Working Mothers, It’s Going to Be a Lengthy Summer season
“Mom! I can’t swim anymore! I can’t swim!” My 8-year-old yelled at me, clearly frustrated.
He threw off his goggles, splashed angrily, and got out of the pool. He stomped off and sat alone on a nearby pool chair for a few minutes, defeated and angry. And that’s exactly how it was for me.
In summer 2019 it was really fun to go to our construction pool. My kids started swimming pretty well and I was still able to convince them to put on their puddle sweaters. I could sit by the poolside and read, keeping a close eye on her. I didn’t really have to be in the pool with them.
Fast forward to summer 2021. Our building pool is finally open again. We surprised the children on a Saturday afternoon: “Children, we’re going to the swimming pool!” They ran around in circles, put on their bathing suits and tried to find water shoes.
As we strolled into the pool area, I patted myself on the shoulder for my multiple mom wins. I had managed to buy my kids new swimsuits as they had apparently outgrown everything faster than I could. I have sunscreen. We found last year’s glasses. I had towels, goldfish crackers and fruit snacks and water bottles with me. I even brought my journal with me so I could write my thoughts down while my kids played in the water. I told my husband that he could come to us later so he could have some time to himself. I have, I thought.
The excitement in the pool and my excitement over my multiple mom wins lasted exactly eight minutes. My son jumped in the pool without warning, then struggled with swimming and swallowed lots and lots of water. Both refused to wear life jackets, life jackets, or life jackets. My daughter was afraid to jump in, whined that I wasn’t bringing pool toys, and had to go to the bathroom twice. My son’s glasses broke and my daughter refused to share her pair.
My kids clung to me in the pool. So much for sitting on the edge, relaxing and writing a diary with hat and sunglasses. One kid on the right, one kid on the left as I tried to maneuver them around. Help one swim to the other end, practice backstroke, and catch them as they jump in. Mum mum mum. I was surrounded, kicked, splashed and held like a koala mom. So much for my relaxing summer.
These weren’t the relaxing poolside moments of summer 2019 that I was sticking to. My body was sore, my head ached, and my hair was a messy mess. I stared at a woman in a black bikini with a huge floppy hat who was scrolling away on her phone and happily sitting in a chair. I stared, wondering what it was like to be her.
“MOM! You have to help me swim to the stairs!”
My two children had completely forgotten how to swim. Hour after hour of lessons. Early weekend mornings when my husband took her to class. Memories of her who completed the “Turtle 2” and “Minnow” classes. Everything erased, along with so many things they’d forgotten in the last 15 months of the pandemic. Wasn’t swimming like riding a bike, I thought? Apparently, remembering your back turned out to be a lot harder than remembering how to balance and peddle.
After about an hour, my husband took over pool time and I sat in a chair eating my children’s goldfish crackers. The children began to swallow less and less water, practicing blowing, kicking and trying to swim slowly across the pool. Our neighbors’ daughter shared her toys and swimming boards with them.
When we finished pool time it ended way better than it started. It was another reminder for me that children are much more resilient than adults. And when our life began again, the children remembered and rediscovered so many things that we had left behind. Even the everyday moments when we never took a moment to appreciate the pre-pandemic, such as my kids knocking on our neighbors’ door to return the pool toys we borrowed. They couldn’t remember the last time they knocked on someone’s door.
I will now add “Failed Swimming Instructor” to my growing list of professions I had to inherit in this pandemic. This “failed swimming instructor” actually had an unexpected mom win on our pool trip. Trying to learn to swim again was the only thing that totally tired my children, both of them slept soundly until 7am the next day as soon as we could.
Mita Mallick is Head of Inclusion, Equity and Impact at Carta and loves living in Jersey City with her husband and two young children.