Does this slower pandemic life have a silver lining for stressed parents?

Does the pandemic shutdown have a silver lining for stressed parents

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Let me start by saying I miss my daily activities. I never wanted to be a mom who was just home all day. And so my son and I had daily activities we left the house for. 

Of course, that all changed in March when gatherings and events went away. No matter what side of the debate you’re on about the shutdowns across the nation, there might be one silver lining: you can reevaluate what you’re involved in and how much you run around. 

Maybe having something scheduled every day isn’t necessary. Toddlers need unstructured play. And maybe the less I’m involved in, the more I can focus on my family. 

Ultimately, more family time could become the silver lining of what’s shaping up to be a challenging time globally. 

The pandemic’s effect on work-at-home moms

As a freelancing business owner, the sudden drop in business once many companies were forced to close was challenging. But it had a silver lining. I could strategically choose new clients and partners that better fit my working style and remove some of the more stressful people and scenarios that make my work-at-home mom life hard. 

And as a mom, I’m focused on my son. We eat lunch with dad each day, spend at least an hour outside and try hard to laugh and play as much as possible.

I’m sure mommies with multiple children or school-aged children that they were suddenly homeschooling have it much harder than I do. And so maybe this silver lining I’m talking about isn’t there for you.

For me, there are a few key areas where I can see I’ve grown over the last two months and I hope to keep growing from. 

Filling our work-at-home mom with toddler time

If you’d told me two months ago that I’d fall into a good rhythm with strong daily routines without going anywhere, I’d probably have laughed at you. In the early weeks, it felt like I might die of boredom, and I think my son had similar sentiments. 

Then I got creative and have been shocked how well we can fill our work-at-home mom with toddler days. Routine has been crucial for me, but I also don’t put too much pressure on myself to be strict about routine. I never force it because that might cause more stress, but a gentle guide toward routine can help. 

Here’s what our days generally look like:

  • 6:20 wake up for me with work until my son wakes up
  • 8/8:30 my son wakes up and the day really begins. We eat breakfast and get ready for the day. 
  • 9 I work out with Walk Away the Pounds while he plays
  • 10 unstructured playtime for him with some educational tv mixed in while I get some more work done
  • 11 we head outside and I run a couple of miles with him in the stroller. Then we play outside.  
  • 12 lunchtime with dad! It’s one of my favorite times of the day because it’s my adult socialization time. Plus, I get to take a shower in peace while my husband feeds our little guy. 
  • 1 music class. My sister-in-law signed us up for an online music class to teach sensory and other toddler learning through music. 
  • 1:30 head upstairs to read books to slow things down for naptime. 
  • 2 nap time for my toddler and work time for me. I also brew another pot of coffee and my husband emerges from the basement for our afternoon cup of coffee. It’s a brief encounter but nice to have adult interaction even just to say hi. 
  • 4/4:30 my son wakes up. We play, clean the kitchen to prep for dinner, and I finish up any work that must get done for the day. 
  • 5:30 dad “comes home from work” (shhh we’re a few months in and out little guy still doesn’t know dad is working from home)
  • 6:30 dinner
  • 7:30 evening walk
  • 8 books and bedtime wind down
  • 8:15/8:30 bedtime for our toddler

Avoiding the boredom trap

Early on, my mom friends were sending me recipes for homemade slime and toddler sensory experiences. I sort of just chuckled to myself because my toddler can’t sit still for any of that.

So avoiding the boredom trap looked different for us. It meant playing outside even when it was still 30-degrees in April. Some days it meant running circles around the dining room table because he thought it was funny and I liked standing up and doing something for a change.

Make a list of creative activities you can do when you or your child gets bored. It sounds silly on the surface, but it’s super helpful in the end.

Not getting sucked into too much screen time

You know those pandemic memes about people “finishing Netflix,” early on, that was probably me. I’m pretty sure I’ve completed 4-5 different series on Netflix in just three months. Yikes!

It’s easy to lean on screen time during these long days at home. But I urge you (and me) not to. 

That’s where the schedule has been really nice. We don’t fall into a rut of not knowing what to do and defaulting to the screen. 

On rainy days, we run around upstairs. I don’t know why, but my toddler loves to run from bedroom to bedroom squealing with delight. And a change in scenery breaks up the monotony. It’s different for everyone I’m sure, so find what activities work for you.

Keep looking at the bright side

The pandemic has no end in sight. Even as our state starts to slowly reopen things, I’m not anticipating storytime at the library to return anytime soon. All the activities we used to take part in are classified as non-essential and not worth the risk.

So with no end in sight, it’s easy to feel down and depressed about the situation. I’m going to encourage you not to do that to yourself.

Make a list of the good parts about this slower time of life. Stop counting what you’ve lost and count what you’ve earned. I’ll never be able to replicate these days with my toddler and the excitement he experiences when one of the neighbors starts up their mower (some days, I contemplate paying the neighbors to mow just to entertain him!). 

Hang in there and know that someday, you might look back on these days with a sense of longing and nostalgia. 

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