I don’t do Six Feet Apart or Toxic very Well…Confessions of a Mom and Healthcare Worker

Mental Health, Motherhood

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Everything below this paragraph I wrote yesterday before I had any idea what was coming. Reading it again now, I realize how much God was preparing my heart for what was about to come. I know that I gave it my all. I know that I fought for my job in healthcare more than I’ve fought for anything else in my life. I went through a year of discovering my worth, and recently I started to realize that I don’t have to stay in a toxic environment. I don’t have to allow people to destroy me for something that I had no control over. I left a job I thought I would retire from, a job that I was proud of, and a job that honestly defined me for so long. Sometimes when something is so good for so long, it makes it that much harder to realize when it’s no longer serving you. I never thought I’d have the ability to say that I deserve better than this without a backup plan, but I know that I have to take care of my mind, and the stress from situations out of my control became way too much. I’ll write about exactly what happened later, but for now, here is what it’s really like to work in healthcare right now (especially as a mama).

I’m a mama who works night shift in a laboratory and I’m tired. I’ve worked at night, gone home to my kids, and stayed up all day for almost five years now. I can honestly say that I’ve never been this tired. I breastfed two babies while working nights. I was pregnant twice while working nights. With my last baby, I worked the night before while in labor and delivered my baby the next day. I still wasn’t nearly as exhausted as I am now. It’s not so much the job, as the current state of the world. I’m used to having most of the answers and being able to figure out the ones that I don’t have. When I went to school, I knew that I would be exposed to illness. I knew that I would experience times where I couldn’t fix it or figure it out. I remember having my hands prayed over before starting clinicals and thinking of all the wonderful things that my hands would be able to do. I felt empowered. I felt excited. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude and joy that I didn’t allow room for exhaustion. I learned equations, medical terms, the correct order of draw, and how to determine if an infection is viral or bacterial. I learned the reference ranges for lab values. I learned how to determine what gram positive cocci look like vs. gram negative bacilli. I learned how the coagulation system works and exactly how our blood circulates. I can tell you what tests to order to check for most ailments and if your potassium is really critical or if it’s contaminated. I can even tell you your blood type by testing for in manually. But I wasn’t prepared for six feet apart.

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I wasn’t prepared for the day that I couldn’t go see my grandparents without fearing judgement or possibly infecting them. I wasn’t prepared for the night I would leave my already traumatized daughter and have her ask me if I was going to die. I wasn’t prepared for the nights where I’d struggle to breathe behind a mask for almost nine hours and get on social media to read all the misinformation out there. I’m prepared to fight for you, and I’m prepared to be on the front lines. What I wasn’t prepared for was the hate and tension that surround us right now. You don’t really feel like a “healthcare hero” when your day to day consists of constant changes and you still don’t have the answers.

I’m tired of telling my children that we can’t walk in the store. I’m tired of my ears hurting and face breaking out because of a mask. I live in the South and I’m tired of not being able to walk up and give everyone a hug. I’m tired of letting my phone ring because I’m so mentally drained that I can’t handle a conversation. I’m tired of telling my daughters that we can’t go to the zoo, or the park, or find a filter for our pool because of this virus. It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting not knowing what to say. It’s exhausting reading the opinions people gather from empty numbers that they don’t understand. It’s exhausting having my educated opinion questioned for trying to provide a sense of hope. It’s exhausting not knowing what to do, so I get it. As a healthcare worker, I want you to know that you aren’t alone.

My five year old starts kindergarten this year,

and while I homeschooled my oldest by choice before, I wanted to send her. I wanted her to experience the first day of school. I wanted her to make new friends, go on field trips, and come home sweaty from recess. I wanted to take her back to school shopping and pack her little backpack for the first day. My oldest got to experience two years of “real school” as she calls it and I wanted Addalise to experience that too. I’m tired of feeling like I’m letting her down. I’m tired of being asked questions that I can’t answer. I don’t know when this will be over. I don’t know how to tell her to not be scared when everything around her is changing. I’m tired of not being able to control the spread at work, and coming home without a moment to gather my thoughts. The only answer that I have right now is that I don’t know. I’m trying my best to focus on setting up our homeschool room. I’m trying to stay strong for her, remain positive, and remain grounded in the belief that even though things may not be ideal, I can still create a magical learning experience for her this year. It’s okay to let yourself feel, but don’t stay in your negative thoughts for too long. Utilize the resources that are available to you, vent when you need to, and start your school day with a grateful heart and open mind.

I know that’s easier said than done, but trying to control the uncontrollable will solve nothing.

