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The Sweetness of Nothing

By Dr. Alanna Golden

I never thought I would be a stay at home Mom. I never thought I would home school my kids. I never dreamed I would live and breathe a pandemic.

The past fourteen days have felt like a whirlwind. Change has happened so slowly and so quickly all at once. With each new restriction comes a greater loss of life as I knew it.

I find myself remembering fondly the sweet times of my pre pandemic existence. I went to work, I watched my new home being built, I dreamed of Saturday nights when my husband and I would try a trendy new restaurant downtown.

My life looks different now. I am home with my children ages 7, 4 and 2 as my husband cares for COVID-19 patients on the frontlines. Each morning that he leaves for work, I worry he may not come home healthy. I hear about his struggles with lack of personal protective equipment and his internal struggle of whether to supply his own or wear what is provided just like everyone else. The daily challenges he once faced on the medicine wards are so much more complex now. It’s not easy to perform CPR when gowned, gloved and masked. It’s not easy to resuscitate a patient on your own while your colleagues wait outside the room to avoid additional traffic. It’s not easy to tell an otherwise healthy patient that they may not recover or face extubation.

While my husband risks his personal safety and that of our family, I am home with our children. I always admired my friends who chose to stay home and raise their children. I have always known that I could never do it! I love my job, I love the pace of life outside the home and I love coming home to my children at the end of the day.

Suddenly, not only am I home, but I am stuck here. No more playgrounds, libraries and malls. Being home with my children is literally just that. I try my best to chase my active toddler, homeschool my distracted four year old and do multiplication with my bored seven year old. Everyone feels stressed. I see behavioural regressions in my children and I see my patience wearing thin. My supportive friends tell me to turn on the tv and not feel guilty. I put my kids to bed at 7:30 and then quickly put myself to bed, alone, as my husband sleeps in the basement for our safety.

I wonder when life will return to the way it was. I wonder when it will be safe to see my parents who are more than just grandparents to my children; they are our lifeline. I miss the social interaction with friends, family and neighbours and amongst the business of life these days, I feel alone. I pray that this will come to a rapid end and I find myself clinging to an excerpt shown to me from the psychic Sylvia Brown where she prophesizes this time and predicts it will pass as fast as it came.

My Mom, in her wisdom, assured me that my children would not remember the pandemic but that they would fondly recall the time when they got to spend everyday, all day, at home with me. I think about our colleague and friend who recently lost her daughter and would wish for nothing more than uninterrupted time at home with her.

So I will spend the coming days and weeks attempting to be the best stay at home Mom I can be. We will bake, do science experiments and play Go Fish. I will pray everyday that my loved ones are safe and healthy and that my husband comes home healthy to us each and every day for the rest of his long life. I will try to see the forest through the trees and relish in the small things. Last week my seven year old learned to tie his laces and lost yet another baby tooth. My youngest turns two tomorrow. She will be surrounded by loved ones in a virtual celebration.

Life is different now. It’s so true what they say “what doesn’t break us makes us stronger”. I look forward to better days ahead with a return to life as it was. For now, I will try to appreciate the sweetness of doing nothing.

Alanna Golden is a General Practitioner in Oncology, in Toronto. She is married to a Hospitalist and has three young children. If she wasn't a physician she would be a professional foodie, interior decorator and professional organizer!

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