These are strange times, many of us knew this virus was spreading but very few of us could have anticipated how our day to day lives would have been impacted. Being a working mother of a very active toddler I have been faced with a new reality of trying to maintain an income through online work while not neglecting my child; who is now looking to me more than ever for structure and stimulation in a time where he cannot understand why he is home or why he cannot see his grandparents or his friends at school. It has indeed been one of the most challenging experiences of my parenting thus far as I cannot ‘pass the buck’ to the teacher or sitter for help; as a parent I am now forced to come up with a system or program to keep my child meaningfully engaged at home. Through this struggle I have found some things to be helpful that I would like to share with other working mothers/parents:
- Find a structure of school work and play that works for you and your child: This allows your child to feel engaged with fun learning activities that includes not just book work but art and craft activities, I would also encourage utilizing tools from their toy box in structuring day to day activities that balances fun with learning. This helps with buy-in and compliance
- Leave some time for unstructured play: While a routine and structure are helpful, monotony is not. My child gets bored quickly and is eager to find new ways of engaging with the world. You need to go with their rhythm sometimes and this can be an amazing way of connecting with them and strengthening your relationship at the same time.
- Embrace creativity while leaving room for nurturing responsibility and autonomy: For children leaving room in the schedule for them to choose what they want to do from day to day is very important in them exercising their autonomy while balancing with instructing them on what we must do. Giving them choices helps them to feel like there is something in this situation that they can control, it helps to lessen the uncertainty of their lives at the moment.
- Honour your feelings-Accept that you will have low moments and will feel stressed out: The plan does not always work and things do fall apart. I am trying to challenge myself to be curious about what these moments can teach me while honouring what I feel at the same time. This is new, this is not easy, be gentle with yourself!
- Go outside and play! : Part of our routine is at least 30 minutes to an hour of physical exercise, it also involves for me grounding myself- sitting and breathing in the air, listening to the birds, feeling the sun on my face, the breeze blowing on my skin and noticing how that feels after being cooped up all day. This has helped me to cope in moments where I felt the tension in my body rising to an uncomfortable level.
- Make time for your partner: As we are both working at home, this can feel hard to do but relationships can really suffer during this time if we are only attending to the kids and not our partner who also needs our loving attention. There are times where I will just sit and listen to him express his frustration and not necessarily talk him through it but be present enough for him to feel heard and cared for.
- Regularly connect with loved ones: It feels like I am living abroad as now video calls are the new normal! Hearing their voices, seeing their faces, knowing they are well despite the distance, also sustains well-being. I would also encourage this to be done with your child’s friends so they can have virtual playdates and feel connected to their little people too!
- Connect with nature: While social distancing is important, I have also found it helpful to take a drive once in awhile put the windows down, get some fresh air and change of scenery from time to time. We don’t interact with people during these runs but it helps to get a shift in the environment-it has lessened my ‘sitr crazy’ feeling that can easily come with being quarantined.
- Check in on other parents who have kids, build a virtual support network: It helps to know you are not alone in the struggle and ensure that others you care for are okay. I also check in with my friends/colleagues who have kids and openly share my struggle to normalize this feeling of frustration and anxiety.
- Re-affirm your identity: I am a working mother/parent who is doing his/her best in uncertain times. I will strive to be open and curious, while taking responsibility for structuring my household in a way that allows us to cope. This also requires taking time to listen to others in your home, including your kids (their opinions and voices are important too!) and being flexible in adjusting to the day to day struggles. This means at times not doing the scheduled book work for the day and attending to your child’s emotional needs which will shift from day to day as the quarantine extends.
The important thing to remember is that while things feel uncertain you can make choices each day to make it less challenging than the day before. Be open and curious about what this time can allow for your family. It actually allowed me to finally be able to potty train my toddler where I was struggling before! Being able to show gratitude for what this uncertain time has brought me has also been eye opening, the insight that it has given me is understanding that sometimes, slowing down, things not going to plan can give you opportunities to grow and connect with those you love in ways you did not imagine before. On other low days, remember you do not have to do this alone. Dolly and Associates is here to help.