While in the thick of my official summer jobs—Sibling Referee, All-Day Buffet Replenisher, Disney Audiobook DJ, and Chauffeur—I started dreaming of the first day of school.
The magical day would signal that my children would maybe/hopefully/puh-leeeeease start a complete, in-person school year for the first time since…well, for the first time in forever. They’re still young enough that they were only in part-time daycare prior to the pandemic. The first day of school meant my children would be taught (by someone else!) and fed (by someone else!) for free (thank you, public schools!).
I didn’t go so far as starting an Advent-style countdown calendar, but with every day that passed, I felt that much closer to freedom. To joy. To being able to work, uninterrupted, for whole minutes at a time.
You see, I thought that on that first day of school, I could instantly Back-to-the-Future myself to being a productive member of society. Like in the Before Times. But the Delta variant reared its ugly head and I panicked. I felt my first-day-freedom shimmering and fading like Marty McFly’s family photo. While my kids started to get anxious about school reopening, I started to get anxious that it wouldn’t.
Thanks to a high community vaccination rate, low community spread and intense school masking and testing policies, the first day of school arrived. Hallelujah! My children semi-willingly entered their school building and my condo was quiet.
Did I twirl like Maria Von Trapp on the mountaintop? You bet your edelweiss I did! I listened not to the sound of music but the sound of silence as I picked up everything from the floor, knowing that I wouldn’t step on a LEGO for five whole hours in a row.
And I purged. Oh, how I purged.
Garbage bags of items for charity and recycling and Facebook Buy Nothing groups went out the door as fast as I could move them. I was not about to enter another northeastern pandemic winter trapped in a two-bedroom condo with two kids, a work-from-home husband and a surplus of outgrown clothes and broken toys.
But then, progress ground to a halt.
I couldn’t rid my condo of all of its metaphorical cobwebs while simultaneously catching up on 18 months of overdue doctors’ appointments and, you know, actually completing the work that I get paid to do. When I would sit down at my laptop to write, my thoughts would spiral. My kids weren’t there to interrupt me, so my brain interrupted me instead. I jumped from scheduling grocery pickup to calling for home repairs to checking the school’s app to make sure there weren’t new messages from the teachers which of course there weren’t because they were actually teaching my children at the time.
I couldn’t focus.
For an entire day, I wandered around the house thinking about the stuff I should be doing, but not doing it. And then feeling guilty for not being productive. I felt like I was the only one failing at returning to “regular” life.