Are you ready for a flowery blog post about treasuring this unexpected bonding time with your children and your spouse?
No? Good. If that is what you were looking for then you’re in the wrong place.
This pandemic/quarantine/self isolation/social distancing/coronavirus/COVID-19 is poop on a stick!*
*I went through a variety of more colourful adjectival phrases, but decided to keep it G-rated because my son can read now.
Yes, some parents are crafting, baking, nature hiking, meditating, colour-code scheduling up a storm while working from home like the mom and dad bosses they are. And some parents are just sharing the 30 seconds during which their children are cooperative angels and they are productive worker bees in their newly minted home office because that’s just the kind of curated content we humans like to share. But most of us are spending the remaining 23 hours, 59 minutes and 30 seconds in our own version of purgatory.
Ok, so I am prone to hyperbole. One thing I can say for sure is that my experience of social distancing (which I have heard more aptly referred to as “physical distancing”) is really decent compared to a whole lot of folks in my city, province, country and around the world.
View this post on Instagram
This is a very stressful and high emotion time. If you need structure, schedule, routine to make sense of this – DO IT! If you need to submerge in playtime, electronics, whatever to get through the day – DO IT! Whatever helps you, your anxiety, your mental health, your wellbeing… is what will help your children the most during this time! And PLEASE be kind to others. There is so much information – it’s overwhelming and easy to fall into the comparison, I’m not doing enough, I’m a failure trap. Please do not add to another mom’s stress by speaking negatively. Please be connecting, supporting, and kind. We need each other now more than ever! Biggest hugs. Hang in there mamas @mimosaswithmoms • • #mimosaswithmoms #mom #moms #momssupportingmoms #bekind #kindness #kindnessmatters #motherhood #motherhoodunited #momfriends #momtribe #supportingmoms #empoweringmoms #momtruth #momlife #lifewithkids #momminainteasy #nicemom #kindmom #supermom #stayingconnected #feelingconnected #motherhoodinspired #honestmom #nojudgement
For one, no one in my immediate family unit is at risk of suffering grave complications (or worse) should any of us contract the virus. For two, I am not a healthcare worker on the frontlines with inadequate personal protective equipment. For three, I am not working in any one of the less glamorous (and lower paid) service jobs, getting yelled at by scared customers. For four, my family has the basic security I know has been so suddenly taken away from so many because of the ripple effect of this pandemic. My husband can work effectively from home, and his job is secure; I am not fretting daily about how to pay bills, keep a roof over our heads, keep the kids fed AND not catch a novel virus. I know many, many folks are.
View this post on Instagram
Follow @_happyasamother for more validating content. It feels like the wild wild west in these parenthood streets. Tag a friend who is showing up to juggle. all the. things. during isolation. I see you and all that you are doing 🖤 Tomorrow I have a special Coping with Covid podcast episode dropping with the amazing @southbaymommyandme. We will talk realistic expectations, managing anxiety, finding hope and so much more. Search Happy as a Mother on iTunes, Google podcasts and/or Spotify and subscribe so you don't miss out! #happyasamother
At the same time, I very much miss the repose afforded by my son being at school all day and my daughter being at preschool for half days. I miss all of the activities that helped pass the day with the twins, because the more occupied I could keep them, the less they would bite each other. I am sad that my kids’ school year was cut short and that they can’t see their friends. I am sad that my daughter is unlikely to wear the (pricey) dance costume we just received for the recital she’s been practicing for since September. I am sad that the visit my brother was planning at Easter is unlikely to happen except virtually. And all this sadness is okay, and I let myself experience it and I let the kids experience it, because we all know what good concealing and not feeling did for Elsa.
In other words, I hate this, but I am a glass-half-full kinda gal.
When I feel my most sad or my most frustrated, I try my best to remember the bright sides, the things I actually like about this new normal. In the many, many moments throughout my days spent trying to keep my four kids occupied and out of their father’s office—when I feel like either crying or screaming—here are some of the things I try to remember:
1– Mornings aren’t frantic
As much as I enjoy having 50% fewer kids in my charge for at least part of the day, getting everyone out of the house for school drop-off is my least favourite part of the day. And now I don’t have to do it!
The twins and my daughter had recently started sleeping later (don’t ask me how or why, it’s just happened and I’m rolling with it), and this led to even more chaotic mornings because kids who’ve just been woken up and are told to hurry lest they make their brother late are not as cooperative as one might hope. Now I get to sleep till almost eight!
My oldest gets up on his own and plays iPad or watches TV (and he has finally stopped insisting on TELLING me he is getting up), and although I tell myself I will get up before the little ones so I can get something productive done, I just wake up when the twins do. (Although after writing this last night, this morning I got to wake up to frantic yelling for assistance in the bathroom …)
2– We’re finally doing yoga
Although I have finally realized that all of the memes and blog lists of things to accomplish during one’s newfound spare time are NOT directed at me, not having to do the daily school drop-off ritual has freed up the patience I require to finally do a little morning yoga routine with some or all of my kids.
We have been watching Cosmic Kids and Mini Yoga (in French). I am not an exerciser by nature but I have always loved yoga, and both of these YouTube channels entertain the kids while I stretch and breathe. (Well, the twins basically just scream and try to climb all over me, but I am still managing more stretching than I was pre-pandemic.)
Clearly I jinxed myself, because this morning I was forbidden from participating in our morning yoga session as my daughter wanted to do it all by herself.
