More Human intro plays.
I left Romania, a small country in Eastern Europe when I was 15 for my first study abroad experience in the United States. Back then dial up internet was the newest way to send letters to loved ones that would get there instantly with the touch of a button. But now fast forward from being 15 to my sophomore year in college. The Skype telecommunications application launched. It was the first free service at a time. This is back in the day when there were no smart phones, FaceTime, no Google Hangouts. These were just a dwindle in the inventors' eye. Video calls improve my ability to communicate with family and friends in Romania tremendously. Now to put this into perspective for the younger audience today, my first webcam's resolution was so low, even though this was the top of the line webcam, that I couldn't wear stripes, or gesticulate much when talking. Video calls then introduced a new normal in my life, at that time when they were just not popular yet.
That's where talking, laughing and crying with loved ones over video calls was the next best thing to being in the same physical room with each other. It was now our normal way of being together as a family. Little did I know how my personal normal would play out in my professional life. When the global pandemic moved us to an online learning environment, I would stay up at night thinking how will I connect with the students in this environment? Body language and movement is such a big part of how I communicate, that I got to know how to teach any other way. But, on the first day of remote classes, the disruption of being on a video call for class was less impactful for me than many of my faculty colleagues. Some seniors to me. Zoom classes, it turns out, were just another form of a video call, my normal way of talking to loved ones.
And now it just spilled over into my professional life. And not surprisingly, much of this was true for my junior and senior students too. After all you're so much younger, you come from the era of smartphones and FaceTime. Our normal way of communicating in our personal lives had just become the new normal in our professional lives. Yes, we were figuring out how to adjust to a few minor aspects of this new professional normal. Such as is it okay to eat while on a zoom call like we do when in-person, or how dressed up should I be for zoom class. But these are relatively small adjustments to make to our new normal, compared to all the other health and financial changes in our lives and those of our loved ones. I had a much harder time internalizing and later even questioning normality as a social construct when it comes to parenting. I grew up learning that social norms and expectations are to be internalized, even when they go against our intuition and experiences.
Once the pandemic happened and daycares closed, our adorable four year old was home around the clock. At her age, it was hard for her to understand what had happened to her normal life-getting to go to daycare and play with her friends every day. So her best response was to have mommy be her new best friend every second of the day. So we were very blessed to have a very kind taker who spent time with her when I was teaching. My heart should have been full and I should have been the happiest I had ever been. At least that's what society says. It's normal for a mother to want to spend this much time as possible with her child and for a mother to want to be around her child all the time. For a mom to be so excited about reading the same story over and over again, about coloring and singing together with her daughter every day, or a mom to think silly chalk drawings for hours are the best of times. Or a mom to enjoy fun walks around the neighborhood with her little daughter, turned into scavenger hunts for yellow flowers and green rocks and bird houses.
That's what normal moms want and enjoy, so what was wrong with me? I would often find myself checking the time to see if it was bedtime yet, or running into another room to be alone for a bit the moment my husband stepped out from his office. Or resenting that loud scream at 5:10 AM. Mooom, I'm up! Why am I not normal? We are so blessed to live in a detached home with a backyard, other moms have it so hard in small condos or apartment buildings with their kids at home. I should be so happy. Why am I not so happy to have Julia around 24/7? The guilt of not fitting society's definition of a "normal" mom would keep me up at night. I have still not found out why I'm not normal for society's standards. And I know I get judged for it, but I also know there are other not normal moms out there. And they're women that I have known for a long time and greatly admire. Maybe we can still be good parents without fitting society's normal expectations of parenting, or just maybe the pandemic revealed that what's normal to do or feel as a parent does not apply in extreme times.