One mother's determination to keep routine in the age of coronavirus

The sudden change from going to work and teaching English from third to eighth grade, to taking care of a baby at home, was a serious transition that required adjustment.

The writer with daughter Carmel (photo credit: ELYAKIM PERETZ)
The writer with daughter Carmel
(photo credit: ELYAKIM PERETZ)
Early on in my maternity leave, I knew that it was important to establish a sense of routine. The sudden change from going to work and teaching English from third to eighth grade, to taking care of a baby at home, was a serious transition that required adjustment. I literally went from working full-time one week at the elementary school to working full-time the following week as a new mom. In between, I went through one of the most awesome and painful experiences that life has to offer – giving birth!
While teaching English as a second language to a classroom of challenging young children requires a lot of patience, learning how to care for your baby requires patience too – especially with yourself.
I remember the first week with Carmel was so special but nerve-wracking at the same time. Was she nursing correctly? Was I giving her enough food? Did she feel comfortable in her crib? Why was she crying? I would wake up several times during the night not just to feed her when she cried but to make sure she was sleeping okay. She was so tiny that I was afraid the mattress would swallow her up. I still wake up to check on her, and she’s almost three months old.
Sometimes Carmel smiles in her sleep. Although I know this is a reflex, it makes me think that she’s been dreaming sweet dreams full of marshmallows, fluff, and white unicorns (most likely, she’s thinking about milk).
In any case, the most important goal for me was to establish a day and night routine. During the day, I play, sing and talk to her while at night, I’m careful to keep the room dark and make sure to feed her just when she’s awake – no singing or talking because that may stimulate her too much. (I read this in the book The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg).
Carmel is starting to sleep better now, sometimes up to six hours at night., although sometimes Carmel can take a very long nap in the afternoon, which means a long night ahead for mom.
BUT NOW the news updates on the coronavirus have entered my routine and the new guidelines in the wake of this terrible pandemic. The hour-long walks around our small community can no longer take place. Our nature hikes in the region and trips to Beersheba are no longer possible. We are pretty much home-bound and because my husband is no longer going to work, it’s the three of us together.
This is both special and challenging. It has really reinforced the togetherness of our new family and the meaning of home. My husband spends a lot more time with Carmel and it’s sweet to see how he’s able to calm her down and lull her to sleep.
But routine is as crucial as ever, if not more. The most important part of the routine is the morning – to get the routine going once Carmel has been fed. That means changing out of pajamas into actual clothes, making the bed and eating a nourishing breakfast that consists more than a bowl of Cheerios. If I can start the morning right, the rest of the day will follow through. But if I start the day reading the news on my cellphone in bed and checking Facebook, the rest of the day feels a lot less productive.
While the baby, and not Netflix, sets the tone of my day, it feels like I have little time for myself. I am cooking and baking a lot more, doing endless loads of laundry, folding clothes, and pumping milk. I seem to find things to do indoors which are all baby and household-related activities. My husband helps out, of course, but by the end of some days, I am completely drained out – my mind, a blank. Maybe it’s actually me dreaming of unicorns, marshmallows and fluff.
During these trying times, it is Carmel’s smiles and cheery baby noises that brighten the day and lighten my heart in ways that I couldn’t have previously imagined a baby doing so. There is a boundless joy in hearing your baby’s first laugh. I can forget momentarily all the news reports and mayhem outside.
But I still find a breath of fresh air in writing. I take my laptop outside to the garden, sit next to the pomegranate tree which is now budding red blossoms, and begin to type.
Sometimes a babbler or two join me. The Arabian babbler is a small bird with a long tail. Its color is similar to the sandy rock of the Negev desert. These birds come and go freely, unaware of the panic surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. I listen to their chirps as my fingers type the letters that form the words needed to describe the routine of my day, the words I need to feel free.
The writer made aliyah from Maine in 2004. She lives in Ramat Negev with her family and works as a freelance writer, translator, and as an English teacher in Midreshet Ben-Gurion.