How do I find some balance here when I am juggling pretty much every little thing and it feels like every other ball is dropping?
I am in a situation that a lot of us might be finding ourselves in: geo-single parenting in a locked-down country with work and school happening virtually. We are our own little bubble here, and I think some of the edges of our bubble got a little jaggedy. I am not equipped for this. I don’t know that the human species is especially well equipped for being the lone responsible adult in the house, although I know a number of single parents who manage to make it all look so easy and seamless. Me, not so much. I’ve have plenty of practice at this, hubby having done many TDYs and even a year in Kabul, so I am not sure why this time around, it feels so much more complicated and stressful.
Maybe it is because on top of the hubby-not-being here, and me carrying a full-time job, and all of the regular kid things, we are also in the middle of what feels like endless lockdowns because the pandemic numbers here are climbing climbing climbing and the government has instituted a country-wide lockdown in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID. So now I add I online shopping (which should be easier but isn’t because my favorite spots are sporadically temporarily closing as they too deal with COVID amongst their employees, and everyone is turning to online shopping so supplies are not consistent), cleaning the house, and all of the cooking duties to my roster. So here we are, locked down again, months and months into this pandemic. It feels like a horrible rendition of Groundhog’s Day, a seemingly never-ending loop of stuck-inside, rising case numbers, hospitals at capacity, every day more sick, more dying, and still, here we are.
For a country that is locked down, there is a shocking number of cars on the road. Luckily (?), mine won’t be one of them because yesterday, instead of starting as it should have when I went out intending to run to the Embassy to get our mail, I instead heard the ‘click’ of a dead battery… one of the kids had left the door slightly ajar when we went to the small Embassy club we have here (with a pool and tennis court, it is our one bit of ‘green’; 4 families can sign up for 1.5 hour slots so you can imagine the weekend slots are quick to fill up). We don’t have a yard, so this is our chance to run around. I sign us up for a couple slots a week, and have to argue with the kids to go every.single.time, even though they have a good time when we get there. Another source of tension, you know? Anyway, car door ajar, battery dead … there you go. Now I have to figure out how to get that fixed.
I have to clean the ridiculously large house (that has no yard, mind you). I am a generally neat person and cannot fathom how it is that these children of mine do not know how to clean up as they go. I thought as they got older, they would realize their ability to make less of a mess but no, apparently, that is not a thing. Instead, they generate more dirty clothes, dirty dishes, and dirty floors than I ever imagined, never mind what is going on in the bathrooms. I may be the lone adult on duty, but that does NOT mean I need to be the one that is cleaning the bathrooms. So, I assign this task to them; you can imagine the state of our bathrooms.
I don’t mind doing the cooking. I generally love to cook, love to experiment in the kitchen, and am pretty good at taking what is in the fridge and figuring out a tasty way to combine things in a generally nutritious way. But this is day after day after day of doing this. Not one suggestion or request or input given, or at least not things that are useful. No, I am not going to make brioche right now, even though I do remember it was a fun experiment way back when these lockdowns started. No, I am not going to invest the time and energy into making homemade sausage. Sure, I suppose I could make tacos but I don’t have any of the ingredients on hand other than the beans; please remind me the next time I am trying to make an online order for groceries to get cheese and tortillas. I have at least realized that ordering the veggies CSA-like is not helping with my meal-planning endeavors. And unless I want to eat it, I don’t feel like cooking it, so that means no pork or cheesy things.
We are all working and schooling from home so that means two things: first, a LOT of demand for data and way too much time on screens. Naturally, we ran out of data yesterday so I had to figure out how to get more. I don’t even know what to do about too much time on screens other than insisting that the boys get some movement every day. Our option on days we don’t get to go to the Embassy club is usually basketball on the street (again, no yard… yes, this is a bit of a sore spot Chez Brown). The other thing about working and school from home, though, is the lack of social connections. The boys can’t hang out with their friends other than across more screens after school. I don’t get to see my friends other than via more screens or, if I am lucky, if they are amongst the other 3 families slotted for our time period at the Embassy club. It is a really lonely and isolating existence and it is starting to wear on me. Beyond being the lone responsible adult in the house, I miss the daily and nightly conversations with my hubby. I miss just chatting with an adult about adult things. The boys try to talk to me about the things they care about or are into these days, and a lot of it is either basketball-related (which I know next to nothing about), or PS5-related (which I could care less about), or apropos some sort of YouTuber (which just irks me). And, honestly, sometimes they will say things to me, trying to connect, and I look at them, wondering if what they just said is even in English; I know the words they are saying but the way they are strung together makes no sense to me.
I don’t think it was any one of these things that just simply was too much this week. I think it was just everything, just piled up, and it all just spilled everywhere. I totally lost my balance, dropped every ball.
I acknowledge that I am super privileged. I have a safe house to live in, and all of my belongings are here around me. We have enough money for food, and my kids are enrolled in a great school. We have electricity (and a well-maintained generator, should it go out), and money for internet. We all have our own computers. I have the support of the embassy services like GSO or facilities should we have issues, and I have access to Mobile patrol to help with things like jumping the car when the battery dies. We have access to our little haven at the embassy’s club here. I have advanced skills in the kitchen, and our cupboards are full. I know that so many – too many – do not have these privileges. I know all of this.
I also acknowledge that while my current state of single parenthood is felt most vividly, it is not a state that I will be in for an extended period of time. This TDY my hubby is doing will last a few weeks, sure, but then he’ll be back and it’ll once again be the two of us joining our various talents, parenting-related and otherwise, and I’ll no longer be the lone adult on duty. I know so many other families are not so fortunate, and I respect so very much those who handle single parenthood every day. I know you build your own village, and I know you do what you can and what you have to do.
It actually helps to remind myself of these privileges, and to remind myself too, to have compassion for myself because I still feel like I am in a period of struggle. I am not so practiced at this, but after a bad day, it’s okay to just sit, reflect, and then when I finally ready, to begin to gather things up again. It’s okay to take my time to get things balanced again. By tomorrow, or the next day, I’ll be back to my normal self.
I don’t know why I am telling you all of this, but I certainly appreciate you reading and listening. I hope that I can offer some sort of support for others struggling with all that they are juggling; I certainly will do my best to help. Let’s be a team, shall we, and help with the load.