Reflecting on 2020
Let’s face it, 2020 was not the year any of us planned and it certainly won’t be one we forget anytime soon. Our lives are forever changed, even when the pandemic is over, I don’t think our “normal” will ever be the same. Today I am reflecting on this year from both personally and professionally and trying to remember some of the good things we have to be grateful for.
Firstly, for me personally, this was not a bad year. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy, I got to watch both my kids grow, I got to stand to beside my sister as her matron of honor at her wedding, my husband and I were both fortunate enough to keep our jobs, and we all have remained healthy. While it was not a bad year, it certainly wasn’t an easy year.
My handsome little guy at 5 months old
Here are some lessons I have learned this year and some reflections.
1. Moms (and women in general) are Stronger than ever!
Women make up the majority of frontline healthcare workers and are primary care caregivers. In a survey of 104 countries, women were found to provide an average of 67% of the health workforce, including 80% of nursing staff which means that women are at the forefront of exposure to the pandemic. Studies are also showing that even though more fathers are at home full-time now, mothers are still doing most of the caregiver work(1). I was pregnant when the pandemic first started and working in a hospital. My husband was working from home and my daughter was home with him as her daycare had been closed. I was doing all I could to be safe at work as we didn’t know much about how Covid-19 impacted pregnant women and their babies. Eventually I was able to work from home as well, but it was an incredibly stressed filled time. Like many other families, we had to learn to juggle working and taking care of our daughter. I still feel guilty for all the screen time she had when we were trying to work. With closed daycares and not being able to see family who we normally could have relied upon for help, we really didn’t have any other option. When I found out I was pregnant with my son (which was pre-pandemic), I planned to be home with him while my daughter remained in daycare. She was thriving at school and I didn’t think it would be fair to her to not have all the attention she deserved. Any mom knowns how much time and energy a newborn requires but a 3-year old also requires tons of attention. Well that didn’t happen. I have been home with both children (my husband is also working from home) and learning that as much as I want to give them each equal attention, that is not possible. I constantly feel like one is getting attention at the expense of the other. The days go by fast, but they are non-stop and exhausting. When you are tired, everyday stressors can feel so much worse and I don’t always have as much patience as I would like. Some days are easier than others and I try to take time to enjoy the precious moments and cuddles because I know it won’t be long until they won’t want to be around me as much.
Moms take on most of the caregiving duties as well as emotional labor and now many of us are also working the frontline to help fight the pandemic. We deserve more credit now than ever before so let’s all support one another. Whether a mom has been staying home with kids, working at a hospital, a school, or running a local business it has been a challenging time for us all.
2. Toddlers are Pretty Amazing Little Humans!
My daughter was 2.5 years old when the pandemic first started. She was not old enough to fully understand what was going on in the world and she had many questions. “Why are people are sick? Are they going to be okay? Why can’t we go to the playground? Why are people wearing masks?” This was a huge change for her. As a parent, I had to figure out how to explain that one day I was teaching her to share her toys and make new friends and suddenly we can’t share toys, we can’t get close to people and we all have to wear masks. How is that for confusing?! But she has amazed me with being able to adapt. Toddlers are curious and resilient, and they aren’t getting enough credit during the pandemic. Their routines were turned upside as much as the rest of us. While I hadn’t planned on being home with both kids, I love getting to watch them grow together. My daughter is very protective of her younger brother and my son just stares at my daughter all day watching her every move. Don’t get me wrong though, there are hard days. Some mornings start with epic tantrums because I got the wrong spoon for my daughter to eat her cheerios with and this is all happening while my son is spitting up his last feed all over me and the floor. I have given up on a clean house!
My daughter as the flower girl for my sister’s wedding
3. At a time when we should have all been kind, I noticed quite the opposite.
I won’t soon forget seeing two people at the grocery store in a heated argument because someone snapped at the other for touching too many peppers before getting the ones he wanted. Umm…don’t we all want to buy nice produce and pandemic or not, you should be washing your produce before eating it? I think people have gotten so stressed and “on edge” that it doesn’t take much to snap at someone. Let’s not forget the golden rule people! I also saw people going for walks and yelling at people for not going around them. At 39 weeks pregnant, trying to induce labor by walking, I was yelled at for not moving onto the road to distance from someone. We are all better than this and should treat each other better!
There were lots of good initiatives occurring to support people too, especially front-line workers but I happen to notice a lot of people doing the opposite too. With the holiday season upon us, I hope we can all take the time to spread some cheer and good will.
4. On a professional level, I have enjoyed seeing people getting into home cooking.
In the winter it seemed like everyone was learning how to make sourdough bread and our Instagram feeds were filled with it!
As a dietitian, I am always encouraging people to cook their own food. Of course, I didn’t want the entire restaurant industry to suffer but home cooking has so many benefits! Even if people were baking white breads or sugar-filled cookies and cakes to fill their time, cooking has so many rewards and benefits. And while eating in response to stress isn’t the best coping strategy, it is something we all do from time to time and is perfectly normal! I know I also did more stress eating than before. Cooking is a life skill that many children and young adults lack now. so it was great to see people cooking with their kids. Cooking helps children become more adventurous eaters, helps them work on fine motor skills, helps with math and science knowledge, gives them a sense of accomplishment, and is a great opportunity to spend quality time together. Home-cooked food is also going to be healthier than restaurant food since you control what you put into it.
I know I had fun baking with my daughter (we made a lot of pizza and food) and we also got into gardening once the spring came – it was nice to be able to teach her where food really comes from and that it doesn’t just magically show up at the grocery store.
5. It is important to have different ways of dealing with stress.
Some common forms of dealing with stress include exercise, yoga and meditation, art therapy, being with pets, music and games, and maybe even using a weighted blanket. My main form of stress management is exercise. I remember going into a little pit of panic when I found out the gyms were closing and it was pretty cold outside still for outdoor exercise. My stress level was higher than ever and for me, there is nothing more stress relieving than going for a good run (or walk while pregnant) or taking my mind of things by doing an exercise class. What was I going to do now? I managed to suck up the cold and get outside for walks as much as I could. I also did stairs at work over my lunch hour when it was too cold or rainy to get outside. But I have learned that it is important to have different ways of dealing with stress and finding new ways of dealing is something I continue to work on.
While 2020 has been a challenging year, we have learned to appreciate things more- both big and small. I think we all value and are grateful for our health more than even before and we have been able to spend lots of time with family (who live in our household) and get creative in how we spend time together. I have a new appreciation for nature and have been embracing the outdoors more for walks, scavengers hunts and sleigh rides in the snow. At some point in 2021 I hope to be able to spend more time with friends and extended family who I have missed so much throughout the pandemic. While Zoom calls are nice, they just aren’t the same as quality time in person. Little things like having a coffee in a cute local bakery while chatting with a friend or just being able to casually browse through the mall and stores would be nice too, some of those little things that just make the days go by and feel nicer. What are you most grateful for this year? What are some important lessons you learned? Reference: 1. How The Pandemic Is Negatively Impacting Women More Than Men, And What Has To Change (forbes.com)