“They’re calling it a Panduricane. And here we are, trying to still make this ship float. It would be funny, if it were funny. But it’s not funny,” said Dr. Tyra Gross Professor, Mentor and Maternal Health Researcher. She was already navigating remote kindergarten. And care for her other two kids, while entering her busiest season at work. Then her daughter had a health scare and hospital stint. Followed by Hurricane Ida, which forced her family to evacuate their home.
Even when you think that you’ve hit your limit on unpredictability. Life can throw surprising new plot twists your way. And, as we’ve learned through the pandemic, women become the backup plan in most families. And take penalties in their careers and health. So, how can you stay emotionally and professionally grounded through turmoil?
Seek the Wins
When their power was restored, Tyra and her husband took a solo trip to assess their home. She said, “We knew we had roof damage. But then we were like, ‘wait a minute. This is our first Saturday without the kids, because my in-laws were watching them. So, who wants to go see their damaged roof? Just listen how quiet it is! That’s a win. And one of our favorite spots was open so, we’re like, ‘hey no kids and Jamaican food?’ That’s two wins today.” Although she was still uprooted during our interview, she kept her amazing sense of humor.
Accept the Chaos
Tyra explained, “It was crazy! That was my son’s second week of virtual kindergarten. Because somebody during the first week of class, tested positive for Covid.” Sigh. Welcome to the not-at-all-normal. She added, “By week two, I’m like no, no, no! Why is this coinciding with my academic contract? My husband just started a new job and so he was like, ‘well, you know I’m in a leadership position now.’ So, I become the flexible one who can pivot the quickest.” And she did. Beautifully. With acceptance came the ability to plan. And she found ways to gain some relief.
Find the Joy
Tyra said, ‘It helps me to have perspective and gratitude. We called it the evacu-cation because Texas was the one gulf state we hadn’t visited over the summer. So, we ended up having a family day at the zoo in Houston. And went to the aquarium.” And they were intentional about this. She said, “We were like, okay if we have to go to another state, we’re going to make this feel like a vacation. And tell our kids later, you know we evacuated from the storm right?” They’ll only remember the vacation part and laugh about the rest when they’re older. Tyra said, “If I can’t find some silver lining or half full glass, then what are we doing?”
Renegotiate, It’s Okay
Optimism often comes with a sense of control. Explore where you can get more space. She said, “I started life coach training this summer which has been awesome. And I have perfect attendance. Whether I was in a hotel or my daughter was coming out of a MRI, I wanted to be in my class. My homework is behind but I’m also going up for tenure and a promotion right now. So, I realized I wanted to ask for more time. Yes, I had an additional year, like everybody, with the pandemic. But I also had a baby last year in the pandemic.” Although one of her mentors cautioned, that asking for months versus weeks might delay her tenure decision, she made the ask. And received extra time. This of course happened in tandem with a new stressor, the hurricane.
Let People Help
Asking for support tends to be difficult for a lot of people. But it’s often the place where very capable women, ready to adjust their capes and swoop in to save others, fall. Because growth comes from seeking support, not only giving it. Tyra explained, “One of my colleagues said, ‘I heard through the rumor mill that your daughter is in the hospital again. What do you need?’ I said, I don’t know. But I will have a response for you. Because this is growth I need, to be able to let people help. People were reaching out.” And she came up with a response.
Be Open About Your Needs
Tyra explained, “I’m a Christian and I think it’s a strength in times like this. Instead of immediately saying, ‘we’re okay’ know that people want to support you. By not allowing them to, we can rob them of the beauty of volunteering. So, I tried it out with the next person who asked. I said, well, these meal costs are adding up. If you want to, slide something over in cash app or a gift card.” An unplanned ‘evacu-cation’ is expensive. She said, “A former coworker sent me a gift card within 15 minutes!” Wow. “I was so grateful.”
Support Others When You Can
She said, “I’ve been paying it forward. I wanted to reciprocate for some of the people I know in the hardest hit areas. Because I know their houses are flooded with 6 feet of water!” Throughout her displacement from home, she’s kept her positive disposition. And gratitude. She said “At one point, I thought everybody who we really care about and are responsible for, is in this car. Or in this hotel room with us. They might be getting on our nerves but at least we know that they’re safe, sound and provided for.” Amen!
And Always, Always Find Those Silver Linings
Tyra said, “One of the projects that I work on is for infant feeding during emergencies. And we were looking at data from last year’s evacuees during hurricane Laura. We were trying to analyze that data but realized, now we’re going to have new perspectives from this year.” Brilliant. She added, “It’s about how to teach families about preparedness and resilience in all forms. It may not be a natural disaster. It could be an emotional one.” Tyra’s incredible work and perspective puts her in an excellent position to identify and teach these critical skills to parents.
Many thanks to the talented Dr. Tyra Gross!
Grateful to the many amazing parents who have participated in the research study. Have you chimed in yet? Share your pandemic experiences! How are the latest changes affecting your life? It’s quick and the results from this study are used to advocate better support for parents.
Employers, let us help you transform your workplace into an environment where caregivers thrive. Learn about Allies @ Work.
Dr. Tyra Toston Gross is an Assistant Professor of Public Health at Xavier University of Louisiana, where she has worked as a public health instructor, researcher and mentor since August 2015. Her research expertise is in maternal & child health disparities. Prior to joining Xavier, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in reproductive women’s health at University of Texas Medical Branch. Given her interest in maternal & child health, the majority of Dr. Gross’ research has focused on the health of reproductive-age women. Her current research projects include exploring the health of Black postpartum women in Louisiana, and smoking cessation needs for low-income pregnant women. Dr. Gross is a member of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM). She is a proud wife and mother of three spunky kids and also an aspiring entrepreneur and philanthropist.Tags: Achieving Goals, Career Development for Moms, Manage Stress For Moms, Moms Personal Growth, work life integration for Moms