Stories from our Alumnae Community
Stephanie Morehead Noce ’06 studied Women’s and Gender Studies at Douglass. An active member of the AADC Marketing & Communications team, she also participates in the AADC Mabel’s Alumnae Mentoring Program. Stephanie resides in northeast Pennsylvania with her husband and sons, Jonathan (7 years old) and Christopher (5 years old). Here is her story, shared on November 18, 2020.
We had such high hopes for 2020. My husband, PJ, had just started a promising new job with good benefits and a decent commute. After five years of being a stay-at-home mom to my two children, my oldest son, Jonathan, was in school full-time and I was able to afford to put my youngest, Christopher, in daycare three days a week with my freelancing work as a virtual assistant in the gig economy. Excited to pay-it-forward, I coordinated with the local library to facilitate freelancing training for members of our rural Pocono Mountain community, where good jobs are scarce.
With the encouragement of my AADC mentor, Jane, I found the courage within myself to start my own consulting company again. I developed multiple Trello boards, organizing my plans for starting an LLC. Come the fall, there was a bright light at the end of my childcare tunnel because Christopher would start Kindergarten and they’d both be in school full-time.
On Friday, March 13th, I was sitting in the school cafeteria at the afternoon parent pick-up, waiting for my son when I got an astonishing text from my husband. “The State of Pennsylvania has declared that all public schools are closing after today.” I couldn’t believe it. Everyone was carrying on as usual. I asked two of the teachers at the door if it was true that school is closing. “Not that I know of! Where did you hear that?” the teacher replied. I told her, “My husband just texted me that the State of Pennsylvania has announced this!” “Well, you know more than we do then!” she said.
While driving home from school, we listened to President Trump declare a “National Emergency” live on the radio. This was officially the last day of life as we knew it. As the number of cases rapidly increased each day, it wasn’t long before the COVID-19 pandemic spread to our county and then our township. We endured many long months of quarantine. There was mandatory lockdown of non-essential businesses and travel restrictions. Jonathan finished the remainder of his first-grade school year remotely. We withdrew Christopher from the daycare center. The library closed and so did my volunteer work leading the freelancing training group.
One day not too far into quarantine, PJ jumped onto a Zoom conference for what was supposed to be a performance review with his manager of the extremely successful social media work he was doing for his company. He instantly felt a knot build in his stomach when he saw the HR manager was also on the call. PJ recounted his boss choking back tears when they told him that he was being let go in a mass layoff “due to COVID.”
What has resulted since the early months of the pandemic has been nothing short of an almost daily test of personal resilience. On the bright side, I’ve been in quarantine with my husband and kids, my favorite people in the world. PJ was able to receive the additional funds from the federal unemployment benefit passed by the stimulus bill. With his extra set of hands, we’ve been able to juggle the childcare needs, household responsibilities, and now online school support for both boys. I’ve continued my freelance work. But, my plans for starting my own company are on pause.
There have been many times when the stress was almost unbearable. I took the mommy wine o’clock culture too far. It had become a nightly coping mechanism for my anxiety. When I tried to stop drinking for a couple of days, I began having high blood pressure and chest pains. Fearing I might have a heart attack, I checked myself into a detox center that took me away from my beautiful family for a few days.
Reaching out for help for myself took a sort of superhuman courage. As I’ve followed in my grandmother’s footsteps (and her mother before her), I am the matriarch of my family. I am the rock, CEO of our household, the one juggling all the balls in the air. But I could no longer pour from an empty Wonder Woman cup. I’ve had to pivot on my initial plans this year. I’ve had to reach deep within my wells of resourcefulness.
We’ve built a teepee in our yard for fun. The boys and I light candles and do “love and kindness” meditations. We turn on Amazon Prime and have spontaneous dance parties. I’ve had to allow myself to lean on my husband for help with the kids, who, actually, “fortunately” has been home on unemployment. We spend a lot of time being present with each other and enjoying our moments. I get to savor ALL of the memories with them now that I’m not drinking my nights away (64 days AF “alcohol-free” at the time of this writing).
When I think of my ancestors in heaven, I wonder what they would think of me now. How would they handle things in this current unbelievable state of the world? Would they be proud of me?
I made the profound realization this year that I am the answer to my ancestors’ prayers. It doesn’t matter what they’d think of me. I am keeping their legacy alive by telling their stories, reciting my grandmother’s prayers with my boys at night, keeping up little traditions, and by forging our own path from the wisdom learned from their strengths and their mistakes. My children may have perpetual cabin fever and may have regressed on some social skills, but they are thriving academically in their online school environment. I also know that we are building a strong family foundation that will carry them through the rest of their lives (the answer to my prayers).
You can learn more about Stephanie’s freelance services at www.stephanielynnenoce.com.