue functioning despite disruptions or shocks.”
Somehow, some way, we continue to function in our household. It’s not pretty. It’s not perfect. And it doesn’t feel good. But we are still here, despite many disruptions. And many, many shocks.
Resilience is Resetting the Chess Board
One of the silver linings of COVID for our family has been the movie and TV show education we’ve all gotten over the past year. My kids have now experienced the 1980’s through Back to the Future and Ghostbusters, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and Fraggle Rock.
One of the most inspiring movies we’ve seen, though, is Disney’s Queen of Katwe. It’s the true story of a girl who grows up in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, and who becomes an international chess champion. In one scene, she is devastated by a loss to a fierce competitor. She wants to give it all up, but her coach counsels her that “losses happen to everyone. But then you reset the pieces and play again.”
“Re-set the pieces, and play again,” I now mutter to myself when one of my sons loses
his COVID-remote-schooled mind.
“Re-set the pieces, and play again,” I whisper, when my plans have been turned upside down
for the gazillionth time this week.
“Re-set the pieces, and play again,” I try to remember, when I feel myself being
sucked into the working parent abyss.
Remembering to re-set the pieces is easier for me when I’ve had some space. Designated “alone time” on weekends saves me. Going away last week with just one of my sons gave me a chance to reset a bit. Doing a private yoga session with an amazing teacher every other week reminds me I can still move.
If you’re looking for a daily mantra to help you keep putting one foot in front of the other these days, “re-set the chess board and play again” is a pretty good one. Even if you’re like me, and you don’t even play chess.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave