Ok, can we all just admit that our anxiety and panic level reached 10 when we heard that schools would be closing and that we might subsequently have to be home with our kids 24/7? And, can we all agree that it’s a given that we love our kids, so we don’t have to argue that point? You can love your kids and not want to be around them all the time. We have been hearing about the coronavirus for weeks, but every day brings bigger and bigger announcements. As I’m typing this, the governor in my state is announcing a temporary lockdown. And, back to level 10. Psst: You can feel nutty and thrive at the same time.
The fears are legit: some businesses will be forced to close, some people will lose their jobs or temporarily receive a reduction in pay and/or benefits, and some will need to rely on community services to get by. The not knowing, uncertainty, abyss, whatever you want to call it, is scary. We’ve literally never experienced anything like this, so how are we supposed to navigate it?
The reality is that because we’ve never experienced this before, there are no black-and-white answers. What that forces us to do, then, is to show ourselves grace as we figure this out, try to adopt new routines and then be flexible with them, and be patient with ourselves and our families.
This is your official permission to let any feeling that develops pop right up to the surface. If you feel like you are going insane because your kids are fighting over the last of the cereal, and one took the remnants on purpose because it was the other’s fave, embrace the feels. If you must silently count to ten as your toddler takes seven minutes to put on her socks, girl, count. And if you bust open a bottle of wine at 3 o’clock in the afternoon because e-learning is driving you e-crazy, then doooooo it. What’s the saying – it’s wine o’clock somewhere?
In all seriousness, this is a fragile time for moms like us, moms who love to work AND who love their kids (most of the time). In a few weeks, I will debut my new brand, called “I Swear I Love My Kids,” for moms like us. If your first reaction to the schools closing announcement was dread, then you get what I’m saying. Being home with your child 24/7 brings up tons of feelings of inadequacies: Why am I not better at this? Why don’t I have more patience? Why do I want to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE so much? What does this say about me as a mom? I swear I love my kids.
Friend, you are a good mama just as you are. Just because you need an exit plan sometimes doesn’t make you any less of a mother. When these feelings come up, let them. Acknowledge them. But don’t give them a life of their own. They are just thoughts. They are temporary, unless you give them more credence. If you let the thought just flow in and out, you will see that it is brief. When I say to myself I’m going to lose my mind as my kids antagonize each other, I feel that way just for that moment. Ok, maybe for a few moments, but the thought generally doesn’t last for days.
After my kids stopped fighting over the cereal the other day, my son turned his chair around at the breakfast table because he didn’t like the way my daughter chewed her food. He sat there, with his back to us, seething with annoyance at his toddler sister’s open-mouth eating habits. It was 9:08 am.
I say all that to say this: Acknowledge the feels and approach everything in a way that is best for your mental health. You cannot control what is happening in the world – not the coronavirus, not what happens with your job, not your in-laws, and not how slow it takes your son to get dressed.
But you can control what time you get up, what schedule you create (you will have to be flexible with enacting it, but planning will give you a sense of control), what food you eat, and how you move your body. What do we tend to do in times of stress? Eat unhealthy foods (read about my sugar relapse below) drink more alcohol, spend more money, and compensate in other unhealthy ways. Self-care should not make you feel worse; it’s supposed to make you feel better. If you eat pizza, candy, or cookies or drink a bottle of wine out of comfort, and you feel physically or emotionally ill the next day, THEN IT’S NOT SELF-CARE. It’s self-sabotage.
I can’t stress this enough: Right now, you must do what you can control. Your self-care routine must be on point. Go ahead, roll your eyes, but you know I’m right. When your toddler is throwing a tantrum and you can literally feel your blood pressure increase, you know you have no patience reserves. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will limp to the finish line.
Before my high school shut down, a co-worker asked me, How am I not going to gain 10 pounds? Um, I totally get that. That line of thinking is exactly what I’m talking about – you can gain 10 pounds from making poor decisions in the next few weeks or you can take control and make the best of it. Don’t get me wrong – I feel the fight or flight sensations when my daughter is crying on the floor because I won’t read a fourth book for bedtime, but you can feel those feelings AND thrive at the same time. You can feel nuts and still thrive.
But it will have to be intentional. Queue the schedules. Remember when you rolled your eyes when I first mentioned self-care? Here’s the thing – I get it. Self-care can be stressful to make happen. Sometimes it feels like we must move mountains to take a single freaking Zumba class, and sometimes we just say screw it because it’s too much work to make it happen. I GET IT.
That’s why you must build self-care into your day. I am in the same position as you, friend. I work full-time, have two small kids, am married, yada, yada, yada. I swear I love my kids, but I love to work, too. If I don’t put self-care into my schedule, then it ain’t gonna happen. I’m diligently brainstorming ways to help moms like us get through the upcoming month, and I created a free 30-day Self-care & Gratitude Journal you can download below:
Put the journal on your dresser or bedside table, list three ways you will take care of yourself the next day, three things you are grateful for, and reflect on your day. If you look for ways to enact self-care and gratitude, then it just becomes part of your life. The journal will help you navigate the immediate pandemic, but also longer-term, too, because you will create better habits. Plus, the reflection piece will turn into a time capsule of sorts to commemorate this time.
Let’s talk big-picture schedules. To help you get through the next couple of weeks with working from home, taking care of the kiddos, and managing their e-learning, you must create a schedule. Again, creating the plan will help you destress, but you will have to be flexible with it. When you create the schedule, build in time for your own self-care or work and physical activity for everyone. Here is the schedule I’m loosely following with my kids right now:
- Control only what you can
- Self-care is IMPERATIVE
- Embrace all the feels
- Reach out when you need to
- Don’t forget you are awesome – you will get through this.
Here’s to thriving instead of just surviving! Email me anytime, ok? We are going through this together.
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