It's time to lower your parenting expectations while you're sheltering in place during the Coronavirus outbreak and do not feel guilty about it.
Isn’t this an amazing time in our lives to bond with our children and partners? Spending our days doing messy science projects and adorable arts and crafts. Snuggling up at the end of a fulfilling day with our partner watching Netflix and reconnecting. Ah, yes, these are the days! The world has stopped around us and allowed us to savor every moment with those we love the most.
I’m just kidding. The damn world is on fire and my house is pure chaos. I wish I could be the person that shits rainbows and butterflies, however, I live in the real world of parenting. I now live in the world of homeschooling, parenting, working from home, and listening to my husband chew his food. It’s a lot. And as we know, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I would argue even more so with children underfoot.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. It may not be Pinterest perfect but we can get through it all, even our partners eating potato chips. My three big tips: lower your expectations, worry less about schedules, and exercise in the fresh air.
Set the bar low. Actually, just throw the bar out.
Honestly, my expectations were already pretty low. I have 8-year-old twin boys. They are beginning to smell, they still don’t flush the toilet, and they like to roll in the mud. My limbo stick is near the ground. I originally went into remote learning with the idea that I would find all of these awesome experiments online and we would all really enjoy learning together. Well, after day three of tears, yelling, stressed-out kids, and giant messes, I found those same experiments on YouTube. No mess. No tears. No yelling. And we still learned the fundamentals. Score one point for me.
Their schoolwork is really just busy work at this point. From what I can see neither of my boys are learning new skills. We do the required work and then I have them read quietly for 20 minutes. There is not much teaching coming from me. I am more of a guide or tutor. I am totally okay with that.
If you have set time limits on screen time, up it. I am not sure how parents that are working at home with children are not using screen time right now. It is the only peace I get at this point unless I kick them out of the house. This is the exception. I am giving you permission to let your kids watch as much screen time as needed for your sanity.
Worry less about schedules
Worry less. HAHA! Right. Tell the girl with the anxiety disorder to worry less! I know, it’s generally not helpful, but hear me out. Worry less about the crap that really doesn’t matter. Didn’t get the dishes done? Screw it. The kids haven’t bathed in five days? They will get one tomorrow. The math work due on Tuesday didn’t get done until Thursday because you were actually having a snuggle/movie day – good for you. Let your kids know that this is not a time to stress about the little things. Let them play.
I would argue play is even more important now that ever before. When children play they use their imaginations, develop communication skills and learn important conflict-resolution skills. But play can’t be scheduled. Play is open-ended. Play can help ease an anxious child’s mind. I have two very anxious boys. Most of their fears come out when we are playing together and I can incorporate solutions to help them through it.
I have worked from home for a long time now. I only own sweatpants and leggings. Jeans or “hard pants” are not allowed in my wardrobe. My advice to those newly working from home with kids: pick times of the day or night to work but be open to odd hours. 4 am is such a quiet time to get so much work done if you are a morning person. After 10 pm is great if you are a night owl. I am a permanently exhausted person.
Get some fresh air
Social distancing is our jam these days but it doesn’t mean we can’t get outside. I am lucky that I live in a place where we have hiking trails everywhere. But even if you don’t live near trails or wide-open spaces, you can still get out and walk your neighborhood. Fresh air is almost like a reset button for my kids. I am still looking for the on/off switch. They usually come home from a hike dirty, tired, and having accidentally learned something about nature in the process.
We have also taken these outdoor opportunities to earn badges for Cub Scouts since so many take place outside. Scavenger hunts around your neighborhood are easy and fun to do too. Plus, if you have a dog, they will thank you with puppy kisses (almost as good as baby kisses.)
Give yourself some grace. This is hard. It is a scary time to be an adult and especially a parent. It’s totes cool if your house is a hot mess and everyone's still wearing yesterday’s pajamas. Day drinking is acceptable during a pandemic I hear too. Hey! It’s just what I heard.
Laura Birks is a freelance writer and essayist. She lives in New Jersey with her twin boys, a dog, a couple of cats and a husband. When she’s not doling out medicine or cleaning up vomit, she is writing. Her house is in a constant state of disarray and the laundry is never put away. She likes to pretend she is superwoman but the truth is, she is a mere mortal with a messy house. Find her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest