An unfathomable toll
Grace. That’s the word that Lynn Jones, a Christian in…
The pandemic has led both men and women to feel more anxious, according to recent Barna Group research.
However, that same research shows the stressors heightening their levels of anxiety are not the same.
“Should we go to church in person?” “Should I visit my parents?” “Do my symptoms sound like a sinus infection or COVID?” “Do you know how to do seventh-grade math?”
Over a year into the coronavirus pandemic, these questions are weighing heavily on women, the Barna research shows.
Men are more likely to express anxiety around work, reports Savannah Kimberlin, director of published research for Barna Group. On the tother hand, women are more likely to be worried about their family.
Stress levels are high as women around the world find themselves inching across a tightrope — balancing work, homeschooling children, cooking meals, keeping kids engaged with online church and checking on their adult parents, while also making a thousand decisions about their family’s health and safety.
“I naively thought COVID would last two weeks,” said Amanda Walker, a mother who is now homeschooling her three children while working from home. “If you had told me last March that we would still be dealing with this a year later, I would have lost my marbles.”
Walker’s youngest child, Emmett, 4, has cystic cibrosis, a genetic disease that causes lung infections. COVID-19 has added another layer of stress to her already stressful life.
“As a parent of a child with CF, we constantly worry about him getting sick,” said Walker, a member of the Woodson Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn.
She had requested Emmett get his own set of materials when he was in the baby class at church. Those items were Cloroxed after every class to protect the immunocompromised boy. On top of those precautions, the Walker family avoided crowds, missed church and skipped meeting friends in restaurants in the winter months to protect Emmett from the flu. And that was before the coronavirus became a threat.
“Now everyone in the world has the same fear that I’ve had every day of his life,” said Walker. “Things we usually do in the winter to keep him well, we are having to do all year, and it’s super isolating.”
The isolation is no joke. Walker has had a few meltdowns in the last year and guesses she’s not alone.
“I cry every day,” said Rachel Chevalley, a stay-at-home mother of two in Raleigh, N.C. “Having two young kids, in general, is hard. With everything closed, I have to figure out how to entertain my kids without them staring at screens all day long.”
Chevalley grew up in Churches of Christ in Texas but now attends Crossroads Fellowship, a community church where her husband works on staff. She said after a year of the pandemic, it’s getting harder to find things to do.
“I’ve run out of crafts and patience,” she said.
For Beverly Grove, it was nice at first to have a break from responsibilities, but she eventually missed having things to do. She said her year was a blur of ordering groceries, checking on her grown children through phone calls and emails and watching lots of TV.
But the hardest part of her year, she said, was spending Thanksgiving and Christmas alone. Grove’s family made the decision to protect each other and not get together.
“Usually, our home would have been filled with family and the happy sounds of little ones and yummy food,” said Grove, secretary of 49 years at the South Walker Church of Christ in Moore, Okla. “At Christmas, I didn’t even put up the big tree. We got out very few decorations because there wouldn’t be anyone here to enjoy them with us.
“We know it was the best for everyone, but also hard for all of us.”
Without holidays, birthdays, weddings and other big events, Kristin Sampson agrees that the year has been a blur.
“It feels like it didn’t even happen. There’s nothing to look back on,” said Sampson, a mother of five and a youth minister’s wife at the Ellijay Church of Christ in Georgia.
“It’s been very depressing to be home, not knowing what to do and living in fear of getting Covid or giving it,” Sampson said.
While some moms are swallowed by the endless, slow days, others are busier than ever.
“I go to bed looking at what we have to do the next day,” said Carrie Gould, a mother of four in Edmond, Okla. “I wake up at 6 a.m. to get myself ready and get some work done. Then I feed the kids breakfast, do schoolwork with my two oldest — leaving my two littlest without any quality time whatsoever. Then my husband and I finish work after the kids go to bed, before falling asleep and waking up to do it all over again.”
Gould, a part-time actuary and volunteer children’s minister at the Heritage Church of Christ, says she and her husband have only been on one date in the last year to an outdoor restaurant. And they were home by 7 p.m. so they could put their baby to bed.
With days filled with virtual school assignments, refereeing children and soothing overworked kids, all of Gould’s relationships are suffering.
Marriages aren’t the only relationships shifting to the back burner.
Chevalley said she and her kids are not attending church in person, though hers is open with precautions in place.
“I’m not judging how anyone has handled this pandemic. And I hope no one will judge me. We are all doing the best we can.”
“I don’t feel supported by my church,” Chevalley said. “When I see pictures from church and see people hugging, it’s frustrating.”
So she watches from home. But that option comes with a different set of frustrations.
“Our kids would watch some and want to be done,” Chevalley said. “I could not focus. I would get mad, like, ‘What’s the point?’”
Now the Chevalley kids have stopped watching altogether.
Gould said it was hard to keep her kids quiet and engaged in online church but is glad she stuck to her routine of dressing them nicely on Sunday mornings even though they were watching online.
She said this habit made church feel somewhat normal and helped make the transition back to in-person church a little smoother.
“I’m not judging how anyone has handled this pandemic,” she said. “And I hope no one will judge me. We are all doing the best we can.”
Kyra Head, a member of the Oakland Church of Christ in Southfield, Mich., and a mother of five, said her biggest challenge was trying to separate home and work. However, it hasn’t been all bad, in her opinion.
“It all blends together, but we were able to come up with something that works for us,” said Head.
“Being home together, I was able to help the kids pick up hobbies. We’ve been able to cook together more. And we started a garden. We spend more time in our backyard trying to find ways to entertain ourselves while staying safe.”
On top of everything, Head has a new baby and a senior in high school. She didn’t want to wallow in the events they would miss out on because of the pandemic — like all of the “firsts” that come with a new baby or any of the “lasts” that come with a senior year.
“The key, for us, is trusting the process,” Head said. “Instead of looking for when it’s going to be over, we celebrate everything along the way.
“This is a time like no other,” she said. “Some people probably didn’t appreciate it. I was one of the lucky few who made the best of it.”
Though many have tried to do just that.
Gould said if she focuses on work, her kids are neglected. And if she’s helping her kids with virtual school, her work doesn’t get finished.
“I don’t always realize how stressed I am,” she said. “But when there is a tiny relief — when I find out numbers have gone down or my in-laws pick up my kids for the day — I have a flood of emotions.
“I don’t always realize how stressed I am.”
“But it’s OK to not be fine. It’s OK to say ‘I am going to be fine’ while holding it all together however we can. But at the end of this, I am going to sit and cry for three hours.”
This is going to be over eventually, said Linda Linscomb, a preacher’s wife at the Rock Hill Church of Christ in Frisco, Texas.
“We’ve never faced a pandemic before,” she said. “If it’s not this, it’ll be something else. Find ways to take this away from Satan. Find ways for this evil thing to be good. And cut yourself some slack.”
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