My pandemic sketchbook: A mom copes with chaos, stress and the beauty of a changed life

I was lying down with our daughter Audrey one night trying to get her to go back to sleep, and she shook my hand under the blanket and said enthusiastically, ‘nice to meet ya!’ (Katie Rowe/CBC)

I’m hiding in my room on a work call when the door handle starts rattling ominously. 

“Mommm-eeyyyy where are you?” chants my two-year-old. 

Life is pretty chaotic in our house right now — and I know I’m not alone. 

A strong-willed toddler and two parents trying to work full-time, preparing nutritious meals and preventing the house from turning into one giant dirty laundry basket and/or overloaded dishwasher have left us with very few peaceful moments. 

Audrey seems to have a sixth sense about where I am at all times. (Katie Rowe/CBC)

I’ve chosen to turn the chaos into art. 

Don’t get me wrong — I’m also crying too much and eating junk food and obsessively seeking updates on the pandemic. 

But creating art helps me stay somewhat calm. And for me, it’s been the perfect way to keep a record of my life. 

Our daughter is living large 

At two, Audrey is learning something new every single day. She is blissfully unaware of the pandemic and is living large with her two parents home to answer her demands at all hours. 

She’s constantly surprising us with her language, her logic and her tendency to scale furniture and seek out dangerous situations. 

I’ve been using watercolour and ink to put some of these moments that have made me smile or cry or laugh (or all three) to paper. 

We are always telling Audrey to be careful and not to climb things. Part of our message must be sinking in, because now while she’s doing something dangerous, she will say ‘be careful’ at the same time.  (Katie Rowe/CBC)

Beauty in the midst of chaos

Although I am overwhelmed and hoping for a return to normalcy, I also know part of me will look back at this time fondly. The irony of this is not lost on me. In the midst of the chaos, there’s beauty, too. 

There are moments when I’m working and I glimpse Audrey playing with her dad outside and I’m filled with so much love for them that it stops me in my tracks. 

When Audrey was teething really badly, my husband would hold and rock her and say ‘I got ya.’ One day last week she awoke at 2 a.m. and I stumbled into her room feeling exhausted and picked her up. She calmed down, looked at me and said, ‘I got ya.’ (Katie Rowe/CBC)

There are moments when my husband and I make eye contact and we have to stifle laughter because Audrey’s doing something she shouldn’t and we need to be stern — but she’s so unbelievably cute that all we can do is hide our big smiles behind our hands. 

There are moments of complete exhaustion where I think I have nothing left to give and then Audrey will shake my hand and say it’s “nice to meet ya.”

We always ask Audrey if she’s OK when she falls down. Now every single time she takes a spill, she says it herself before we can ask.  (Katie Rowe/CBC)

It’s easy to take our time together for granted when we’re together all the time. My sketches help me to stop for a second and actually just be in the moment.

I’m trying to focus on gratitude every day.  

It’s not always easy, but in this period of uncertainty it helps to be reminded of all the love in my little bubble. 

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