It’s like the first day of school all over again, only worse. It’s the end of March and for most of us, Spring Break just wrapped up. Kids are going back to school, except this time they’re not leaving the house. Life in the Covid-19 reality of online living is creating a whole host of challenges, adversity – and, if we’re honest, even some advantages – for all of us. Let’s be real, this lands extra hard on moms. Especially working moms.
Dads, for a whole host of reasons, typically don’t carry the same burden of nurturing and shepherding the kids like moms do. At a time when most kids are locked up at home with no place to go, this new normal is a mega-huge disruption to our lives.
Feeling all the feels
First, let’s talk about how we really feel right now. Life pre-virus was already nutty. No matter if you work, stay-at-home, or some variation of the two, everyone had jam packed schedules. We were running every which way, constantly, all day every day, until our heads hit the pillow at night.
While those calendars have been cleared *read: forcibly emptied* you’re dealing with trying to earn a living remotely while living in extreme proximity to your immediate family. If you live in most states in the country, you can’t leave the house except if you’re sick, hungry or need to go on a walk. Even if you can go outside, you can’t really have contact with anyone. You’re probably feeling alone, isolated, bored, and just plain bummed out.
If you’re lucky, you still have a job. But for many of us, one or both wage earners are now unemployed, or even worse, they’re sick with this horrible virus. We can’t visit loved ones in nursing homes or hospitals. Close friends and family – or maybe you – work in hospitals and you’re concerned for their safety. Pile on added stress of financial concerns, bills that are due, your gym is closed so you’re gaining a few pounds, and the fact that showering and general hygiene has taken a back seat, and you end up with a tired, angry, irritable mama.
Every time you read about what’s going on in the world, you are blown away by the number of deaths from this virus. You’re increasingly terrified for your family’s safety and feel paralyzed trying to decide how best to protect your kids while trying to keep up some sense of calm.
To top it all off, your school district just dropped in your lap that you need to monitor your kids online schooling. You feel like you just signed up for homeschooling and you can hardly keep your head above water. The last thing you need is to learn a new platform of online tech. Your kids’ friends all want to do some type of video call and you just want to scream at them all and curl up in the corner.
This is how you might really be feeling. You wouldn’t be alone. And it’s perfectly valid and normal to feel this way.
How you wish you felt
To flip the coin without ignoring that there are real challenges going on here, you wish you could feel differently about this situation. You wish that you could just turn your mind towards the upsides – how few they may be – and see what’s going on in a different light.
In your mind’s eye, you know that this is only temporary. We all will get to socialize again, likely by the time summer weather heats up. Viruses just have to run their course, you can almost hear your mother saying this to you when you were a kid, and you know it’s true. Given time away from one other, the virus will die and life will resume its previously scheduled craziness.
Our economy will come roaring back. You’ve read this in articles and know it in your gut. Stores will re-open, people will shop again, everyone will go back to work. It may not all come back, or even come back right away, but Americans always have fight in them and come back from adversity stronger than ever.
This time with your kids is unique, you tell yourself. You’ve been wanting to spend some quality time with them and now’s your chance. You don’t want to squander this opportunity and want to craft, make puzzles, go on a walk, clean up the yard…anything that brings you a little closer.
You know that the job you (or your spouse) just lost will come back. Or, maybe it was meant to be that you got laid off. Something great is just around the corner, you tell yourself. It will all work out, you say several times a day.
You’ve read that most of the deaths are occurring in older people who already had respiratory issues. You know some people who are at high-risk, but they’re being really cautious. You feel pretty good about your family’s chances of getting through this without getting sick.
If you’re feeling this way, this is all normal, too. Many of us try to see the upsides of any challenge. It’s what helps us persevere in times of adversity and difficulty.
Somewhere in between
If you find yourself living in a state of bouncing from one extreme to the other, you’re not alone. It’s natural for our emotions to be all over the place right now. I’m working on trying to live somewhere in between the two…the middle ground, if you will. It looks something like this.
Let go of the pre-covid-19 ideas about cleanliness…for your house and yourself. Let the dishes pile up. It’s not like someone is coming over anytime soon. Then ask everyone in the house to help with the cleanup. Kids have a lot of extra time on their hands. Give them a vacuum and a toilet brush. Even little kids can handle a dust cloth and help with wiping down light switches and handles.
Ask for a humble apology when you miss something at work. Everyone is in the same boat and it’s refreshing to see some honesty. Everyone is doing the best they can right now, from my experience. We’re all in this together.
Set some goals for this time with your kids. Don’t overreach and pack too much in, but try to use this time to build memories that will last longer than the virus. See my previous post about this.
Learn something new (maybe even with your family) that will help take your mind off the tragic nature of what’s going on in the world. Not to pretend that it doesn’t exist, because that isn’t honoring to those in the fight or the ones who’ve fallen to the virus, rather to celebrate that life will continue and we need to focus on how we can contribute to the world. Learning something new, even if it’s a craft, helps nurture your spirit. You can then pass on that joy or skill to others and help make the world a better place.
Give yourself a lot of grace when it comes to schooling your kids. Divide your day into chunks of time. For two hours in the morning, your’e helping them get going. Then you tell them that you’re switching gears and you’ll be back later to help with questions. You work for maybe four hours, then come back with them at the end of the day. Maybe you finish up work items after dinner and ask them to clean up the kitchen for you.
For additional tips on structuring your day with school in the house, see my previous post about homeschooling and look for the section on daily schedule. You can do this! It’s a learning process for you and your kids.
Your kids want to be needed. They can see that you’re stressed and overwhelmed. It feeds their desire to be needed and loved when you ask them to come through for you. They feel essential to the family unit when the can step up and help. Don’t miss the chance to give them this satisfaction. It’s a win-win!
Give yourself some time to rest during the day. I know what you’re thinking…”I don’t have time to rest right now!” That’s exactly why you must take at least 15 min to do nothing. On the couch. Without your phone. Grab a magazine. Or put on some music. Or just close your eyes and breathe. I set a timer and do this nearly every day while my toddler naps. It keeps me sane and helps prevent meltdowns in the afternoon.
The new normal
There are parts of this that will last a lifetime. People passing away without getting to say goodbye. Missed weddings, graduations, vacations, birthdays…the scars left by the Covid-19 pandemic will define a generation. You know this, and it brings you to tears.
We’re all working through what this new normal looks like. It’s affecting everyone differently but we’re all affected. Everyone is dealing with all of these ramifications differently. How you project your emotions outwardly will determine how your kids feel. Our behavior becomes their behavior. If you’re freaking out, they will, too. If you can find a way to channel that freak out onto paper, or type it out on your computer somewhere, or exercise it out of you, the whole family will be better for it.
It’s unclear how long this new normal will last. But you will outlast it. So will your kids. Let’s all work towards getting to the other side of this with stronger families, not broken ones.