a frumpy beige couch

Here’s everything I haven’t done during the pandemic

I am not baking bread. I haven’t made a sourdough starter. I didn’t learn how to knit, so I haven’t knitted a sweater with a matching knit hat, nor have I made a quilt. I haven’t learned how to do origami. In general, I haven’t taken up any hobbies at all during the pandemic. For the past six months, I can’t really say I’ve excelled in anything new.

I have not cleaned out my closet or the kids’ closets. I haven’t cleaned out the pantry. I didn’t sort through the hundreds of family photos on my phone, nor did I organize them into hardbound photo albums.

We did not get a dog. We did not get a cat. We didn’t get chickens, so we won’t have any fresh eggs. We didn’t start a beehive in our backyard, so we won’t have any homemade honey.

As a family, we did not dress up as our favorite painting and send the pic to a museum, which then posted it on Instagram because over the many submissions it received ours was the most creative. We did not make a family TikTok. We did not watch all six seasons of “The Sopranos.” We did not find some cool indie British show to watch that no one has heard of, but everyone will soon. We did not start a family book club, nor are we participating in family morning livestream yoga.

Why have I listed the things that we haven’t done since shelter in place took effect? Because lately, I’ve been feeling a sort of pandemic pressure to be wildly productive. I’ve seen many well-intended articles with helpful suggestions, activities that families can do while sheltering in place, from creating scavenger hunts in our backyard to building our own pinball machine out of cardboard. I’ve read about mothers who have used their time at home to clean, sort and organize, and mothers who have discovered their inner Martha Stewart. Throw social media into the mix, and it can seem that families have never been more interesting, more resourceful and more better together.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I felt a kind of relief in having to shut everything down. Now, it feels as if that pre-Covid mom pressure to be perfect and be a multitasking powerhouse is slowly creeping back in. It takes some effort for me to tune it all out. Shelter in place created a space for me to slow down and spend more time with my family. It has reminded me what’s important and essential. I don’t want to lose sight of that.

What’s helped me is to look back and remember my time as a new mother. We had two kids under the age of 2, and I was overwhelmed and exhausted. I’d see other mothers out with their newborns and thought they looked more put together than I did, and less tired. Neither of our kids were great sleepers. Nursing was difficult and painful for the first few months until I got the hang of it. Even getting out of the house was no small feat. I imagined it was easier for all other mothers except me.

Looking back, I know now that new motherhood for most moms, though wonderful and magical, is also hard. And what people see on the outside isn’t always a reflection of what’s going on inside. Once I stopped comparing myself with others, and stopped feeling guilty for not being able to do everything at 100 percent, I felt better.

I need to apply that thinking to my life now. I know we are all dealing with the anxiety, the fear and the frustration of this virus in different ways. It’s a scary time. And most of us moms carry the emotional weight of our families. We are juggling a lot right now and doing the best we can to to get through each day.

As for my friends who have taken up bread baking — please keep baking. And if you have any extra loaves, I’ll gladly take them off your hands.

Julie Levine

Julie Levine is a writer who lives in San Francisco.