On a regular day, parenting is hard.
But during a pandemic – especially one that brings mass uncertainty around options for childcare and school – it feels damn near impossible.
These kids are driving me crazy. I spend many days lookin' like a Cynthia doll. If I weren't so exhausted, I would be in awe of the creativity and determination they show in pushing me to limits each day.
After four months of chaos, I think I've FINALLY discovered how to minimize the blow of parenting two under five while working, preparing for grad school, and trying to stay engaged in the community during a pandemic.
Here are a few suggestions that I hope will help you keep your sanity, from a mom who's lost it!
Schedule Tf Up
If you're going to survive parenting, let alone working from home during the pandemic, you have to develop a schedule.
Typically, I'm not too fond of schedules. I used to say, "What's the point of being at home if I still have to pre-plan my day? Schedules are for losers." I was wrong. While I lived in the imaginary world of free-range parenting, my children were having regular meetings to map out getting on my nerves.
Without a routine, the only thing that I could predict is that I would be on the path to a breakdown by Wednesday, each week. The first shift I made was a naptime – also called reflection time for my oldest - that is firmly observed from noon to two daily. Once I knew that there would be two hours reserved for breathing deeply into a paper bag, it was easier to schedule other things like meals, work hours, and family time.
I've learned that failing to plan is planning to fail. Your schedule doesn't have to be rigid to help you orient the rest of your day.
And dare I say it, our routine is saving my life.
Once you've added some structure to your day, it's easier to find hobbies that will keep you and the kids busy. If you're a workaholic like I am, hobbies also serve as a reminder to stop working and spend time loving the family that you're working so hard to provide for.
There are three types of hobbies in our home: those that the kids can do without me (reading books, video chatting with grandma and watching tv), those that we do together (card games, gardening, and imaginative play), and those that I do without the children (gardening, going for walks, and jewelry making).
Their solo hobbies keep them busy while I do work. Our collective hobbies force me to interact with them and display the love they deserve, so they know that they are a priority in my life. My solo hobbies give me the mental health breaks that I need after rushing to make a million deadlines with infinitely hungry and needy mini-humans.
We're shifting so that the bulk of the tv and activities that we do together are educational, so learning is mixed in with play. (I just wish they had a "clean up after yourself and stop stealing chips" hobby.)
Give Yourself Grace
Having grace with myself must be the most important thing I've learned so far. As I've said, parenting is hard – even when all other factors are perfect.
There will be days that you lose it and scream at the kids and they burst into tears. Sometimes, you'll ask them to stop doing something and they'll ignore you like you’re speaking another language. And you can bet your bottom dollar that a poopy diaper, massive spill, or the dog will be let out the front door exactly when you're at breaking point. There will even be times that you experience all three.
The critical thing to remember is that you're performing a public good through your efforts to raise kind, loving humans. Complain to your friends, complain to your mom, write mean things about them in your journal. But PLEASE don't internalize the lie that you have to be a perfect parent to be a good parent.
I've committed my life to #freeblackmotherhood. For me, that means knowing that I will fail, but all of us – kids included – will learn from my mistakes. Find the modeling of parenting that leaves you feeling safe, supportive, and encouraged during hard times.
It ain't easy. But we'll all be ok!