I had a baby in December of 2019 and by March of 2020 we entered this never ending pandemic. I had a newborn and a 4 year old who needed my attention all of the time, but I was hopeful, optimistic, or maybe just naïve, but I swore that the pandemic would pass quickly just like other possible pandemics we had lived through. I had just gotten myself off the couch and back into the studio. I was feeling myself and managed to have one fabulous week. We went to a fancy dinner party, 4 year old and a 2.5 month old in tow. I dusted off my stilettos and wore white. That weekend I also had a girls night out and went to a speakeasy wine bar and classical concert. After recovering from a second c-section and settling into my new identity as a mother of two, I felt like I was starting to live again. And then the safer at home order came.
I leaned into this stay at home mom thing and really just stopped doing anything that was work related, or that had to do with anything about me. I learned quickly that it was not a sustainable way of living. You can’t be everything for everyone and nothing for yourself.
I have been extremely fortunate during this pandemic. I have not had to worry about anything except not getting Covid. I live in a beautiful place. I say this all the time, but really being at home in 2020, I have really lived in my beautiful place and I have really appreciated living in this beautiful place. I hate to even have a complaint because I know that what I am saying is coming from a place of privilege and really, how dare I? My 20 something self would roll her eyes at the current me and remind her to toughen up because we know what it’s like to have real worries.
But as a mom with 2 small children during a pandemic, this is what I am supposed to do right, complain? I don’t know, I can’t… It’s hard because my kids are great, but yes, it has been extremely hard to be a mom during the pandemic. My kids know that their job is to play and to learn. I am the mom and so I facilitate all of this. What does that mean for me? It means I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on the floor playing. I’ve walked a million steps on our daily walks around the neighborhood. I’ve made up hundreds of stories and games. I’ve talked about little kid things until my brain started to disintegrate from lack of actual use, because you know, it’s a muscle. If you don’t use it you lose it. I shrunk an inch and lost so many brain cells, from lack of use and from my quarantine hobby of drinking cocktails. I played dammit! If my kids so much as allude to some bull that I never played with them I am going to disown them.
Yes, I feel very strongly about this, but for good reason. My mother didn’t really play with me. She would say “quieres que vaya a llamar al ejercito para que venga a jugar contigo?” First of all, what?! “Do you want me to call the army to come play with you?” I don’t even know where she got that from, what it means or why she would say this to me. All she had to do was be honest. “No I don’t like to play.” “No, I’m busy doing blah blah…” “No, I hate you.” Whatever, but it all goes back to communication and talking to our kids. The truth never occurred to her but this saying, which she said a lot, because I asked her to play with me a lot, was the right thing for her to say? In my little kid brain it was like a threat and a no at the same time. It’s so weird because with my kids, my mom is on the floor playing, dancing, laughing. It’s unrecognizable to me.
My big generalization is that our Latin mamas did not play with us because they were not aware of the cognitive benefits of playing in children. The idea that kids learn through playing is a new concept and so for them playing was just not necessary.
Did your parents engage in active playtime with you? How much do you play with your kids? How have you coped with the monotony that is every day with a kid?
Would love to hear from you!
The multigenerational household
My parents live in my house, down the hall, and did I ever imagine that this is how my life would be as an adult with a husband and a couple of kids? No. Is it hard sometimes? Yes. Would I change it? No. What most would call a “burden” has actually been a beautiful new beginning for my parents and I.
I moved out after I graduated from college, but it wasn’t because I found my own apartment and was ready to take on the world as an independent single professional. I left, because my house burned down. It was a cigarette left in the bedroom by my brother’s then crackhead girlfriend. And I’m not being mean, this is literal. She was a crackhead. My parents let her stay and supported her even after she burned down our house and so I never went back home. From the ashes of this tragedy I made my own sense of home, created my own family, and honestly it was a necessary and poetic rebirth for me as a young adult. My relationship with my parents already is distress though became pretty much non-existent. Through the years, we have slowly reconciled our relationship, but there was never a comfortable relationship to begin with so...
So why did my parents end up in my house? Well, because that is what family does. Regardless of the circumstances, family helps each other out.
And boy have my parents have helped me out. Their presence in my home has allowed me the freedom to work and to date my husband. I have built in babysitting for goodness sake! This is absolutely priceless. My parents are great playmates. They allow me to take a mom break if I need to shower, or just breathe for a second. The grandparent grandchild relationship is beautiful. I did not experience it first-hand but I am so thankful that my kids get to.
Is it hard to have my parents around all the time? Of course! No one wants to live with the judging eyes of their old school Latino parents. It’s getting easier. At first I felt like I was teenager again, rebelling and rolling my eyes every time my mom said something, especially regarding parenting. In my head I was always like “like how would you know! You were never there!” So yes, I have definitely had some issues to work through.
Not to mention that by having my parents in my home, I am the epitome of the sandwich generation. I take care of them and my kids and I’m sandwiched in between. It ends up feeling like I have four kids.
In Like Water for Chocolate- Como Agua Para Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, the main character is the youngest daughter and they talk about how it is her duty as the youngest to never marry and devote her life to taking care of her mother. I’m the youngest. I’m taking care of my mother. I’m totally fulfilling an outdated stereotype that should have never existed because, how horrible is it that you are born just to fulfill this duty? But I’m using it to my advantage.
My big generalization is that since the pandemic, more people are going to adopt this very traditional family structure and like it.
Would you ever create a multi-generational home on purpose?
Do you live in one?
What is your experience?
Would you recommend it?
Are you expected to take care of your parents because you’re the youngest daughter?
Would love to hear from you!
Wendy writes blog posts that turn into conversations for the Mamá Cita Podcast.