The last year has been challenging for everyone. But mothers, especially, have dealt with many different situations, such as working from home, distance learning and shutdowns. And they’ve handled it all while going through a situation they’ve never experienced—the COVID-19 pandemic.
Being a mom during the pandemic
Jessica Smith is a registered nurse at Mayo Clinic, a Doctor of Nursing Practice student and a single mother of choice to her son. Smith notes, “Being a mother during a pandemic has been one of my life’s greatest challenges. As a single mother, you really live by the motto, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ When the pandemic hit, my whole village was reduced to myself and my mother as our community came to a standstill. I am very fortunate that my mother shares a home with us. Her support has been crucial this past year.”
Tiffany Olson, a project manager at Mayo Clinic, works from home. Her daughter and two nephews, whom she watches during the day, have virtual school. She says, “Working from home was great for helping with kids’ virtual stuff but difficult when everyone had a loud session.” Examples include meetings with no muting and band or gym classes.
“I had a baby right before the pandemic hit, so I was on maternity leave when the shutdowns happened,” Anna Richey, a regional manager for Conservation Minnesota, explains. “My 2-year-old had a nanny a few days a week prior to that. But our nanny lived with her elderly dad, so she quit. My husband’s a chef at a hotel, so he’s had to keep working.”
“Just a few weeks after the first lockdown began, my second son was born,” says Miriam Haacke, a preschool teacher. She and her husband decided he’d stay home with their first son during the labor and delivery because not much was known about the virus yet. “It was hard because no relatives or friends could come to visit and meet him. We didn’t have the same support we had when our first was born.”
Danielle Teal, a senior program coordinator at Mayo Clinic and single mother of two, considers, “I was fortunate enough to be able to quickly work from home. Being able to do this also created a better balance to be able to work and maintain a household.”
Megan Osterlund, a registered nurse at Mayo Clinic and mother of four, explains, “Two of my kids are in milestone years—first year of middle school, first year of high school. My kids all have really risen to the occasion, and I could not be prouder. But what a tough year of isolation for them.”
Osterlund found that it was helpful to give her kids daily assignments, such as practicing music and Spanish. Her husband, a teacher, was also at home. “It really helped me to escape the burnout and overwhelmed feeling that a lot of parents felt when their kids were home.”
Takeaways from the last year
“The pandemic gave me a reason to slow down and evaluate what was the most important in my life—my son and family, my close friends, what brings joy into my life and what I can do without,” notes Smith.
Osterlund agrees, “I love together time with my people. Even if we’re not doing stuff, I like knowing they are around.” As an introvert, another benefit was being able to back out of many outside commitments that seemed busy for the sake of being busy.
Richey considers that many meetings before the pandemic should have been Zoom meetings or emails. “Zoom has actually simplified parts of my job and allowed me to be in more places than before,” she notes.
Olson recalls, “The slowdown was actually really nice. I just miss people and interacting with anyone that’s not direct family.”
with anyone that’s not direct family.” “I didn’t expect to get this kind of time with my kids, especially my daughter,” says Richey.
Smith explains, “My silver lining of this past year is that, amidst the fear and feelings of loss, I was able to slow down and realize that I have so much to be grateful for.” Smith also describes how she makes time for self-care, such as exercising, reading and FaceTiming with close friends.
“We made sure we focused on family time,” notes Teal. “I bought more board games and successfully won most of them; my kids would disagree.”
Haacke mentions, “The silver lining was spending lots of quality time together as our immediate family. My go-to for taking care of myself was and is going for walks outside. I’m so thankful I can just throw the kids in the stroller, go outside and clear my head. I temporarily lost my job due to the pandemic, but this allowed me to stay at home and spend more time with my kids.”
Olson describes how her gym, Detour Athletics, lent equipment to members during shutdowns. She says the silver lining was how the kids were involved in the daily workouts.
Challenges during the pandemic
Richey says, “I can’t focus. Meetings, especially long ones, are hard to manage with two small children who need me for everything.”
“Some of the harder things we have dealt with this past year were losing touch with friends and family, not being able to travel due to pandemic restrictions and our family having COVID-19. It was very hard to see my son’s life change so dramatically as he was no longer in school, activities were canceled and he didn’t see many of his friends in person for months,” remembers Smith.
Teal notes, “One thing I realized during all of this was that it tested the mothering role of a woman. Trying to support children through distance learning while working has been one of the toughest challenges I have faced.”
Olson looks forward to COVID-19 vaccines, kids returning to school and more outside activities.
Richey states, “I am hopeful that with a vaccine, I’ll be able to get in-home care for my kids again a few days a week.”
“I think that as our community continues to reach herd immunity through vaccinations, a sense of normalcy will return for many,” considers Smith.
Teal reflects, “The vaccine is slowly making its rounds. I received mine in March. I felt it was incredibly important to do my part in safety measures mitigating the spread of COVID-19. I am looking forward to the future when we can all look back and think about how the pandemic slowed all of us down and made us realize how precious life is and to care for others.”