I don’t like not knowing. I don’t like not having concrete information. I don’t like being in a lose lose situation where I don’t even have a choice. I don’t like feeling like the entire world is giving up hope, but not being able to honestly say that I don’t feel the same way. I don’t like that people are losing their jobs. I don’t like that everyone is struggling in some way, and there is no way to appease everyone. I try to fix everything. I try to do what I can. Being on the front lines isn’t enough. How are we really supposed to feel like we are all in this together when no one really has a clue what’s going on? I don’t like how comfortable people have become behind a keyboard because they have nothing better to do. Don’t be bitter, get better. On your worst day, think of a positive memory or something that you can look forward to and get out of bed. Don’t assume the worst but hope for the best. Make it the best that you possibly can, and try harder the next day.

I don’t want to give you empty positivity because I get it. I have fears too. We all do. I fear for people’s mental health. I fear for the loss of connection. I fear for the seniors that didn’t get to experience a real celebration for all their hard work. I fear for the new marriages that are already facing so many challenges right at the beginning. I fear that something I say will make it worse for someone else. At the same time, I fear that as someone who is always positive, saying nothing at all is so much worse.

While I don’t have all the answers, I can tell you this.

There is beauty in every day. As a mama and a healthcare worker, I can tell you that we care. I can tell you that we take this job seriously and that I have dedicated my life to helping people in any way that I can. I can tell you that we feel it too…that everyone is frustrated. I can tell you that no matter how many times I have felt lost, I know that we will get through this. There are ways to stay connected. We can adjust to this new normal the best that we can. I can tell you that homeschooling really isn’t so bad after all and that I’ve used this time to connect more with the people at home. I can tell you that when things become a little sunnier, they will shine brighter than ever before. I can tell you that we have the opportunity to recognize how much we took for granted before and vow to not let that happen again.

I won’t feel stressed about planning a birthday party and I won’t worry as much about how messy my house can get with four kids. I will put real life connections with my friends and family above my own unrealistic image of how I should appear as a young mother. I will try to always remember the days where I had to use my imagination. I will continue to reinvent things and encourage my kids to experience life as much as possible. Because you never know what tomorrow may hold. I will show my teeth when I smile. I will visit family as often as I am able to. And I will give myself grace when life piles on beyond my control.

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I won’t take gatherings for granted. I will be grateful that I have the chance for closure at a funeral and the ability to celebrate the life of someone who meant so much to the people around them. I will tell my daughters that as much as I hated leaving them, I was doing what I had to do. I will never again take for granted the comfort I feel knowing enough to make sense of my own personal research. I won’t feel as though taking in four children is inconvenient.

Better days are ahead, my friend but until then I wanted to give a few tips to get through this. Know that you are not alone. Realize that your fears and concerns are completely justified and that we all feel a little anxious right now. While your concerns may not be the same as someone else’s, let’s try and support each other the best that we can. Let’s use this time to realize that we do need other people and find new ways to adapt together.

Occupy your mind. Take a breath, a walk, or a bath. Relax. When you have exhausted all efforts to find a solution, remove yourself from the situation for a moment. I’m not saying give up. Definitely don’t do that. But don’t overexert yourself so much at one time that you forget how to function. We charge our phones, reset our routers, and restart our computers. Don’t forget that almost anything will work again after some rest.

Use this as an opportunity to grow. Mindset is not something that you achieve overnight and it’s not something that you “get” and then quit working towards. Constantly set new goals for yourself, make lists, and ask for help when you need it. It’s okay to not have all the answers. Especially now.

Research the options available to you and make an informed decision. IF you have done that, then the rest is out of your control. You made the best decision available to you with the information that you had. And that’s enough. You can’t achieve the impossible and predict every outcome. You just can’t. None of us can.

Be honest with your children. Tell them the situation in words that they will understand, and end the conversation by asking them for questions or concerns that they have. You may be surprised to hear that sometimes they have a better understanding than we do. Their thoughts are not clouded by the same anxieties as ours. Spend time with them, and listen when they tell you that they are frustrated. Sometimes our children express their emotions differently than we do, but as parents we have to be present for them. Remember that you are tired too and let them know that it’s okay to feel these things. Try to be positive and end the conversation by constantly giving them something to look forward to. Maybe you can’t go to the beach right now, but you can give them a memory to focus on. Maybe they can’t visit their grandparents right now, but remind them how amazing it is to still be able to connect through technology. Show them photos of people working on the front lines and use this as a teaching opportunity.

Learn a new craft, watch a TV show that you loved over again, or take time to appreciate the things that you “didn’t have time for” before. Acknowledge the activities that we are still able to do.

As I was writing this, I remember thinking that I was scared to even say that I worked in a laboratory because I might get in trouble or lose my job. As healthcare workers we should never feel like we can’t say what we do as an occupation. The people who truly have a passion for what they do belong in this profession right now, and we need them there. Keep your head up. You got this. We all do.

