I have a confession to make.
I don't know how stressed out to be about COVID19. I'm a chief resident, so my job is to make contingency plans and sit in on big, hospital-wide policy meetings, and field questions from residents via phone all day long, but I don't know how stressed out to be about this.
In medicine: One of my doctor friends' husband works for the CDC, and she is constantly sharing tidbits with me, such as "we should cancel noon conference, or ideally space people 6' apart from each other as social distancing. And no one should eat the food." States are cancelling international work-related travel, then international personal travel (goodbye, husband + my planned trip to Portugal to go cycling while my mother watched the kids for a few days...), and now, domestic professional travel is cancelled, while domestic personal travel is recommended to be cancelled/postponed as well.
In the world, there are two perspectives:
1) Buy more bleach. "But I already have 3 jugs of bleach at home!" Nonsense, they say - the best treatment for infection hysteria is more bleach, and $50 bottles of hand sanitizer, and flats of 16 cans of black beans from Costco. This weekend at the grocery store, they were running low on tomatoes, beans, broth... and lines were out the door.
Have you ever tried to prevent two toddlers from putting their fingers in their mouths? "Wash your hands" they say, "sing happy birthday twice," they say. I say "TAKE THAT USED GUM FROM THE PLAYGROUND SLIDE OUT OF YOUR MOUTH RIGHT NOW." My daughter licked her fingers and smiled at me the whole. way. home.
I felt like I was weighing every choice this weekend when home with the toddlers. Go to the library? The children's museum? Church? Everywhere felt like a hotbed of infection, where I'm not only risking their lives (note: COVID19 is thought to be particularly less-severe in children) but risking become a vector for those around me, and almost as importantly, risking a 2 week quarantine from my job.
2) Just go anyway. At church yesterday, I asked a bunch of mothers whether they considered not coming to church. Everyone I asked said no, and I was surprised. "Really?" I asked them, not believing, "I almost made us all stay home... even as we walked out the door." (Not to mention, I emailed the pastor mid-week and asked if we could change our communion practice to minimize multiple unwashed hands touching the same loaf of bread and risking becoming "that church where everyone got Coronavirus.").
I'm trying to balance fear and risk, anxiety and trust in the world of parenting, where all choices affect them, too. Not just if they get sick, but if I get sick, but if their school is closed, but if my job changes such that the hospital can't run. And what do we do, if there are no residents to come in, and the patients balloon? No one is talking about what it's like to work in these hospitals in China, South Korea, Italy, where patients are in lines out the doors, in courtyards getting IV fluids from bags hung up in trees.
In so many parts of parenting, you weigh risks and benefits, you try to choose trust and hope over being stressed out and anxious. You pull the used gum out of their hands, the rocks out of their mouth, and prevent them from petting a strange dog and then licking their hands (toddlers = so much licking). But when it feels like the world wants you to be anxious, when the meetings all day long fuel the anxiety, then what?
It was beautiful out tonight, sunny and gold, the last flecks of yellow hitting me through the office window over the building tops as my husband put the kids to bed (#win). And I felt this sense of hope, of possibility. Of belief that sometimes you do the thing, before you believe the thing. So maybe just going to the park, just reading them a story, just telling them how much we love them - maybe that's doing the thing, before believing the hope that we will all be okay.