Here we are in this pandemic – one year later.
Your child’s school is closed or only open part-time. Dad’s deployed or working some crazy over-time hours. There’s three kids under the age of 10 running around your house, begging you for attention, and you’re just over here trying to survive which doesn’t feel like enough because your heart so desperately wants your kids to thrive. You have no idea how to carve out quality time with your kids during a pandemic and guess what – nobody else does either.
You’re not alone in this boat, Mama. It’s OK. So, hand me a paddle, and let’s navigate through this storm together.
You know how when you’re flying and the flight attendants give a safety briefing, they always remind you to place the oxygen mask over your own face first in case of an emergency? The same applies to this situation. If we’re gonna paddle the boat of parenting through a pandemic, we need our lifejackets on first.
Don’t worry, this isn’t another self-care lecture that’s going to leave you feeling even more frustrated because you don’t have time to schedule a mani/pedi or a virtual girls’ night in. This is your reminder that a lifejacket is simply meant to help you keep your head above water.
So, what does that look like for you?
My kids aren’t tiny anymore, but one of the greatest lifejackets I’ve ever worn comes in the form of texting my best friend. Having someone I could whine to, laugh with, cry with, and do this crazy life with is what keeps me afloat. I still don’t have much time to call her, and we live in different time zones which makes it difficult. But just texting her throughout the day helps me keep my sanity. If you have someone like this in your life, now is the time to buckle up that life vest and keep that line of communication open.
Maybe you don’t need to vent. You just need to escape via a good book or a binge-worthy Netflix series. I’m not suggesting an all-day siesta on the couch, but maybe one episode or a quick chapter before bed would be enough to keep you sane while giving you something pleasant to look forward to all day. You get the idea.
The bottom line is that you don’t need to squeeze in something extravagant. Find something small that means a lot to you and hold tight to it. You deserve that much. You’re navigating a pandemic with kids!
Now that we are safely fastened into our lifejackets, we can talk a little bit about the paddles we need. The purpose of a paddle is to propel you forward. I know that’s a lot of p’s but bear with me. When we’re forced into the waters of a pandemic, we don’t want to sit still. We want to move forward. We want to get through it. We want to reach the other side. To do that, we can’t just sit in our boats with our lifejackets on and cry. We have to be armed with something that will help us push through.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re holding a paddle.
It will help you push through. If you seek out encouragement from other moms or mom groups, you are holding a paddle and pushing through. If you’re wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands, you’re holding a paddle AND helping our world push through this thing. If you’re getting vaccinated, staying home when you don’t feel well, or donating PPE to those in need, you are holding a paddle and pushing through. You’re navigating a pandemic with kids and you are pushing through! So do not feel helpless, Mama. You are armed with a paddle and while it’s been a year and we still haven’t reached the other side, we will get there if we all keep paddling.
OK. We’re in the boat, we’ve fastened our lifejackets, and we’re rowing. Now it’s time to talk about those kids who are sitting in the boat with us. You know- those passengers we’re responsible for keeping afloat. The ones who are restless and tired and cranky and really just want to go play with their friends again.
It’s really easy to get annoyed at their whining when we’re the ones doing all the rowing and life-saving, but truth be told, they have every right to whine. Their lives have been flipped upside down. Their parents are super stressed out, and it rubs off on them. They haven’t seen their friends in a long time. The world is super scary. All the adults on the news seem angry.
That’s a lot for their little hearts to take in.
So to help them feel safe, let’s start by making sure they have lifejackets on, too. Their lifejackets will look different than ours. Theirs might look like daily Facetiming with friends from school, with Grandma, or other important people in their lives that they are missing. Maybe their lifejacket is a walk outside every day or simply not being exposed to the news. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just something to keep their little heads above water.
Because we’re all good mamas here who love our kids and want to see them thrive during this pandemic, not just merely survive it, it’s important that we look at ways to entertain our passengers while we navigate this storm. Sure, we could plop them down in front of the TV (and there will be times that this will honestly be the best thing we can do for them in that moment!). But our kids need and deserve much more than that.
We could pretend that there is no pandemic and life is just rosy, but kids are smart enough to see through that. So why not embrace the suck and find some awesome adventures to enjoy together.
Can’t hit the gym while the kids are at daycare? Take up family hiking! Bummed about Scouts being canceled? Take your own family camping trip! Missing your visits to Grandma & Grandpa’s? In addition to Facetiming them, take up the habit of sending them weekly letters, pictures, coloring pages, etc… While you’re at it, send some cards to a local nursing home, elderly neighbors, or a senior group at your church.
My point is that life IS different right now, whether we like it or not, so let’s make the most of it.
We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We don’t have to stretch ourselves thin to accomplish the impossible. Let’s take a moment to reevaluate our daily activities and think about how we can make some simple adjustments to accommodate this ongoing “adventure.”
Personal Time with Passengers
As another mama recently pointed out to me, one of the greatest struggles throughout this pandemic has been finding one-on-one time with our kids. This task can be hard enough during a normal year, but during a pandemic, quality time can be difficult to achieve for both parents and children. If your spouse is deployed or working longer hours, this task can feel darn near impossible.
So, what’s a mom to do? I’m no pandemic expert but I am a mom of 5, so I humbly offer up these suggestions in hopes that at least one option might be suitable to you and your situation:
- Utilize the high chair, the pack-n-play, the swing, or any other device that will keep a little one immobile for a few minutes so you can read a book, bake cookies, or enjoy time in some other way with an older child.
- Take advantage of nap time. Yes, it’s a great time to catch up on your to-do list, to squeeze in a much-needed nap for yourself, or to spend time with an older child… but depending on how your kids respond to a day without a nap, consider letting one of your little ones stay up for a little extra snuggle time. Even if it’s just for 30 minutes, a little one-on-one time goes a long way.
- If Dad is gone, let them take turns sleeping in bed with you. Share extra snuggles and bedtime stories before bed.
- Barter with another mom in your bubble. Do you have a close friend that you are still doing things with? Do you know another mom who is bravely navigating this pandemic with kids? Trade off with her to ensure you both get the one-on-one time with your kids that they’re craving.
- Give extra screen time. If your kids are older, consider allowing extra TV, game, or computer time for your kids while you spend quality one-on-one time with each one.
- Even if one-on-one time is impossible to come by, ask your kids about their day individually. Go around the table at dinner and ask each one about their favorite thing that happened that day. Or ask some other fun question to each one. What is your favorite superhero? What is one place you’d like to visit? What is your favorite tv show? Listen carefully and ask follow-up questions. It’s the little things that make kids feel important.
While I’m sure child psychologists have many more ideas than I do, as a fellow mom in the boat with you, I just want to encourage you to keep paddling.
The fact that you’re even reading a this shows that you love your kids and are concerned about how this pandemic is affecting them. Keep your chin up, Mama. You’re doing a great job. And we’re all paddling right alongside you. Pull your boat up and tie it off to mine when your arms need a break, and I’ll do the same. Together, we’ll get to the other side.