Updated: Mar 8, 2021
It’s already March and for many, especially in Southern California, kids have been home from school for almost a year. March 13, 2020 was the last time I was physically at work and my kids at school. At first, I thought to myself “Ok, we can do this. I will make a schedule, stick to it, spend quality time at home with my family, and wait this thing out.” I don’t think I was prepared for all that has happened. Recently, I find that I am more tired, or should I say downright exhausted.
I thought that being at home would make it easier for me to finish my dissertation and manage things. Well, I was wrong. After talking to a few friends who are in my circle of support, better known as my self-care squad, I realized that many of us are masking so much more than our mouth and nose. We are masking our feelings about how challenging this “new normal” really is. It took me a while to realize that my sleep patterns are off and I’m experiencing a bit of anxiety that I didn’t experience before COVID-19.
Nowadays I find that I am irritated easily, less patient, frustrated because I have no time alone, and I look forward to finding reasons to drive to Target in the next city over just to pick up items, that most of the time, I don’t need. Somedays I feel like my husband has invisible powers because my kids walk right past him and ask me for help in the middle of an online meeting or training.
For a while, I felt so guilty about not having enough time or energy at the end of my day to read to my daughter, who recently turned 5. While I was working and facilitating online meetings and training during the day she was teaching herself on her tablet by watching the Baby Alive Doll channel on YouTube and occasional ABC Mouse and Starfall. I felt so guilty but was excited when I found a private teacher who has worked wonders with her since September 2020.
As for my sons, they are hanging in there too. I was extremely upset when my 8-year old’s teacher sent home a progress report showing that he is at or above grade level in 6 areas, but approaching or below grade level in 4 areas, and checked a box on the progress report indicating that my son DOES NOT demonstrate characteristics of a successful student. As a former school counselor and mom who believes that my kids’ social-emotional well-being is first and foremost, especially now, I was not happy and talked to his teacher about how that negatively impacts him and other students who are doing their best right now. I asked her how she came to that conclusion when he has 6 in the positive category and 4 in areas for growth. I also asked if she thought about how that would make an 8-year-old feel who shows up to class every day for the entire 3 hours of daily online instruction in a dual immersion Spanish class after learning how to transition from face-to-face learning to distance learning during a pandemic where people are dying every day. I think she’s doing the best she can, but I would never criticize her for trying the best she can as a new mom teaching online during a pandemic.
Whatever you do during this time, continue to be your child’s biggest and best advocate. Your child needs you to speak up for him or her and know you are their biggest supporter. Academics are important, but their mental health is just as important. Check-in with your child often about how they feel during this time of social isolation.
Learning to create balance is so important for parents right now. Some parents are taught to put their child first no matter what and I used to feel that way. As time went on, I realized that if I don’t put myself first by prioritizing my mental and physical health, I would be no good to the people who need me the most. So I made some changes. I am slowly learning how to create more balance in my life while working from home with kids participating in distance learning. If you’re wondering what you can do to create balance here are a few tips:
Find a way to carve out time for yourself once a day; it might be early in the morning before kids wake up or late at night, but find a little bit of time that’s just for you.
Create a circle of support or “self-care squad”; these are people you can count on to listen to you when you need someone to talk to and provide encouragement and support.
Ask for help (Ex. Your child’s school might offer free tutoring, but you won’t know if you don’t ask)
Find time to do COVID-19 safe activities with your kids. Some of those include:
Ride bikes in the park
Skate in the park
Make time for a family movie
Try family goal setting or vision board making
Try online painting through your local paint studio, similar to Painting With a Twist (ask about classes for kids)
Have a family game night with your favorite board game
Find a local drive-in movie theater to check out the latest movie
Work on at-home do-it-yourself science/STEM projects together
Learn new hobbies together
Get dressed up and take your own seasonal family pictures at home
Think of a new business that you and your kids can start together
Exercise when possible
Read a new book
Find an interesting TV series to watch with more than one season
Take a relaxing bath whenever possible
Take an interesting online class that will allow you to learn something new
Create a bucket list
Bottom line is, it’s ok to not be ok. Mom-guilt during a pandemic will definitely take a toll on you so be kind to yourself. These are new times and the world is still adjusting to the “new normal”. You are not alone if you’ve been feeling frustrated, tired, and lack the motivation to do things you normally did before. If you don’t feel like yourself and talking to someone in your circle of support is not good enough, make sure you get help. If you’re unsure of who to contact for help, visit some of the sites below for more information: