On a plane during the safety information, you are always told that, in the event of an emergency, you should place your air-mask on your face first and then help your kids with their masks. There is a reason for this. If we run out of air and cannot breathe, we will not be able to help our kids breathe. We are not any good to our kids if we are not taking care of ourselves first.
As we come to the end of our second full week at home with our kids (longer for some people outside of Colorado), how many of us are remembering to give ourselves air (figuratively and literally) at all? When are you making sure to meet your needs? In what ways are you remembering to take care of yourself?
While there are so many unknowns about this current situation, there are a few knowns. We know we are in our homes until at least April 10. We know we have our kids are home until at least April 19. We know that we have to be thinking about how to navigate weeks (or possibly months) instead of just days. And while all parents have somehow figured out how to go days without proper food or sleep or even a shower (remember what it was like to have a newborn?). We simply cannot go weeks like that. We need self-care so that we can care for others, including:
Consider yourself in your schedule. It seems like everyone has a beautiful color-coded schedule with corresponding emojis that outlines the day for their kids (and if you don’t, that’s totally fine!). But where are you in this schedule? What does your day look like? How are you considering yourself and your needs as you look at each day? Make sure to consider these aspects as well. Try to get outside every day, even if it’s just for five minutes. The fresh air and the sun have proven health benefits (in fact the former CDC chief Dr. Tom Frieden has come out saying that vitamin D - found in sunlight - can reduce the risk of respiratory infection, and COVID-19 is a respiratory infection). Figure out when you will be able to have a few minutes to yourself to just breathe without kids asking you for things every five minutes (or seconds). Find a way to do one thing each day for you.
Get some sleep. Many of us are juggling full-time work with full-time parenting, wondering how to fit it all into one day, and the answer is that maybe we just can’t. It is not possible right now to spend 14 hours with our kids, making sure they are eating and learning and not killing each other and also put in an eight-hour work day...and get the sleep that we need. Something has to go, and it cannot be sleep. Study after study has proven the value of sleep, and it’s even more important during this time. Getting sleep ensures that we have the emotional energy to face the day. It strengthens our immune system to help fight whatever might be in the air (Think managing everything is hard now? Imagine juggling it all with a spring cold). It just makes us feel better. So, if you need to shorten your work day and take care of pieces of it during the kids outside time, do it. Just make sure you’re finding time for that much-needed recharge each night.
Use your village. While you may not be able to use your friends, family, and neighbors to support you in the same way that you have in the past, remember that they are all still there for you...and probably in need of connection just as badly as you are. As many people have pointed out, “social distancing” should really be called “physical distancing” because, while we are mandated to not be physically near each other, we can still connect socially. Set up a virtual happy hour through Zoom. Watch a cheesy movie with friends using Netflix Party. Start a private Facebook group with other neighborhood moms to share funny stories from the day. Maintain connections and remember that you’re not alone.
Remember that kids are resilient, and they love you. If you ever watch a little kid skiing, it’s amazing. Often they tear down the hill with no fear, and when they fall, they jump back up and continue down the run like nothing happened. Same thing on the playground. They’ll fall from the monkey bars, examine their most recent scrape as if it’s a badge of honor, maybe need a quick hug from a nearby adult, and then they are back up and running as if nothing happened. While kids may have an amazing memory in some areas (like if you promise to do something for them), in other ways, they start each day anew like a blank slate. They love you. They know you are there for them and doing what you can. And they will be fine.
Give yourself grace. We are often harder on ourselves than anyone around us, and being able to give ourselves grace is important every day, even more so right now. Remember that you are being faced with an unprecedented ask. There is no book on the research-proven best ways to navigate weeks at home with your kids when the world is shut down while a virus spreads around the world. There just isn’t. Each day you are putting forth the best version of yourself that you have to offer. You are navigating challenging situations with the tools you have. And you are doing a great job. And, at the end of the day, there is always tomorrow.
Maybe you’ve gotten the hang of this homeschooling thing. Maybe you’ve stocked your freezers with your kids’ favorites for the next year and have no need to brave the grocery store. Maybe you’ve built an elaborate castle from Amazon boxes, including a fully functioning drawbridge. Maybe you’ve done none of these things. Regardless of what you’ve accomplished, you’ve made it through each day, and that’s something to be celebrated. So give yourself a hug, pour yourself a glass of wine, and remember to breathe.