It’s amazing what getting out of the house can do–even for a brief period.
Yesterday morning, I volunteered on the COVID-19 information hotline at the Loudoun County Health department.
It was my first volunteering stint in a while, and just the fact of being out of the house and doing something other than childcare from 8:30am to 1pm was amazingly restorative.
A Mad Rush
Luckily I woke up to pee at about 3:30am, because that’s when I realized that I had entirely neglected to set my alarm for the morning. Bad habit I’ve slipped into the last few months…
I set the alarm, and went back to sleep, only to have weird dreams about odd deadlines.
I woke in a cold sweat at 6:00am, and my first thought was: I have to make the boys’ lunch before I leave!
Before I knew it, I was dressed, had put on some make-up (it HAD been a while!), dressed a child, and was in the kitchen with three pots on the stove. Between feeding the boys and getting their pasta salad lunch ready (why couldn’t I just give them PB&J? What’s WRONG with me??), I nearly forgot to feed myself.
Thankfully, I remembered to eat AND have a much-needed cup of tea before stuffing a hunk of cheese in my bag and rushing out the door.
Once I arrived at the call center (this was my first shift there), it was all business.
The stress of the morning melted away, and my focus shifted entirely. I read through the FAQ materials, made a note of some important information I was likely to need, and met my fellow volunteers.
By the time the phone lines opened, I was ready.
For the next four hours, I was in the zone. My focus was entirely on the callers, on answering their questions, figuring out where they could find the information they needed.
By the time the shift ended, I felt like I’d been productive and helpful, like my energies had been expended usefully.
I came home with a spring in my step, renewed energy and recharged batteries. When I opened the door and heard, “Mama!!” and was walloped in the abdomen with a hug from an enthusiastic 5.5-year-old, I smiled down into his face and felt excited to spend the afternoon together.
For the rest of the day, when the Bear woke up from his nap, I was game. I felt like I could take anything they threw at me.
Instead of feeling like I needed to get some alone time ASAP, I felt like I had more of myself to give. We played, we laughed, and it felt really good.
Unlike the Previous Day…
The contrast with the previous day was too marked to pass unnoticed.
On a typical, socially-isolated, distance-learning day, by the time 4pm comes along, I keep glancing at the clock. I’m exhausted, spent and ready for a break.
At 5pm I start to make dinner, and that’s when the boys are allowed to watch TV. I always feel a stab of guilt about it, especially because the Bug spends so much time on the computer for school. But it doesn’t stop me from letting them.
I pop something on PBS Kids, Amazon Prime or Disney+ and retreat to the kitchen, quietly closing the door at the top of the basement stairs behind me.
There in the kitchen, I can listen to my audiobook or some podcasts, or even sneak over to practice on the piano a bit before I get dinner going. It’s a little time to do something for me.
More Days Like Yesterday
I want more days like yesterday. Whether it’s volunteering or working, I want to have something that takes me out of the home context for at least part of the day.
Using my brainpower, energy and focus for something else gives me more of all of those for my kids.
It makes coming home to my little princes so much sweeter.