It’s hard to be a parent at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic when yourself and your whole family are stuck at home. When we’re sharing a space, we can begin to tread on each other’s toes and bump heads. So, how do we navigate this new parenting challenge whilst finding time to be kind to ourselves?
Looking after ourselves is always important. We know this and yet rarely are we our own priority – we’re too busy looking after those around us. Add Covid-19 into the mix and our own mental health may feel like a distant memory.
Balance and Routine
A key part of our new normal is balance. We need to find some form of equilibrium between all the pressures which may be weighing so heavily on us. One way we can achieve this is by creating a routine or schedule – when we map out what needs to be done, perhaps we can find pockets of time for ourselves too. Or even make self-care part of spending time together as a family? Having a routine is grounding for both us and our kids, it can help us feel like we have control in a time where there are so many unanswered questions and everything is up in the air.
Planning a routine ahead of time can help us feel more organised and can make the most of our time when it is in short supply. Can we make a weekly plan for each member of the family? We can maximize all our potential by working in the times we are most motivated and having breaks when our concentration begins to wane. So, ask your family to support you with this or weigh in with their thoughts. Thinking ahead can also help us avoid last minute, time-consuming and mood-flaring panics when we find we have nothing to occupy our children with or have no idea what to make for dinner.
Limit your time on social media
We may be using the internet or social media for inspiration and resources to help us look after our family right now. This is an excellent idea but be wary of comparisons. Lots of people are managing, or at least appear to be managing, to put on fantastic art projects for their kids and create new and innovative ways of home-schooling. Others have thrown themselves into baking inventive creations or decluttering large areas of their houses. When faced with this it is easy to feel inadequate or that we are letting our family down. But remember that we’re only seeing the highlight reel, not the whole truth. They likely have days when they are exhausted and their kids are fighting or bored. It’s impossible to compare like for like as we’re all incredibly different individuals with access to different resources and living in different situations.
Self-care and self-kindness
Whilst we want to avoid comparisons with the outside world, we can use this time to role model for our own children within the house. Time for self-care or self-kindness can be hard to come by at the best of times and it is too easy to feel selfish for taking time for ourselves. But our young people need to see us doing self-care. It’s how they will learn to prioritise themselves when necessary, or put down boundaries and say no when they feel overstretched. Now may be a great time to have this conversation.
Explain to them the idea of self-care and why it is important to be kind to ourselves. Whilst self-care can be a solo activity it can be done with others too, which can foster connections at this difficult time. Can we sit down as a family and think about what we could do as self-care both together and separately?
Part of this picture will need to include talking to each other. By spending time together we have the opportunity to build an atmosphere which encourages honest conversation. This is true of our kids’ talking to us about how they feel but also for ourselves to share how we feel with a partner, spouse or friends. When we feel heard and supported it is less likely that our emotions may get the best of us. We don’t need to manage alone.
Lastly, it is important to remember that we are parenting in unprecedented times and we occasionally need to check in with ourselves. If a friend felt overstretched or exhausted, what would I say to them? Would I tell them they should be making more effort or would I tell them that they clearly need a break and to look after themselves. We would most likely remind them how hard this whole situation is on all of us and that we’re not superhuman, even if we feel like we should be. Now, more than ever, it’s important to remember ‘good enough’ really is good enough.