I know I’m supposed to be on social media, showing how to make the most of stay-at-home orders thanks to #covid19. I’m super proud of all of my entrepreneurs, business owners, colleagues, and friends who are adapting and changing rapidly to these really crazy times.
However, I’m also taking notice of all of those who are strangely quiet. They make me wonder, “are they doing ok? Are they going through pure hell right now? Are they struggling to see the bright side?”
For me, this whole time has been devastating. It’s not just business — although, that has taken a serious hit as big deals with investors and speaking events have all but frozen as the world grapples with “what’s next”. But beyond the world of business plans, fundraising, and startup support, I have a family who is in need of stability during this pandemic.
My daughter was ripped from her 5th grade classroom and now tries to manage the rest of her school year online. I see her struggle with what most people find to be true with online learning — it’s not for everyone, and learning online takes a very unique set of skills and self awareness. Plus, it usually requires a controlled and focus-enhancing environment, without dogs barking and siblings pestering and people arguing over who’s hogging the wi-fi bandwidth.
Meanwhile, my son’s daily life was completely thrown into chaos. At 9, he has special needs and changes in routine tend to create a “two steps back” affect in many ways. He no longer has access to his 40 hours a week of ABA therapy, physical or occupational therapy. Now, he is all but trapped at home where things are no where near as structured and predictable as they are in his school. He no longer has the constant 1 on 1 or even 2 on 1 attention from professionals. Now, he gets what my husband and I have available.
Toggling between “mom & dad” and “CEO & COO”, we suddenly share abnormal amounts of workload, housework, parenting, some pseudo-teaching for our daughter, some pseudo-therapy work for our son, and a ton of financial uncertainty. Literally taking shifts with work and the kids, we are both living on little sleep, are craving social interaction while also being desparate for real privacy and alone time, and are wondering how much longer we can sustain this without burning out. As we try to keep multiple businesses running while trying to provide a balanced and low-stress environment for the kids, there are no spare minutes left in a day, and no semblance of patience remaining. Needless to say, neither of us have it in our bones to jump on social media and put on happy faces.
This all puts things into perspective, though. I have new goals for the coming months. As soon as it is safe, we will hire outside help. As soon as business picks back up, we will expand our team of contractors and employees. We will get our son back into the therapy he needs, and will get our daughter back into the social and educational environment she needs to thrive.
I know eventually I will get work-life balance back. I’ll jump back into improv classes or piano lessons or spanish class — anything and everything that will allow me to balance “mom/wife/CEO” with being “Ashley the human”. Things will get back to a good place in life, with time.
But first and most importantly, before things resume to any sense of normal, I’m reaching out to all of those who have been strangely quiet. I am concerned for their ability to manage, to process, and to feel like things are going to be ok. I’m worried about those who just lost more than they ever imagined. People lost loved ones, their life savings, their business dreams, without warning or mercy. And they may feel like they are losing their sanity, their mental health, their overall balance. They may not feel like smiling or being overly optimistic on social media. They may not feel like this is a “great time” to learn to bake bread or get closer to their family or have a positive feeling about any of this.
To them, I’ll connect, and see how they are. I want to know if this hurts. I want to know if this feels way worse than everyone else makes it seem, if it feels like the beginning of an end. If the uncertainty ahead feels like a a black hole, instead of a “great opportunity”.
Empathy seems to be scarce right now for some reason, and that can make us feel more alone than we really are. Well, I empathize with the optimists, and with those who are having a hard time seeing the bright side. And to both I say: take a deep breath. Think about the unnatural silence that exists in your family and social circle. Connect with one person who you haven’t heard from directly since last year. Tell them honestly how you are, but first, ask them to do the same. You may be the phone call that changes their life.