If you found this helpful, feel free to follow along! I post homeschooling tips, mental health, parenting, fitness, etc. on my IG too ❤

-The Zombie Mom

instagram: @ashleeleighann

 

 

Nervous about Homeschooling? I was too. Here’s How I Made it Work.

DIY, homeschool, Motherhood, parenting

 

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As a full time laboratory scientist at night, homeschooling wasn’t something I planned to do. I have four children. My oldest is nine, Addalise just had a birthday and turned five, Aveley Kate is three, and Ashlynn Jaymes is one. I have homeschooled while breastfeeding, and while pregnant. It’s not only doable, it’s actually fun. In the midst of the craziness going on in the world right now, we are all trying to find a new normal. You may be thinking that homeschooling (or distance learning if this applies to your situation) is not something you can manage. Many parents have been forced to homeschool for at least some time period. So many mothers that I know personally have asked me homeschooling questions and I hope to answer a few of those here. Whether or not you choose to homeschool, as a full time working mom of four, I wish I had this information when I was trying to decide. You are not alone in struggling to decide what is best for your child. Education is so important. As parents, we want to give our children the resources they need. It’s a crazy time, but that doesn’t mean that you do not have options. It took me years to finally get the hang of everything and I couldn’t even imagine trying to make the decision that most parents are faced with right now on a whim.

A little backstory: I want to say first of all, that I have so much respect for teachers. Many of my friends are teachers and this is not intended to discredit their profession in any way, but to give a personal experience in hopes that my feedback with answer some questions. Alyssa went to a small private school for kindergarten and first grade. I only had two children at the time, but I remember missing Alyssa so much throughout the day. She had friends, I was a room mother for her class, and went on every field trip. I attended every party. Working night shift and still attending events is rough. Everyone assumes that since you are at home, you are available. Sometimes I was running on less than empty. From the beginning, Alyssa struggled in reading. She mentally couldn’t handle receiving a bad grade on a test because she was so hard on herself. I was like that in school too, so I get it. It broke my heart so see her so anxious when she was doing so well.

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At the time, I thought about homeschooling but I was worried about how she would get social interaction and taking her away from her friends. I registered her for another year (first grade) and she was still being taken out in the hall for tests because of “testing anxiety”.

The school she attended was great, so my decision was not about disliking the school. I just felt that she needed more one on one attention and a different learning environment. I decided that we would give homeschooling a try for one semester and if she was falling behind, I would look into other options.

What would my other children do during the day?

I have multiple children, so one concern was taking too much time away from them or the littles distracting Alyssa while she did school work. Of course screen time was an option, but I wanted to limit that as much as possible. For the most part, the younger girls are in the school room with me the entire day and it’s rarely an issue. I purchased many puzzles, games, pencils, art supplies, etc. from the dollar spot at Target. Sometimes I would have Alyssa read to them out loud, or I would pick a colorful science experiment that all four would enjoy and learn from for different reasons. When Alyssa was trying to learn the 50 states, she put together her states floor puzzle while Addalise and Aveley put together their ABC puzzle. When they were done, Ashlynn made her contribution by stomping all over both puzzles. There are so many subjects that can be relatable to multiple ages. For example, the months of the year song was something all four enjoyed. As Alyssa learned abbreviations in second grade, we started with days and months. Singing songs introduced them to the younger kids and even if they didn’t have a clue what we were singing at first, after awhile my three year old (then two) knew them all.

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What curriculum did I choose?

The school that Alyssa went to previously used Abeka, so that is what I chose for the first year. I purchased the parent and child kit which came with lesson plans for each day, text books, answer keys, and other resources. I tried to go strictly by their curriculum the first year and joined a group on facebook where I could ask questions when I had them. For second grade, I was alot more comfortable using multiple resources. Alyssa still struggled a little bit in reading so we no longer used Abeka readers (I still think their readers are great, we just had to do something different). When Alyssa started reading Magic Treehouse books, reading was a completely different ball game. She started to LOVE reading and now wants to read ALL the time. She just needed something that she was interested in, and honestly I get that. At first, I didn’t even think about switching it up because I was trying to go by the book. Homeschooling lesson number #1: Most days will not go as planned, ha.

I became familiar with her learning style and adjusted my teaching style to fit her needs.

I use printables from Pinterest and TeachersPayTeachers, games, and we go outside alot. I used Abeka for tests. For writing, I found a list of prompts and also added my own. I printed a checklist to hang on our whiteboard, and sometimes I would answer the prompt with her to show her that I was taking part in her education. Amazon, Thriftbooks, Goodwill Bookstore, and even stores like Sams and Costco have great all in one books by grade. If I am super busy or just need another worksheet for a particular topic, I would pull from those.

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What if I don’t have time to homeschool?

