I haven't blogged about anything COVID-19 related yet because, first off, who the fuck with a full time job and little kids has the time to blog anymore, but also because I've just been focusing on the next immediate step. But now we're weeks in to this, we're days and nights and many weekends in to this new "normal". I've had some moments of reflection, frustrating, appreciation... high highs and some lower lows but I think I've finally been able ot articulate a little bit about how I've been feeling and what some of the side effects are for me, as well as what I need to keep in mind as an engineering manager. I think I've been able to pinpoint 3 overarching feelings for myself.
First, the anxiety. I feel as though I've settled in to a new, higher baseline level of anxiety. Even when I try to I seem unable to fall asleep before 2am. Every evening is spent reviewing the previous day and determining what will change for the next day. Do I need to wear a mask to the same places today as I did yesterday? Can we do the same activities? Should we get delivery groceries instead of shopping ourselves once every 2 weeks? We're so conflicted on food delivery. What are our thoughts on it this week. How is our grocery pantry? What will it look like 3 weeks from now and is there anything I anticipate needing in the next month that needs to be ordered? Because if so, I should put that order in now.
And part of this anxiety is a crushingly new level of mental load. How are the kids? Are they doing ok? Are there new behavioral issues to address? At this age, social interactions and dealing with peers is the most important thing for development... how can I facilitate that when my children can't actually be around any of their peers? What are fair and unfair expectations for young children living through a changing world? What should their schedule be? Am I not spending enough time thinking about what my daughter needs because I'm trying to craft a more effective schedule for my son? When does my mom need groceries again? Should we try to drive and see her this weekend even though we can only stand far apart and the kids lose their patience pretty quickly? Are my partner and I coping with everything ok? Are there improvement we need to make working together? When was the last time we tried to create an at-home date night or something special for ourselves so that we're supporting each other and not just trying to keep everything else running ok? At first, it just felt like every night there was just a little more to review. On top of the normal stuff like, oh, I have to switch out the kids clothes for the new season or a new size, there were a few additional things to talk about. But... we're talking about all these things most nights, and there's so much left to do once the kids go to bed. And then I'm getting less sleep. It's ... exhausting.
Second, I am jealous. It's not something I want to admit or that I like to admit but I'm jealous. I'm jealous of people who have stay-at-home spouses and I'm jealous of people who don't have children. I love my little ones but for me, this all is a constant 24/7 balancing act. The are no side projects, I am not continuing my work on my manager tools repo which I was so excited to get kicked off earlier this year. I'm not thinking of new conference talks, or finishing writing the ones that have been accepted for postponed conferences. Even writing this blog post felt like a sacrifice... I'm praying that my littlest doesn't wake up from her nap (or if she does that she will pleasantly play in her room for a bit while I hustle to finish up my thoughts) and that my older one will continue enjoying his backyard time. Because I'm trying so hard to stay focused on my day job during the day, I can't squeeze time in there. I honestly can barely handle work and kids, let alone the fact that I'm still producing the Parent Driven Development podcast, which seems more important now than ever, and on the Ruby Central board, in addition to new "fun" weekend to dos like sewing masks and preparing for lengthy supermarket excursions that need to be carefully crafted, planned, and executed. And it's actually not so much that the work load all of a sudden feels immensely greater, it's that every day and every moment requires more thoughts, more intention, and more brainpower. I worry that where parents were barely keeping up in the past or finding creative ways to keep up with childless peers, we will be completely left behind in this time where we are balancing so much. There is no binge watching, no new hobbies, and no time to find new creative outlets. It feels like there are only more and more to dos that will not get to done for a long long time.
Third is something I've just figured out this week. The past couple of weeks, work has been affecting me more, which felt odd. Work does not seem that much more or less standard that it was a few weeks ago. The amount of tasks and to dos on my plate is nothing extraordinary and definitely nothing I haven't handled in the past. I'm organized, I'm a list maker, I get sh*t done, and generally, almost anything thrown at me I can handle without getting overly annoyed, without getting overly frustrated, or, if I do, I can generally get over it pretty quickly. But the last couple of weeks have felt... stickier. Like it was harder to have things roll off my shoulder, harder to bounce back, and harder to simply say, I've got a lot of stuff to do today, here's my plan for that, or even, here's what I can control so I'll do that and here's what I can't so this is how I plan to deal with that set of things. I think, right now, it's just a little too much chaos for me. It feels like it's coming from everywhere. From home, at work. I'm more frayed and I've found myself needing to be a bit more careful about getting overwhelmed, what to do when i'm feeling anxious, etc.
Okay, so there you have it. Those are all my feels. But now, i've named them. For the moment, I've sort of figured it out, which means I can put in coping mechanisms and solutions because, at the same time, I have a team of people I manage. I need to be there for them. I want to support them and make sure that together we are able to accomplish incredible things. So, here are my takeaways as a manager. Here are the things that I need to be aware of...
- I need to make time to have moments of hanging out, chatting with others, and remembering to connect
- I need to lean on my support network
- I NEED TO TAKE BREAKS EVEN WHEN IT FEELS LIKE I CAN'T BECAUSE I HAVE TOO MUCH TO DO
- I need to take a walk, even if it's late, after the kids are in bed
- I need to recognize and be okay with all of the things that I can't control right now
- I need to get better at determining my 2-3 absolute priorities every day and consider everything else a bonus and finally,
- I need to support my team doing the same