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Parenting During a Pandemic: One Delaware Mom’s Perspective

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Author Bio

Munchie Morgan Clement is a Delaware native and a graduate of Tatnall School and the University of Delaware. She lives in Bellefonte with her husband, Wes, their 3-year-old daughter, Amelia, a pit bull rescue named Lola and a tortoise named Molly.

Let’s talk parenting during a pandemic, shall we?

As I write this, we are three weeks into an eight-week (at least) statewide “lockdown,” which is getting stricter by the day. No school. No playdates. No playgrounds, beaches, museums or zoos. Restaurants are open only for takeout and delivery. All nonessential businesses are either closed or their employees have to figure out a way to work from home.

Nearly every shred of normalcy our 3-year-old daughter has ever known was ripped out from under her overnight, and we were left scrambling to figure out how to explain this in words she’d understand.

What a time to be alive.

Call me naïve, but when the news from Wuhan started unfolding I was part of the “it’ll never happen here” camp. I’ll admit it. My husband, bless his heart, doesn’t watch the news. Like, ever. He stays blissfully unaware of the atrocities occurring in the world every day and relies on me to update him on what’s important.

So after a week, or a month—time has no meaning anymore—I started seeing people panicking. People I considered rational, level-headed, nonalarmists were saying we should all essentially become doomsday preppers to save ourselves. When my cousin was advised to “shelter in place” in San Francisco, my nonchalance started to spiral into anxiety.

All I could think about was what it meant for Amelia. As parents, we have to buck up and soldier on for our kids, no matter how uncertain our future seems. When you have a 3-year-old empath for a child, though, a brave face doesn’t always work.

As we watched state after state being placed on lockdown, my anxiety turned into full-blown panic. We own two small businesses, and as I read the “essential” list from other states, I wasn’t sure if either one would be bringing in any income. I tearfully asked Wes if we’d be OK, and I saw the confidence stripped from his eyes for the first time.

A simple “I don’t know, babe” as he walked out the door and my panic turned into terror.

Later that night, Amelia asked why I was sad. I listened as Wes told her a lot of people were sick and the doctors couldn’t find the right medicine, so schools, stores and playgrounds had to close until they could make everyone better.

Her response? “I want to help the doctors find it, Daddy. I can help them.”

Her kind little heart brought me right back down to earth.

High school lacrosse taught me the importance of the pivot. You plant one foot, pivot, take off in the opposite direction and hopefully leave your defender in the dust. Hearing Amelia’s answer made me realize I needed to take a page out of our old playbook and start looking at things through her eyes.

Stop. Pivot. Put my game face on. Leave my anxiety at the door. Have faith that we’d “figure it out.” Try to keep things as normal as we could for Amelia in the hopes that she’ll only remember the light—the family dinners, more “yes,” mock school days and tea parties, and Mom and Dad being fully present for once.

Three days into the shutdown and I was climbing the walls. Everyone was placing bets on how many babies would be conceived in quarantine; I was contemplating how long it’d be before I told Wes to go build himself an apartment in our garage. Some days our living room is turned into a replica of Amelia’s classroom for a mock school day, and other days (most days) I’m handing her the iPad and telling her to go to town. There are no screen-time limits in quarantine.

Jokes aside, I know that I’m writing this from a virtual place of “privilege.” Both businesses are able to operate. We haven’t had to navigate online schooling along with our own workload. Our loved ones have remained healthy, so far. That being said, I have been brought to my knees countless times reading what others are facing. Postponed funerals and weddings. High school seniors having to miss some of the most important moments of their lives. Single parents left jobless, wondering how they’ll feed their kids. I’ve never been prouder of our little state than I am right now, seeing our community come together to help those in need.

I’ve watched in awe as everyone has figured out how to pivot to stay afloat—business owners, teachers, medical professionals, fitness instructors, restaurants, retail stores—all redesigning the way they operate, virtually overnight. Even more miraculous is how people on the other side jumped at the chance to support those efforts.

My hope is that by the time anyone reads this, we’ve come out on the other side. I hope we’ll be learning to navigate our new normal, that all of the uncertainty we’ve faced is being replaced by hope for the future and our sense of community will remain strong after the dust settles. My hope is that people will remember our generation as the one that took the word “pivot” and ran with it; that our children are able to look back and remember how we soldiered on in the face of our fears and came out stronger. For them.

If we’re still hunkered down and you’re feeling like you can’t possibly get through one more week:

Stop. Pivot. Give yourself some grace.

When you strip away all the stress and uncertainty and look at things through the eyes of a child, beauty remains. Chase that.

Published as “Ground Control to Major Mom” in the June 2020 issue of Delaware Today magazine.

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