Some lessons we learn the hard way. The really hard way. That’s what I’m starting to feel about lessons from COVID-19. One of the hardest, but best so far I’ve learned is how to get away from my Work FOMO.
Every morning I wake up well before the sun and my children wake up. I have a morning routine that is filled with sweat, coffee, and a quick shower before I wake everyone up and try to make their morning as positive as possible so the day will hopefully follow suit.
My workday depends largely on my kids going to school. But as a mom, we all know that kids will get sick or that there will be other factors that play into our regularly scheduled workday that interrupt our plans. Enter the coronavirus/COVID-19, and now my regularly scheduled workday has completely been turned upside down. Since I “work from home,” my day is seen as flexible, so now I take on the brunt of the homeschooling as well as the caretaking of the home. I have always been able to take off in the middle of the day for doctors’ appointments or “miss work” because my child is home sick, but now they are home to avoid getting sick. And I feel lucky I get to do that.
But the stress of trying to balance it all has been exhausting.
I often think to myself that I work full-time on part-time hours. The number of things that I have to accomplish in a day requires more time than I actually have to give. But I also know I have done it to myself. My philosophy has always been to say yes to opportunities- work or otherwise- and then try to balance it the best I could. I used to believe this made me a “good” person- I was able to accomplish all.the.things and still maintain some semblance of order in our household. In retrospect, however, it appears I just have a serious case of FOMO and I worry that if I give up an opportunity I might be missing out on a gig of a lifetime. Rather, let me say I HAD a serious case of FOMO. I was afraid to miss out on anything.
I love to work. I always have worked, even though I have been lucky enough not to really have to work. But I also love being a mom, and being present for my kids is most important to me. Trying to create this balance has been a struggle, but I’ve always been able to manage. Until now.
My FOMO status had caused me to really reconsider my “Say yes to everything,” stance before the coronavirus even hit. I have always loved being busy- in fact, I tend to thrive on it- but I started to really recognize what was going on with me and my daily anxiety about the kids getting sick or things messing up my schedule- I was over-scheduled.
I would get so worried about my day when my kids got sick, or an unexpected phone call/doctor’s a-appointment/grocery run popped up during my workday. “I don’t have time for this,” I’d think to myself. But why? Why don’t I have time for it? Because I keep saying yes to work opportunities instead of recognizing that it’s getting to be too much.
And now, COVID-19 and the mandatory shelter-in-place here in Califonia, have given me the opportunity I could sense that my mental health was craving. A time to slow down. A time to say no to projects and clients and deadlines. A time to focus on my family- to really take actual time with them during the day versus just talking to them at dinner time and reading them a couple of stories at night. A time to actually recognize what can reasonably be done in a day. And most of all, it has shown me – no, demanded me – to say no for the first time.
The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on all of our lives in one way or another. It has made us all have full homes on a full-time status, which leaves little time for those of us that work since we are now also responsible for schooling our children and having them in our homes, and usually our laps (despite social distancing, that’s where they love best, and I do too), at all times during the day. But it has also given many of us the chance to re-evaluate how we balance our lives. We have been able to actually spend time with family, something many of us crave, and slow down our society’s go-go-go mentality.
Even though we are just in the beginning stages of this quarantine, I can already feel the mentality towards my work changing. I can see the importance of occasionally saying no to a project, even though I might have the time, so that I don’t end up down the rabbit hole of overworked and overstressed. If COVID-19 gave me anything, it has given me a full appreciation for how lucky I am to live the life I do, and how much I have missed because I have been sitting in front of a computer most days.
Photo: George Rudy/Shutterstock