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  • Quarantine Edition: Parents Are Not Okay

     

    The effect of being quarantined at home with children has added another layer of stress to many   of our households, and quite frankly, some parents are not okay.  This is a time like no other.  We are all struggling to get through the days.  TGIF has turned into just another day of virtual learning, countless trips to the fridge and our names being called more than ever imaginable.

     

    A mother recently reached out disclosed that she was struggling with managing “EVERYTHING”.  She shared that since being placed under stay at home orders her stress level has gone through the roof, as she has been working full-time from home on her business, while cleaning, cooking, cleaning, figuring out virtual learning with her 5 children, changing diapers, giving baths, coordinating nap times and managing the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with a spouse who has recently been laid off.  

     

    Her plea for help really pulled at my heartstrings.  As a parent, I get it.  I’ve been there to some degree.  When my daughters were young, I stayed home with them.  I also started a small business so that I could continue to stay at home as they got older.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Years later, I literally get a rush of a tension headache when I think about sitting at my desk in my home office trying to speak to employees on a conference call that I purposely scheduled during nap time, breastfeeding my newborn (ouch), while my two-year-old was running in circles, refusing to take a much-needed nap. Blink and it was dinner time.  It wouldn’t be fair to say that I can reasonably imagine how it would feel to add helping an elementary school-aged child with virtual learning assignments or not being able to have a reprieve at the local park. So, if you are an overwhelmed parent that is not okay while being quarantined, you are not alone and my heart goes out to you too.  

    If I might perhaps provide an alternate perspective, I’ll tell you that the more I speak to parents, the more I realize that our experiences of parenting while quarantined vary greatly dependent upon the ages of our children. I found that parents with children under the age of ten are extremely overwhelmed by the day-to-day effect of having to shelter in place.  While parents of children ten and above are oftentimes as overwhelmed,  our stressors vary slightly.  We also have the privilege of looking through a lens with hindsight vision.  


    So, for parents with multiple children who are trying to balance it all, many seem to really be struggling.  It’s important to lean on other parents who are going through what you’re going through or have gone through what you are experiencing in order to regain your footing.  Call, video conference or group chat with other parents and share your experience.  Some will have it worse.  Some will have it better.  Some will be at their wit’s end on Monday afternoon, others by Wednesday morning. 

     

    Last week, I had a three-hour conversation with another mom.  In the middle of the work-week.  Who does that?  We did because we both desperately needed it.  We needed a safe space to vent and recharge.  I Had dinner late that day.  Yep!  But who cares?  My family needed me to remain sane, so dinner was late.  No one starved and no one got the displaced wrath of this momma bear. I’d call that a win-win.  Wouldn’t you?

    While we all are staying home in order to keep our families, neighbors and front line heroes safe, it is possible to reclaim a sense of normalcy by getting out of the house, even for a moment.  If you’re fortunate enough to have your own yard, take time to enjoy it.  Make time to let the kids get out and play, run and use some of the energy that they would be expending at school during recess.  That’s why schools allow children to go out for recess even on cooler days.  Children have this amazing energy that needs to “get out”.  

    Flashback to my own two-year-old running around my home office.  Remember the varying perspective that I promised to offer?  When I was working from home with my newborn and toddler, I was so focused on trying to balance life as a perfect wife and super mom, that I oftentimes didn’t take advantage of the moment.   And, although at the time I had a graduate degree in psychology, was a certified school teacher, worked in a variety of daycare centers and schools with children of all ages; I was better prepared than most, I neglected to take a real step back.  Theoretically, I knew that I should’ve taken my two-year-old outside to run off the energy which would have led to her sleeping longer and sounder.  

    I’ll be completely honest, having two kids in two years, including a total of three months of stress that came along with doctor required bed rest over the two pregnancies and sleep deprivation like nobody’s business, makes one toss every last one of those child development books out of the window. Clearly, some common sense went out with it.  I’ll just blame it on the mommy-brain.  It’s a real thing, you know? 

    Seriously, get everyone out of the house.  Just let them take in the fresh air.  Don’t have a yard?  That’s fine, don’t leave the doorstep. Open the front door. Change rooms.  Move the kids from the back of the apartment to the front.  Just some way, somehow, shake things up.  If you feel like you’re losing it, imagine how they must feel with the purity of energy only a young child has and not being able to get it out.  

    Embrace the moment. We will never, ever get this time back.  The circumstances are horrible and we all wish that we could reset the clock back to the start of the new year, but we can’t.  What we can do is try to be positive and realize that this is all temporary.  

    The parents I speak to, like myself, with children over the age of 10 are stressed about going to the grocery store to feed their insatiable appetites, are worried about how this time of remote learning will affect applying to college later or how missing an entire season of sports will impact our children’s future.  However, as we are preparing them for their next phase of life, memories of their childhood become fainter. Many of us are envious of you.  Knowing that we’ll never get this time back is a reality that glares at us while in this stage of parenthood, we’re taking in the time we have left with our children before they leave the house.  No matter how hard things are, they will get better.  

