Pandemic Parenting: A New Season of Motherhood

season

As I write this I am enjoying the end of autumn, after fighting futilely to hold on to summer. Summer is the season that I resist the ending of. After all, we get only eighteen of these things before our children fly the nest.

When I realized how much I identify with this season, I gained a deeper understanding of myself. And I realized that how I see myself as a mom largely depends on how our summers go.  If we’re making memories and having fun, then I feel like I’m doing a good job—simple as that.  

Summer of 2020 looked different than the rest. It felt shorter. We didn’t take a vacation. We never went to the pool.  This summer, I stopped seeing myself as the family fun cruise ship activities director

Instead, I turned my focus to trying to instill in my daughter (and to cultivate in myself) an inner strength and a  resilience, and a deep compassion for others.  

I want to teach her how to successfully captain her ship through storms, while helping others to arrive safely at port.  

We learned to rest more and to focus on our mental and physical health in this stormy summer.  We learned to hunker down and find contentment in simple things, like putting a puzzle together at home. 

As we continue to alter our course to navigate a pandemic as a family, amidst the unrest in our nation, I have stopped striving to create a life for our family that is comfortable and cozy, like a Pottery Barn catalog.  

I now ask myself how I’m doing at equipping our daughter to endure the challenges that life will throw her way.  

The summer of 2020 was the summer that we did the least, had the fewest status updates, went the fewest places  and took hardly any photos. But perhaps, given the whole picture, it was the summer we most needed.  

And I still got enough sunshine to tide me over, for which I’m grateful– but that, too, now matters less than it once did.  

I’m a planner, and I normally have the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years) entirely planned out by  early November. This year, we are taking them one at a time, as they come. Our focus is less on fun and gifts and  taking photos, and more on togetherness (just the three of us and my parents) and on honoring simple traditions.  It’s special. It’s needed.  

And we are more thankful than ever for the gifts of life, health, family, and resilience.  

As the seasons change, so do the seasons of motherhood. I find that I am somehow still surprised by this.  But motherhood has always been catching me off guard and surprising me, and that continues now that my only child is a teenager.  

My focus is shifting from making life comfortable and fun for my baby chick, to preparing our birdling to fly the nest.  It has taken a pandemic to help move my mothering from the shallow end of the pool to the deep end, so to speak.  Others probably grasp the need for this shift more easily and quickly than I have, and that’s ok.  That’s the beautiful thing about mothering, that we can shift and reset and try anew. We are each on our own journey,  and I am still far from having this mom thing all figured out.  

From my nest to yours, you’re doing a great job, mama. May the holidays hold unexpected joy and light for you.


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Helen Gentry
Helen Gentry writes and blogs from her mountain home in North Carolina where she lives with her daughter, husband and two rescue dogs. Passionate about helping women to reach their full potential, Helen is currently a full-time graduate student studying to become a counselor and a coach.  When she is not writing, doing homework or parenting, she can be found dabbling in trail running, hiking, photography, and farm-to-table cooking.  She drops everything for a mountain sunset or a good cup of coffee.