This Won’t Be My Best Column

By Melissa Stefanec

This won’t be my best column.

I’d love to write something witty, something to make others laugh, something to take the edge off the load we’re all bearing. I’d like to paint pictures of the amusing videoconferences I’ve had while trying to work full time and homeschool my two children. I’d like to offer valuable insights into how I am coping. But, it’s been another very full day, and I don’t have much to give. It’s not just this column. These days, nothing is getting my best.

This won’t be my best column, and I feel guilty about it.

I also feel guilty about the quality of the education I am giving my children. I feel guilty about muting myself during work meetings to deal with my kids. I feel guilty that I can’t give more to everyone in my life. This feeling is nothing new, but this pandemic has a way of casting light on all the things I usually manage to hide. The expectations are higher than they’ve ever been, and there is a direct correlation between the height of that bar and my guilt.

This won’t be my best column, and I am skipping me-time to write it.

According to social media, I should be doing yoga right now or binge-watching some show about captive tigers. Last night, I skipped me-time to finish up the work I couldn’t finish while schooling my kids on my lunch break. Me-time is a strange concept for parents right now.

This won’t be my best column, because the world is hurting.

The world around me is hurting, and I am feeling that pain. I can’t watch so much suffering, without it affecting me. I have so many aces in my hand: a loving husband, loving children, a job, loving pets, supportive friends, enough food to last for months and my health. When I think about someone lacking even one of those aces, I start to unravel. This has an emotional toll.

This won’t be my best column, because I am so tired.

That emotional toll quickly turns physical. I am finding a lot of joy in having so much quality time with my family. I am finding myself unable to homeschool and work full time. I am finding myself to be a new kind of tired — the kind that leaves me barely functional by bedtime.

This won’t be my best column, because I have to be strong.

I used up so much of my energy on maintaining my strength today. I need to be a strong mom, a strong teacher and a strong professional. For the sake of myself and my family, I have to stay positive. Staying positive isn’t easy. It takes strength. I need to teach my kids that being strong in the face of adversity is what builds character and long-term happiness.

This won’t be my best column, and I’m sure you will forgive that.

I don’t know you, but, chances are, you’re more likely to forgive others than yourself. This pandemic is a good time to work on forgiveness. Maybe this difficult time will teach us to forgive ourselves more. Maybe we will learn to forgive our family members. Maybe we will remind each other that we are all doing the best we can. Alexander Pope once wrote, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” We need to accept shortcomings as part of the human condition and recognize what forgiveness grants us.

This won’t be my best column, but I’m doing my best.

I’m everything at once. Stressed and blessed is my new credo. Some days, my best looks a little different. I hope this difficult time teaches us all that “best” is relative. Somedays, my best is yelling at the kids a few times. Somedays, my best is putting together a stellar science project and crushing it at the home office. Not all days are winners.

This won’t be my best column, but I am having some of my best times.
One of the hardest aspects of quarantine is the conflicting emotions I feel. I love spending more time with my children and husband. I like how simple and pure life has become. Many aspects of this situation are truly a blessing. However, I’m also scared, over-extended, socially isolated and depleted. I need to recognize and own all of these emotions. They can exist in the same spheres. This pandemic is driving home something really important: life is complicated and beautiful.

This won’t be my best column, but after writing it, I’m feeling better.

Putting all of my difficulties down on paper altered my perspective. It allowed me to feel tired and stressed, instead of feeling guilty about it. It cleared some space in my mind. I now feel like I have more capacity for the good stuff. Sometimes, you just have to get the pain out. I encourage other parents to do the same. It’s OK to be angry and discouraged, as long as you can find the courage to be honest and set those emotions free. Let’s make this a quarantine to remember for our children (for all the right reasons).