    I needed to steal that three hours to talk to my friend.  They might need the same and may not realize it either.  You know what? Our breaks help everyone maintain their sanity in our household.  So, take a walk, alone, if you can.  My children are older now, so I make them run around our yard to get fresh air.  Sometimes, I’ll do it in the middle of the day during one of their virtual learning breaks. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself and your family.  Everything else will fall in place. 

    Your little ones will grow up and they will have actual memories or your pictures and videos to serve as memories.  I regret scheduling nap time conference calls instead of more time outside with my girls.  Create memories that you’d never thought you’d have.  Make the pillow fort that you don’t have time to make under regular circumstances. Break the schedule to enjoy PB&J outside.

    If you or someone you know is struggling during this pandemic, please click the link below for emergency and mental support. 

    COVID-19 RELIEF

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  • How to: Teaching Kids to Cope with Tragedy

    Unfortunately,  we’ve seen a rise in acts of terrorism over the past several years. Schools across the country now have lock down drills in addition to regularly scheduled fire drills so that students and school personnel should be prepared in case of emergency. According to cbsnews.com, the number of mass shootings, where four are more people were shot, ” so far in 2019 has outpaced the number of days this year, according to a gun violence research group. This puts 2019 on pace to be the first year since 2016 with an average of more than one mass shooting a day. As of Aug. 5, which was the 217th day of the year, there have been 255 mass shootings in the U.S., according to data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive (GVA), which tracks every mass shooting in the country.”

    These statistics are both alarming and nerve wracking to all of us, to say the least. Children, by nature,  are the most vulnerable physically, emotionally and mentally.  I’ll reassure you by sharing this before I cover how you can help children deal with disaster.  When asked for years to follow, what a child in my care remembered about the events on the day of a national disaster, his response was “green apples.”  So, how do we help our children cope with tragedy? (more…)

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  • Mom, Don’t Be Ashamed! Asking For Help Isn’t So Bad!

     

     Mom, you can’t do EVERYTHING.

    It’s okay to ask for some extra help!

    I remember speaking to my cousin one day when we were in our early 20’s. We were both college graduates, starting our careers.  She was an engineer and real estate investor.  I was a nonprofit strategist and had just purchased my first home.  Neither of us had children at the time.  She was traveling all of the time for work and was rarely home.  She mentioned that she had a housekeeper who would come in and clean her home, as she didn’t have time.

    At the time, it struck me as a little odd, as I hadn’t really known anyone personally to have a housekeeper.  So, I asked her why she felt like she needed a housekeeper if she was the only one living in her home and I will never forget her reply.  She said, “I don’t have time to get to the small details like cleaning my baseboards.”  I laughed to (and at) myself, it takes me 12- 15 hours per week to clean my home and I know for certain that I miss the baseboards most of the time.  It was one of those conversations in passing that I never really thought about until years later.  In the meantime, I kept up with my weekly cleanings, mostly splitting the time over the weekend. Cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen on a Friday night with the music blasting, sometimes while indulging in a little bubbly then finishing up the rest of the house on an early Sunday morning was my usual routine.

    Fast forward to 2013 and life was very different.  My children, then 7 and 9, were busy with school, ballet and piano.  Running educational services firms in multiples states and holding a hefty real estate investment property load, my businesses were in full swing. At the same time, Working Mother Magazine was collaborating with Diane Sawyer and the World News to cover a story about busy working moms struggling to find balance. The producers at ABC learned about the things I was doing and decided to have me share my story to represent working mothers all over the world.

    I quickly realized after speaking with the producers over the phone, that life in the spotlight moves at lightning speed.  They told me that a camera crew would be coming to meet me at my home within the week and they’d be following my family and me around for three days filming our every move.

    I was honored and shocked that the world-renowned, Ms. Diane Sawyer caught wind of my regular little life and saw fit to choose me of all people to be on tv.  Can’t you just see me smiling from ear to ear while happy music is blaring in the background?  Well, cue the DJ to scratch the record because just as quickly, complete panic set in. ABC PRODUCERS ARE COMING TO MY DIRTY HOUSE. Ohh em gee!  Did they say that they’d be here in a few days? Looking at the unorganized fridge, in the cracks and crevices that I thought were pristine when it was just my family and me and around the dusty baseboards that I swore would be amplified by the network’s “good” cameras, my vision became like Instagram’s superzoom.  How was I going to scrub this house from top to bottom to prepare for the world to see my house, keep up with my weekly chores of laundry, cooking and washing dishes while working, parenting and driving my kids around from activity to activity like UberMom?  The only thing I could do was work smarter, not harder.  It was time to follow my cousin’s advice.

