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.