2020, and so far 2021, will be a time that I will never forget. Besides the obvious impact of the pandemic, I had my third child, hired two people right before going on maternity leave, and battled strong anxiety that I was unfamiliar with.
It is easy to understand why I experienced anxiety unlike anything I have dealt with before. It could be the fear of the unknown or having to second guess every sniffly nose before deciding if my children could go to daycare, or if my husband and I were going to battle it out to determine whose job is more important than the others that day. There was also the debate about who would have to try to work while keeping a 5-year-old, 3-year-old and baby fed and alive while not screaming in the process. Or it was the trying to manage new coworkers remotely after they had just worked without me for three months in a constantly evolving company. There were also many communication challenges with our daycare making me feel on my own and that I needed to advocate aggressively for my children who were facing more change than we had prepared them for. OR was it "JUST" regular old Postpartum Anxiety.
In these past thirteen or so months, I have been unable to sleep well, my brain has been over actively thinking of all the terrible scenarios that could take place and plotting out how I, alone, will prevent them. If I was not lying awake preparing, I was dreaming the most horrible nightmares. I was unsure of myself and held on to so much self-doubt.
Thankfully, I was aware that this was not healthy and that my mind was working against me. I sought support, from my family, my husband, and a friend who was starting a coaching practice guiding parents through the many transitions they face. It was all helpful, but there was still a lingering heaviness I just could not shake.
I have known that I was an extrovert, but since I was still seeing my family, I thought I was covered. Recently, the company that I work for, Concurrency, hosted a Food Truck and Happy Hour for our Wisconsin employees. The energy was palpable. People were so excited to be there. The new, hopefully temporary, ritual was consistent: walk up to the group, but maintain a six-foot distance, ask if those standing nearby are hugging, wait for the nod, and open arms into a huge embrace.
This filled my cup. That morning, I was struggling, having cried about how I was going to advocate for my child at her daycare. I sat in my car and tried to ramp myself up. I was holding my venti iced coffee to my eyes to desperately try to hide the fact that was crying and feeling delicate. I noticed a coworker getting out of his car, took a deep breath and got out. As I smiled and greeted him I realized I had never met him in person. This was exciting and I was in the zone. The day continued to be filled with the same great interactions. On my way home, sitting in the same spot that I was teary and sad earlier, I noticed that I felt light. What if I had gone home?
I continue to go into the office weekly and have started to schedule evening meetups with my friends, leaving my house, children, and husband for a few hours at a time to just relax and be social. I continue to feel like I can handle anything that is thrown my way, and that I am strong enough. The heaviness has lifted.
I feel compelled to share this message with you, to remind people that although work-from-home has some amazing benefits, to not forget the power of being around others, hugging, sharing a meal or a couple drinks. It was easy to feel like the convenience of having a smaller circle or less things to do was a way of life that should stick around. With health concerns and vaccines in consideration, do not forget about balance and your mental health.
I am grateful I work for a company that supports a hybrid approach and is finding ways to bring our people together, while also respecting our flexibility and ability to keep some of the conveniences that have had a positive impact on our daily life.
Please do not forget the power of human interaction and that there are people ready to embrace you if you are struggling.
(My three kids and I)
(My husband and the best partner especially through this wild ride)
(Concurrency sponored food truck with the best coworkers around! - Shout out to Pedro's South American Food for never disappointing)