With two small children, one of them in school, the pandemic brought a lot of stress to my family. With everyone occupying the same space, my husband and I have been getting on each other’s nerves, but we finally got to a place where we’re able to manage the tension between us and the kids. Now that the pandemic seems to be coming under control in our city, my company recently announced that we’ll be going back to working from the office within two weeks. I thought I would be happy and ready to go back, but I’m not. My level of anxiety has increased just thinking about who will take care of my kids, being that my husband’s employer is also calling him back to work from his office. Because COVID-19 is not completely gone and lots of people are still not vaccinated, I’m really concerned about going back to a crowded office not knowing who is and isn’t vaccinated. I’m even more concerned about whom to leave my children with since many of the childcare services are still closed. Please help.
The sentiments you’ve shared are similar to those of many individuals we’ve spoken with recently as things seem to be heading back to a pre-pandemic “normal.” What you’ve described is evident where there’s access to COVID-19 vaccinations. This is allowing many cities and states in the United States and in a few other countries to be able to seriously consider fully reopening. Of course, this has brought on what has been recently identified by clinicians as Post-COVID Reentry Anxiety.
The long-expected return to life as we knew it before COVID—and have admitted missing—is finally here. Eating out is back. Hugging is back. Working from the office away from home is back. Going to the mall is back. The crowds are back. Everything seems to be back.
Yet, what’s being experienced by many is a feeling of uncertainty and hesitation about returning to what was. Beyond just being preoccupied with the level of safety in their work environment, with so many unknowns many people aren’t sure they’re ready to go back to what was once their normal lives.
Because the pandemic forced people into new routines for the past 12-16 months, many have become accustomed to a slower pace of life—even though they accomplished more—and returning to the way things used to be feels stressful. This is especially true for parents of small children—like you—who’ve had the privilege to spend unbroken time with your children for these many months. It’s easy to understand why the prospect of being separated from them in a—still—very uncertain public health setting is very frightening.
Feeling anxious about where to send your children as you get ready to return to your office during a pandemic that hasn’t fully disappeared is understandable. Yet, in times like these our faith in God needs to become like a muscle that’s exercised on purpose or it will simply lose its strength. The truth is, worrying about the situation won’t improve or resolve your dilemma. Despite all you’re experiencing, it’s important to arrive at a place of calm and comfort as you pray to God for His peace and solace during this difficult time. If necessary, you should also access good professional help.
As you face your present circumstances, we encourage you with God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10, which declares: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”*
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, family sociologist and certified family life educator, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, PhDc, LCPC, CFLE, a licensed clinical professional counselor, educational psychologist and certified family life educator, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.