3– My kids still like me
One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is how absolutely miserable I would’ve made my parents’ lives were I to have been obliged to socially distance myself from my friends as a teenager. Two of my cousins have had their Grade 12 year cut short by COVID-19, and I have been thinking a lot about how I would’ve reacted to this as the obnoxiously, regrettably self-centred (albeit very bright) teenager I once was.
While I’d like to think I’d have been stepping up to help those in need, I kind of suspect I’d have been crushed by the absolute injustice of it all and instead spend my time writing rage-filled poetry in my journal and sneaking out to see my boyfriend.
All that being said, I am grateful that my children are all in the stage of their lives when I am without a doubt their absolute favourite person to spend time with. (Aside from their father when he’s playing video games with them.) We are likely to be stuck under one roof for many more weeks to come, and I’m grateful that at least for them, this is a thoroughly pleasant arrangement.
4– We are enjoying our new home
I cannot overstate the extent to which I am glad we moved into our new house before this all started. Our townhouse was far too small for our needs, but I was making it work by leaving it as much as possible during the day. Being confined to our backyardless former home without any private space for my older kids (or me) to hide from their twin siblings and without any space for my twins to run rampant would’ve been a very unfortunate way to spend the next few months.
While our townhouse is still for sale and causing us a great deal of financial strain, every time I get the two-mortgage-payment blues, I remember that I now have a master bedroom that does not also have a bunk bed and toys in it. I have my own office space that is not in the kitchen. My older kids have their own rooms. We have space to be apart even when forced to always be together. We have a yard!
5– My son loves reading (Translation: I am not “homeschooling”)
Yes he also loves screen time. But I don’t have to get into battles with him about taking screen breaks; if I tell him he gets an hour to play iPad and I remember to tell him when his hour is up, he will put away the iPad within a few minutes of being asked … repeatedly.
During a normal school week, he is limited to an hour of screen time which is usually stretched to 90 minutes. This is, of course, no longer the case. Things are not normal! He is playing plenty of iPad and watching plenty of YouTube.
I do not consider whatever situation we have now been thrust into as “homeschooling.” I have a Bachelor of Education, and I do not consider myself capable of homeschooling, and I also know that legit home-schoolers in normal times are not confined to their homes. Right now my son’s school is technically on spring break, but next week when teachers are back, his teacher will communicate with us about what work needs to be done. Alberta Education has issued guidelines stating that Grade 2 students will be expected to do 5 hours of work per week. And that is FINE by me. I am not downloading lesson plans to try to compensate for the other 25 hours of school he is missing every day because that is not humanly possible (nor do I, as a former educator, think it is necessary).
Anyway, what does this have to do with the fact that he loves to read? Well because for him reading is a leisure activity, so I am not fighting with him to get him to do it. He’s exercising his imagination, growing his vocabulary in English and French and learning all kinds of random factoids, and I’m not having to lift a finger, except to find him more material to read. So basically, I’m not worried that his education is going to suffer, nor that our parent/child relationship is going to suffer, because books are educational and he loves books. And every day when he scurries up to his room to read, I am grateful for this!
6– My twins have no clue what is going on
This pandemic is kind of scary, amiright? My oldest has a pretty good understanding of the situation, and I think that our willingness to talk about it and address any worries he might have keeps him feeling secure. As far as he’s concerned, the main consequence of the coronavirus is he gets to play more iPad and read more books. (He’s not a super social kid … if he was this would be a whole lot harder.)
While my son can at times get a bit worried about the virus, he’s fairly pragmatic about it. (Also creative: he drew a Minecraft portal on our driveway in chalk and tried a variety of strategies to get sucked into it and out of this mess.) My daughter, on the other hand, is only 4 and cannot understand why I’m keeping her from her friends, or why she can’t go “pet” our neighbour’s baby we just met (from a safe distance). It’s frustrating for her because she doesn’t really get it. It’s frustrating for me because her whining is devastatingly annoying. For this reason, my 2-year-old twins’ blissful obliviousness is a blessing. They are happy as clams to be home with their siblings all day. They love to go outside and roll their Hot Wheels up and down our driveway or just walk up and down the sidewalk. They won’t remember this high anxiety time when our whole lives got cancelled.
7- My husband gets home early
My husband used to love occasionally working from home. Emphasis here on occasionally.
Working from home every day sucks for him! Suddenly, bathroom breaks are done in the company of his children. There are no lunch breaks with colleagues or gym workouts. There’s no quiet commute. I do get jealous when I hear him on the phone with a colleague, and I can tell their chat has become social rather than professional while I’m up to my eyeballs in kids, and I have noticed him closing a YouTube browser surreptitiously when I poke my head in, but otherwise I really do not envy his situation. If anything, I benefit most from his working from home because instead of being home at 6 p.m., often after the twins’ bedtime and definitely after I’ve fed everyone, he can be “home” closer to 4. Having four hands on deck for two more hours than usual feels like an absolute luxury, and since I’m more harried than usual when he gets “home,” it is a luxury I am grateful for every day.
Hopefully, every single one of us can find slivers of silver lining in whatever unforeseen scenario the COVID-19 pandemic has stranded us in, and I hope my personal list of silver strands has cheered or distracted you for a few minutes.
As we say here in Calgary: “Clean hands, clear heads, open hearts.”