We are not ok

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By Kelly Swartz


For all the moms in my groups and not in my groups

We are not ok.

We have not been ok for a really long time. 

I am writing this from Toronto, the city with the most lock downs in the world. The city where children had the same amount of at home school in 2021 than they did in 2020. The city where moms got broken.

We are not ok.

Summer is here and things have been slowly opening up again. There are patios at restaurants where we can finally, finally, be fed by someone else and not do dishes and not do anything, except, of course, entertain small humans from rampaging through the street and yelling and creating much more havoc. Our unsocialized little beings who have been home at the age when socialization is of the upmost important. Yes, we are finally being fed by someone else’s hand, but we are not relaxing, we are just hoping we make it through the meal with the minimal amount of meltdowns possible, our kids and our own.

We are not ok.

We finally can drop some of our children at camps for someone else to entertain and teach and play with them, so we can breathe. And yet, I read in all of my groups, I hear in most of my conversations, I see with my eyes and feel in my soul, the kids are not ok. Drop offs and pick-ups are exhausting, emotionally draining. Children have forgotten how to play with their peers. Yes, there is excitement from our little humans but so much fear too, and how do they let go after having us at their beck and call for over a year? 

We all need to take some time to inhale after drop offs, and yet, who will give us that time? Who will give us any time?

We are not ok.

We saw our white hairs come in, our manicured nails shatter, our weight fluctuate, our hormones go havoc after the most stressful times of our lives. Our bodies are silently yelling for us to take care of ourselves. Us, the mothers, the caretakers, the doers of everything. We cannot take that time, that is impossible, the world will crumble if we dare breathe.

We will probably crumble too.

We are not ok.

Our relationships have suffered because the resentment that once was, for doing so much more for the house and the kids besides for the job, has gotten exacerbated when you also needed to keep connecting the little ones to their zoom classes, making sure they had snacks and they went to the bathroom, making sure they were engaged and also, kind of, possibly, somewhat, happy, or at least, just ok.

We don’t want to be touched, or maybe just a little, but we don’t even have the words because we are gasping for breath. It took us hours to get that vaccine appointment. It took us days to figure out camps knowing, full well, that anything planned can be destroyed by one more government announcement, one more announcement that does not, will not, ever consider moms. We kept hiding in the freezing cold shower, hiding our panic attack after, once more, schools got shut down.

We are not ok.

We have put aside our careers and our well-beings, our sleep and our selfcare, our standards and our entire selves for survival, for homeschooling, for everyone except ourselves. No one gave us a second thought.

We are not ok. 

As things start to normalize and many of us dare to take a deep breath in, we come shattering down because it’s the first time we actually can. There will be no one to pick us up except ourselves. 

We are not ok.

Our bodies have become as foreign as they did post partum, our sexless nights one more check mark against the expectations we were assigned, one more reason for our demented, angry internal voice to spit at us. Any activity or thing that gave us pleasure is laden now with so much guilt because we are so behind on absolutely everything, how dare we take time for pleasure when we are on the brink of economic failure?

We are not ok.

So much guilt, for not enjoying the time with the children, for yelling too much, for not being more successful at our jobs, for not wanting to be touched, for wanting to be touched, for wanting to be left alone, for asking to be left alone, for not having more patience and spiritual growth during these very very hard times. How can you have any internal growth if you don’t even have space for silence?

We are not ok.

Robin Arzon, the VP and Head Instructor of Peloton, in her first live ride since becoming a mom said: “I’ve never been through a more transformative experience than birthing a human and putting yourself back together again”, Yes, Robin, I wanted to yell back as I was pushing my pedals, drenched in sweat and having one or two or three humans asking me for things, for not even the bike is sacred anymore. Yes, it is transformative, and you put yourself back together again after giving birth, but those seams Robin, those stitches are really delicate, those sutures are very very weak. And they’ve broken for most of us moms in the last year and a half.

We have become completely undone.

We are not ok.

The minimal village some of us had, with grandparents, friends, siblings, became non-existant. The only commodity many of us without family in our city have, our schools, was taken away from us, and the expectations became higher. Keep your children alive and away from other children. Keep yourself alive and fit, keep on cooking and cleaning, and zooming to all your meetings for the expectation of success does not go away when you become the teacher and the parent and the friend to your children. 

The seams of putting ourselves back together after having kids have been shattered Robin. We were left without anything, without ourselves.

We are not ok.

I don’t know when we will be.

One thought on “We are not ok”

  1. Thank you Kelly for writing this piece. You speak for so many of us mothers and validate us in this unbelievable experience.

    Speaking to one of your points, after this year of insanity, as a broken person who is struggling every day to keep going, I did register my kids into camp this week.

    After a year and a half at home, it did not go well and has been a struggle every day. My “break” that was to arrive with some support from summer camp has been obliterated by now having to manage the emotional, mental and even physical upset that trying to get my kids to camp every day has caused for them and me.

    They are not ok.

    I am not ok.

    This is not okay.

    Quoting from an article I wrote on a similar topic that intersects with yours at this point:
    “As a woman now finding myself home with my children, because without school there is simply no other option than to leave my job to care for them, I am beyond disappointed in us as a society. How is it that in the year 2021 we have been unable to find a better solution to this challenge than to simply fall back upon mothers to do even more and give up even more of themselves to keep life going?”

    It’s time for us to dig even deeper – deeper than surviving this impossible situation, deeper than finding it in ourselves to write of this experience of surviving, we have to dig deeper to find it in ourselves to lobby and advocate for the real change needed.

    This pandemic has shown us that the hard won progress that feminism made this century wasn’t so much progress in human behaviour change but rather the implementation of systems (childcare, school, community supports) that enabled women to also work and have lives. We did not actually set the expectation that men or people in general change their behaviour. When the systems that enabled us to have identities outside of motherhood crumbled under our feet, we saw clearly that as a society, we didn’t actually change ourselves.

    It’s time to refind our rage that’s buried deep under the trauma of this year, collect our stories and bring attention to this crazy gender imbalance the pandemic has revealed and demand, that in the year 2021, we do better than this.

    Bronwen, member of the league of broken mothers

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