    I scoured the internet for a maid service in the area.  There were so many.  I had no experience in the area?  How should I choose?  I had no clue. How could I be sure that they wouldn’t take anything?  Was I going to really let a stranger into my home, my sanctuary, and give up my privacy in exchange for a quick clean? Cue in every Lifetime movie where the mom hires the crazy helper that ends up terrorizing the house.  After carefully thinking about how overwhelmed I was on a regular day and weighing it against the reality that lots of people hire help with no problems, I decided that the only sane thing to do was hire a cleaning service.

    My friend, a fellow working mompreneur, also has a stressful career and multiple children.  Her home was a decent size and was always clean.  I wasn’t sure if she was just the perfect mom or if she hired help so I did something I hadn’t done before…I simply asked.  She was more than receptive to my inquiry.  She gave me a knowing look as if she had been in my shoes and revealed that she hadn’t thoroughly cleaned her house herself in years.  She immediately texted me the number and for the first time, in a long time, I felt like I was being invited off of the island we oftentimes call parenthood.  You know, where the mommy/daddy guilt kicks in because it’s unrealistic to accomplish everything we imagined we could do before we actually became parents.  Does that sound familiar?

    When I tell you that I am completely over the mommy guilt I used to hold on to before initially hiring the service to clean my home.  I couldn’t be more serious.  What took me close to 15 hours to complete on a weekly basis took the cleaning ladies 3 hours.  Let me say that again for the folks in the back that may have missed it.  One phone call gave me back 15 hours of my week.  Everything in place, bed linens changed and the entire house smelled like the cleaning aisle at the supermarket.

    I was able to tape my segment over 3 days and I didn’t have to lift a finger, broom, mop, etc.  I looked like the “perfect mom” too.  And, I was.  Not because my house was ridiculously clean or because I was fancy enough to hire help.  I finally come to realize that asking for help was okay and that my previous assumptions that I’d previously made about other moms were based on a falsehood.

    While waiting for my daughters to arrive home from school to tape their segment, I had to opportunity to chat with supermom and ABC anchor Amy Robach about how she balances her busy life.  As we bonded over our mommy guilt moments, I realized again that most mothers found the need to have help with tasks they used to conquer before having a family.

    Prior to talking to both women, I had been working on ways to expand my existing business, a tutoring service, to include other services that parents found useful.  However, once my segment aired and so many parents expressed how overwhelmed they were by the demands of parenting, working and running a household, I realized that there were lots more working mothers in the same situation than I had imagined.  It was the reaction of those parents that gave me the permission I was looking for to close my tutoring service and create a more inclusive and comprehensive service for parents than had ever existed on the market.  Shortly after my segment aired, I formed Kid Care Concierge, a concierge service for busy parents like me who would no longer feel guilty about need to hire help.

    5 years later, we have tutors, helpers, sitters and almost every other service that one could think of helping overwhelmed parents.  Like a concierge service in a hotel, my staff does everything for parents after just one call.  My first client was myself because I was in desperate need of help. Ironically, I was scrolling through a Facebook “mom group” last week and I stumbled upon a post from a mom looking for recommendations for a cleaning service.  What I found most interesting was that she sounded like me years back, justifying why she was looking for help as if it was not okay.  I inboxed her to reassure her that perfect moms don’t exist and it was okay to need help.  We all do!

    As I sit at home after working at my office all day, I’m sitting in my kitchen with my daughters cooking dinner together as I type this post.  At the same time, my staff is upstairs taking care of the weekly cleaning.  I feel ZERO guilt.

    Would you like to learn more about Kid Care Concierge?  Visit us at http://www.KidCareConcierge.com or email us at info@kidcareconcierge.com.

     

     

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  • Last Minute Valentine’s Day Parfait

    It’s the day before Valentine’s Day.  Once again, we’ve waited until the last minute to prepare for the class party.  Trust me, been there, done that.

     

    Here are some guilt-free, healthful snacks that you can easily prepare for your child’s class party.

     

    I always feel guilty about bringing in sugary snacks or allergen prone treats.  My daughter developed a red dye allergy when she was in the third grade which made me extremely cautious about serving foods with potential allergens.  

     

    Yogurt Parfait

     

    This was the first treat that I made for my daughter’s class after discovering her allergy. I never loved the idea of overloading kids with candy then leaving them in school for the remainder of the day with the expectation that they would be capable of paying attention, concentrating in class and sitting still.  Sounds like a set-up for failure, right? I agree.

     

    As long as foods look and taste good, kids tend not to even think about the more traditional treats, like candy and cupcakes.  The key here is to be creative and let allow them to help if time allows. The class teacher will love you for it. I was class mom for each of my daughters classes from Kindergarten through Fifth grade. (more…)

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