Stumbling Towards a New Normal
These days, amidst the social distancing and self-isolation brought about by the arrival of COVID-19, most of us are scrambling to find our “new normal,” and it’s not proving easy. We went from having solid, carefully honed family routines to suddenly having to work, teach and parent ALL at the same time. Not only that, but we have to do it from the same place and often with little or no guidance.
As parents, we’re used to having some semblance of control, and yet here we are under conditions that we have little to no command of. On top of that, most of us aren’t teachers. We send our children to school, trust the professionals, and help out with homework when we can. How do we even begin to teach them, now, when we’d all rather be doing something else?
We’re lost, floating adrift in unfamiliar waters, and as a result, feeling like failures because we can’t regain immediate control. More than once, I’ve heard people belittle themselves as parents simply because they’re struggling. This self-doubt reminded me of when I became a parent for the first time.
Bringing Home Baby (and Again)
All of us have our unique, sometimes horrid, tales of pregnancy, childbirth and/or adoption; yet, whatever route our experiences took, we eventually came home with a brand new family member. What once had been just two, free and fabulous adults, became a trio (or quartet, or larger group). We went from being able to go to a movie or out with friends at a moment’s notice, to being tied to at least one other small human in more than one way.
The leisurely schedule that we’d set for ourselves was suddenly disrupted and fully under the control of our newest family member. Everything revolved around his eating, sleeping and pooping habits, and as parents, we were just meant to adjust to that “new normal.” Many of us even spent weeks, sleep-deprived and hormonal, questioning ourselves and our abilities as parents.
Eventually, after a few weeks or months (or years), we did it: We adapted. Without even noticing, we got into a rhythm, found what worked for us, and life as a family of three (or more) flowed. Then, after a few years (and forgetting how tough those early times were) we decided to have our next child, and we did it all again, including the self-doubt.
We’re Not Alone
Now, we’re at it again. We’re questioning ourselves, our abilities as parents and spouses, (and maybe even our sanity) more often than not. The pressures of parenting are compounded by our need to work, either remotely or at our essential jobs, all while our kids are at home. Many children are also learning to engage in schoolwork via a virtual classroom for the first time, and because we have to be able to provide support and guidance, we’re learning that, too. On top of everything, we’re isolated.
Yet, amid all of the pressure, there’s a bright side. While we may be physically distanced from others, we are absolutely NOT ALONE. Literally millions (maybe billions?) of parents ALL OVER THE WORLD, are experiencing the exact same things. Everyone is trying to find and establish a daily flow, again.
What We Can Do
We may have a limited amount of control these days, but there are things we can do to help ourselves and our family.
For a start, we can “acknowledge the suck.” I mean, this situation f#@&ing sucks. It’s a load of bollocks. It’s absolutely NOT fun being stuck at home. It’s torturous being unable to enjoy some of our favorite people, places and activities. Have a cry about it, if needed. I know I have (just a few minutes ago as I was writing about how much pressure we’re all under).
Then, let’s forgive ourselves for not knowing what to do because nobody does. We’re all just slowly figuring it out along with everyone else in the world.
Also, we should remind ourselves that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. At some point, we figured out how to be a new and growing family, and we’ll undoubtedly figure out how to be a working-and-learning-at-home family, too. So, whatever you’re doing, whether it turns out to be a success or not, you’re learning, honing and doing an amazing job of it!
Remember, we’re not in this alone; so don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend, new or old, local or distant, by phone or online, for support. There are, no doubt, heaps of online communities of parents sharing ideas and stories. If you have one you that you like and can recommend, please leave it in the “Comments” below.
Get the Kids Involved
As parents, we get so used to “running the show,” that we forget that our kids have valid and valuable ideas to share, too.
A Rough Day
In our personal family journey of finding our work-school-life flow, we’ve had some seriously rough days. One of them was just a few days ago. There was yelling. There were tears. Time management was non-existent. Stress was high. That afternoon, I finally surrendered, and I reminded myself to just do what I could. I acknowledged that it wasn’t my greatest day as a parent, and forgave myself for being less than my best.
After giving myself a healthy dose of self-compassion, I tried to figure out what we could all do better going forward. Then, before putting too much pressure on myself to solve everything alone, I was reminded that there are three other people who could help. So, I discussed the situation with my husband, and we agreed to get the kids involved.
Nobody could deny that the day had been less than stellar. So, over dinner, we discussed ideas for improvement. We did our best to point out what had worked that day, as well as what hadn’t. Then, asked the kids for their suggestions. Whether we knew it would be a failure or not, we would let them try whatever ideas or solutions they came up with. Then, we would simply reevaluate at dinner, again.
Mac, who’d had a seriously rough day with time management, came up with the first idea. We would stick rigidly to the scheduled times for each subject. Whatever he didn’t finish in that time, he would finish at the end of the “school” day. This was a simple solution that I hadn’t thought of, and it worked.
Don’t be afraid to get the kids involved. Their suggestions may not always work, and we may have to bite our tongues, but they will learn from the experience. Plus, parents, it really does relieve some of the pressure from us.
You’ve Got This!
We’ve weathered storms before, and we’ll do it again. You may already be feeling more comfortable in your “new normal” these days; however, if you’re looking for a little guidance from professionals, I’ve got a few books that can help.
Below is a list of titles, that I keep in my own library. I’ve found each of them quite helpful regarding self-care, parenting and teaching. They’re all written by doctors and were recommended to me by other parents and professionals. I highly recommend them. (Click the titles to get them on Amazon):
- Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.
- Positive Discipline, by Jane Nelson, Ed.D.
- Parenting With Love & Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility, by Foster Cline, MD and Jim Fay
- The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.