I work full time at night so this was my biggest concern. I wanted Alyssa to have all the resources that she needed and some days I am so exhausted that I wouldn’t want me as a teacher, ha. What I discovered is that being able to plan out and occupy my time gave me so much more energy and time with my kids. I was present much more than before. It was so hard for me to come home from work, load up all the kids, get Alyssa to school on time, and come back home before. Now, I am able to sleep for a couple hours after work and reset before starting our school day. Most days, homeschooling takes us no longer than 3-4 hours and that’s including lunch breaks. When we have days we aren’t feeling well, we have the freedom to pick up and start the next day without falling far behind. It’s not always easy, but it’s rewarding every single day. As a mom who loves to read and write, homeschooling also encouraged me to pick up those hobbies again. There are also several resources that give me a few minutes to breathe throughout the day and allow Alyssa to be educated by someone other than me. ABC Mouse, Homer, SouthwesternAdvantage, Khan Academy, Crayola, and many others have amazing resources for children. Homeschooling also allowed us to plan trips around when I could take off work, rather than going off of the school schedule. That being said, it is a commitment. I do have to plan our days and patience is still something I’m working on.

How do I get everything done while making sure my child receives the education he or she deserves?

I’m not going to lie. Homeschooling was overwhelming for me at first. I tried to go into depth for each subject every day and it didn’t work for me or my child. I would get excited about a science project and become frustrated when we spent too long on a new math concept. I signed Alyssa up for art classes, violin, cooking classes, and all kinds of co op activities. There were days where we just couldn’t do it all, so I had to come up with a game plan. We utilize a loop schedule. Here’s an example of what that looks like for us.

Loop Schedule

  • Daily
    • Reading
    • Math Daily Work (10-15 minutes, new concepts are learned when we reach Math on the loop)
    • Violin
    • Bible
  • Monday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Creative Writing
    • History
    • Math
  • Tuesday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Language
    • Science
    • Art
  • Wednesday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Creative Writing
    • History
    • Math
    • Language
  • Thursday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Science
    • Art
    • Dance Class
  • Friday
    • Daily Subjects
    • Creative Writing
    • History
    • Math
    • Language

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You can set up your schedule however you want. Doing this helped me from teaching science three days in a row and never getting around to a writing prompt. Obviously there are subjects that we do every day, but I just write out a list and mark where we stopped so the next day we start with the next subject. Some days we are able to go over all subjects, some days we can’t. We are now able to easily incorporate violin and dance and I have time to put the other girls in activities as well. Before quarantine, Alyssa would read during Addalise’s dance class. You find way to make it easier and fit into your life as you go.

What if my budget prevents me from providing the resources my child needs?

It won’t. Buying an all in one curriculum can get pricey but there are many options to make it less expensive. If there’s a Goodwill Bookstore, or something similar near you, I found so many readers, chapter book series and slightly used text books for $1-$5. Libraries have book sales all the time. Making your own flash cards will help your child remember a concept better and save money. Dollar Tree has so many fun posters, flash cards, coloring books, etc. I stock up on school supplies during sales and usually have enough for the next two school years. Being able to do school in your PJs also helps with four girls, ha. There are free printables, and I have paid for some on TeachersPayTeachers that were well worth it and budget friendly. I will also include some resources here as I’m planning our days/year.

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Any other tips?

It’s not possible to fit everything you need to know about homeschooling into one blog post and honestly, you will have to adjust to your child but it gets easier as you go. For me, purchasing a personal planner just for home life/homeschooling plans helped so much. While Alyssa was in second grade and Addalise was in preschool, I wrote out Alyssa’s lesson plans for each day with page numbers or referencing a work sheet by each day. I used a notepad for Addalise’s days and picked a concept for each week. For example, if we were learning the letter A, we sang songs, practiced handwriting, did worksheets, etc. I wrote a list of what we were working on that week and put together a folder for her. I kept a treasure box visible so that they could see what they were working towards. I used a sticker system in a file folder and they got stickers for a great test grade, following directions, etc. Each child had a different goal, but the sticker system was effective for each of them. My two year old was potty training, Alyssa was learning multiplication facts, and Addalise was perfecting writing her name. They all shared the common goal of getting a treasure from the treasure box. Sometimes I did simple treasures like a popsicle pass. Alyssa thought it was great when she was able to tell us she had a pass when we said no, ha. Others I purchased from Dollar Tree, on clearance, or ordered in bulk from Amazon. I tried to keep something new, even if it was small, because that’s part of the fun, right?

I hope that you found this helpful. Feel free to reach out with any questions that you may have about homeschooling, distance learning, struggling readers, etc. I will help in any way that I can. I can assure you that you are not alone. Feel free to follow along and let me know topics that you would like more information on! I also have homeschooling highlights on instagram. My handle there is @ashleeleighann.

-The Zombie Mom