It’s the end of a full month of quarantine for a lot of us and reality is just setting in that what we thought would be a 2-week shutdown, in the beginning, looks more like a three-month shut down every day. We know how tough it is when it comes to adjusting family life to this new normal.
For most, week 1 was about preparation. Wrapping our heads around what exactly was happening and bulking up on groceries and cleaning supplies (for better or for worse) to make sure that our families were prepared to wait it out. Week 2 and 3 were about realizing. Realizing how quickly life has changed and how quickly we’re expected to adjust to these changes. Suddenly you turned from working parent or a stay-at-homer to a homeschooling parent, while still being expected to gracefully complete all the other parent jobs and work jobs you were already doing.
Now that we’ve reached the end of week 4 of quarantine, the reality check that this is our new normal is seriously overwhelming. We have uncomfortably settled into a daily routine of 24/7 parent, teacher, house cleaner, chef, nurse, kid therapist (and probably partner therapist too). And while it’s amazing to see parents, teachers and other providers come out of the woodwork lately to share kid activity ideas and learning resources, it’s also putting a ton of pressure on us to be the best teacher, parent, therapist, etc.
We’re going through a rollercoaster of emotions, and the mental load we’re carrying for our family members is weighing us down now more than ever. But together, and with some small mindset tweaks, we can overcome the overload. This isn’t about putting on more pressure to create a home-schooling routine or make sure that everyone and everything is taken care of. It’s about how we’re all adjusting to this new reality and how we don’t have to fix everything right away. These are a few steps that can help you that you don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself.
The first step to overcoming the overload is to recognize how you’re feeling right now because when you’re out of touch with your feelings you can’t be in control of anything else. Allow yourself to grieve the school closures, the canceled girls’ nights and birthday parties, and on the flip side, allow yourself to enjoy the fact that you’re probably having more family dinners than ever right now. You are finally spending that good quality time you have always missed when you are busy doing other things.
Realize you have time to adjust together more than anything. Your kids don’t have to be on a perfect schedule just yet and neither do you. It will take many, many tweaks before you settle into a routine that works for everyone, and that’s OK. You have time to adjust, and you’re not alone. Take advantage of your work from home coworkers, your partner, older siblings to help younger siblings, grandparents over FaceTime and teachers or babysitters over Zoom. Let them help your kids through homework, playtime and clean up time when you can’t. Take help where you can get it!
Rise above by giving yourself permission to prioritize YOU (and give another mom or dad permission to do the same). Your self-care probably happens after everything else is in its place and after everyone else is taken care of. You put yourself last, and that is NOT OK. Prioritizing your personal needs and what really matters for your family is more important right now than ever until this fog rises. So, start small and don’t rush the process.
But if you’ve stuck your needs somewhere behind that dark space behind the fridge for so long (that fridge your kids will NOT stop opening) and you don’t know where to start, take some inspiration from this guideline for parents.
7 days of self-care for parents (social distancing edition)
This is a guideline for parents to prioritize personal care every day through small tweaks that lead to big lifestyle changes. This could be a 7-day, a two-week or a month-long adjustment for you. What matters is that you make the adjustment in time and take time to adjust everything else.
Day 1: Do one thing this morning that makes YOU feel good before doing anything for anyone else. Whether you grab a cuppa and drink it while it’s hot or go outside for a moment to breathe in some fresh air, this is your time.
Day 2: Delegate one thing you usually do for others. It could be small task kids can do without supervision like sweeping or setting the table, or a big task your partner or older child can take over like making dinner or folding laundry.
Day 3: Think about 3 activities you do alone for yourself that make you feel happy, relaxed, energized, inspired or any other way you like to feel. Pick one you can do today and create a habit of it. Whether its watching your favorite tv show, doing a face mask or chatting with a friend.
Day 4: Recognize how social distancing is making you feel today through drawing, painting or clay. While you create, think about what activities make these feelings weaker and stronger. Use your creation as a reminder.
Day 5: Journal about your personal goals for getting through social distancing. Are they emotional, spiritual or health-related? Now consider a simple activity that fulfills one of those goals and does it often.
Day 6: Make a list of 3 things you’ve accomplished this week for yourself. Soak in that feeling of accomplishment and be proud of it.
Day 7: Write yourself a love letter and promise to continue at least 1 of these challenges every week because when you take better care of yourself you can take better care of your family.
Alissa Lopez is the founder of FamiliesDo coaching and former nanny of 9 years who lives in Cedar Grove, NJ. Learn how she helps parents overcome the overload by clearing the path in their busy lifestyle for family balance and turning guilt into confidence on FamiliesDo.com.