A Balancing Act: When Physical and Mental Health are at Odds

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The COVID-19 balancing act between physical and mental health is a challenge for moms to maintain, especially when there are no clear answers.

Please tell me I am not the only mom that feels like I’m in this weird state of limbo right now. I feel like I am constantly walking this fine line between still protecting my family from COVID and slowly trying to get back to some sense of normalcy.

 

The COVID-19 Threat

From the get-go, I took the COVID threat seriously. I remember leaving school the Friday before Spring Break, and there was a hushed fear shared among the teachers and staff that we might not come back to school after the week off. A few days into Spring Break, my parents in their 60’s suddenly decided to start social distancing themselves from everyone. When I found out that this also included my daughter and me, I was a little upset, but it also made me take the threat of this pandemic more seriously.. We didn’t go out anywhere for the rest of that week. And when it was announced that we weren’t going back to school? My family truly went into lockdown mode. We completely stopped leaving our apartment, except for a weekly trip to the grocery store. When we did go out, we always wore masks and constantly stopped to use hand sanitizer.

 

girls talking in the background as a sad girl in the foreground is left outWe lived our lives like this from the end of March until at least the end of May. Way too much money was spent on Amazon, and our Door Dash app had never been used so much. We made the best of virtual learning and having to stay at home, but I could tell that the confinement, the lack of activity, and the lack of socialization, was really taking a toll on my eight-year-old.

 

Balancing Social Distancing

My daughter is an only child, so there was no one else for her to talk to or play with. And we live in an apartment, so there was no yard for her to play or run around in. Many of the other children in the apartment complex continued to play with each other, almost daily, without socially distancing. It was very hard for my daughter to witness their interactions and not be able to join in. I practiced what a distance of six feet looked like numerous times, and when I felt like she truly understood, I allowed her to go outside and “play” with her friends, but from a distance. It was awful to see her standing off to the side, desperate for one of the kids to interact with her. The mom guilt definitely kicked in – I had basically forced her to be an outcast, and in her mind, she no longer had any friends. As I was protecting her physical health, it seemed like I was hurting her mental health.

 

So when restrictions started to lift in June, I was so excited. I was determined to find a safe way for our family to regain some sense of normalcy while still staying safe. My main goal was to find ways for us to get out of the house and interact with others while still being aware of the COVID threat. We went to dinner at my parent’s house – we didn’t touch them, but we got within six feet. I have honestly never seen her so excited to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Way too much money was still spent on Amazon and Door Dash, but we took a trip to Target. Our trip still included masks and hand sanitizer, but I allowed my daughter to peruse the toy aisles until she decided on a new Lego set. We went to a birthday party. It was held outdoors, and only a small group of familiar people attended the festivities. I told myself the risk of infection was low, and I still feel like it was worth it, because I haven’t seen her smile like that since the beginning of March.

 

Loosening Up

a close up of a soccer goal in the foreground and soccer gear is blurred in the backgroundI have been weighing the risks and benefits of every outing, every interaction. I need to consider my family’s mental health, not just their physical health. I even signed my daughter up for a week of soccer camp. I still feel guilty about putting her at risk of becoming infected, but I try to rationalize my fear away. It was an outdoor camp, and it was only for a few hours in the morning. There would be no scrimmages or games, and every kid would have their own ball. The program and its counselors were going to go above and beyond what the CDC required in terms of safety protocols. And it was worth it. I have never seen her so happy to be running around in 90-degree heat.

 

I felt like I was doing a pretty good job of walking this fine line between protection and normalcy until this week. I watch the news, and I get sad, frustrated, and, most importantly, fearful. I am terrified that things will get worse again and that we will have to revert back to our quarantined life. Now I question every time we left our house in the past two weeks, as our state’s cases rise. I genuinely hope that I’m not the only mom struggling with this crazy balancing act – but I would rather continue with this new normal than go back to how things were in April.

 

How is your family staying safe while also prioritizing mental health? I would love for our St. Louis Mom Community to bounce ideas off each other. I truly believe when you know better, you do better, so please share those ideas below in the comments!