My family had a good thing going pre-COVID.
We were like a well-oiled machine, or at least it feels like we were now. Now that our lives were thrown into a figurative blender and turned on with the lid off.
Our routines, sense of security, and boundaries were viciously mixed up and splattered all of the wall.
My husband and I, like many, were unexpectedly sent to work from home, while homeschooling our three young kids.
While I am grateful that we still have our jobs and our health, our sanity took a rapid nose-dive. Under the chaos and stress, our mental health crashed and burned.
No one can feel stable wiping a kid’s butt, while you speak on a conference call, as the pasta is boiling over. If I focus on my kids, my work suffers. If I shift my focus to work, my mom-guilt wrenches my stomach.
It’s no surprise that I am not the only one who feels this way. According to a Gallup poll, even back in May almost a quarter of all adults polled agreed that they were experiencing harm to their emotional and mental wellness due to social distancing and closures. We can only estimate that number has risen further.
In that same Gallup poll, almost half of parents (45%) surveyed admitted that their child’s emotional health was suffering. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), is actually recommending that kids return to school.
We all seem to have this feeling of impending doom looming all around us.
When Your Joy is Infected
Mother’s are like sponges. We squeeze ourselves thin, filling up everyone else’s glass until we are bone dry.
Personally, to give my children a feeling of security, I have internalized my stress during this covid-related roller coaster ride.
Even though I remained physically healthy, the implications of this virus seemed to creep in and infect my joy of motherhood.
The pre-covid-me was thrilled to spend time with my children. I would get work done while they were at school, and be fresh and ready to bond and interact when they got home. The boundaries were clear and positive parenting came naturally.
Unfortunately, children and a packed schedule do not exactly jive well together. Bonding is basically non-existent when you hardly have time to breath in the day. The moment things calm down, I have a work project due, a kid dumped the toy box, or it is 11 pm.
There is always someone touching me. There is always someone asking me for fruit snacks or milk. There is always someone who needs something I don’t have time to give them.
We have been forced into survival-mode parenting, and there is no room for joy to live in that dark environment.
Rediscovering the Joy
I, for one, do not accept this as a new normal. I will dig deep to rediscover the joy in motherhood- with this 5-step plan.
1) Lower Your Standards
We have to start to see a chicken nugget dinner as a success, not a failure.
We have to look pass the mess of toys on the floor.
My newly home-schooled kids may not get straight A’s. I may not be able to volunteer for extra work projects. That is just going to have to be okay.
2) Get up Early
If my day starts off slow, then I am behind and my patience is thin all day.
When I get up even 30 minutes before my children, I can have the sink dish-free, my emails reviewed, and a quick exercise completed before the kids stumble out of bed.
I greet them refreshed, caffeinated, and eager to see their sleepy eyes and bedheads, instead of having the feeling like they are interfering with my morning routine.
3) Lay off the Vices
I relied pretty heavily on my two vices during quarantine. Sleeping in (see step two above), and – well I am just going to say it, dry-red wine and tropical flavored Whiteclaws.
Although this felt like a much needed way to burn off steam, it only added to my anxiety, which in turn dragged me further into motherhood despair.
Limiting vices can be challenging when you are stuck at home, but a healthy lifestyle will be well worth it.
What are your vices?
4) Find Time for Yourself
A few years ago I learned that taking sometime for myself, as a mother, was mandatory. Alone time is not always easy to find, so you sometimes have to fight for it.
My “me” time used to be much “fancier” (spoiler alert: I am not that fancy). It included a nice little nap or late night binging of The Office reruns.
Nowadays, my self-care looks a little different. Basically, my husband tells the kids a little white lie that I had to go to the store, and I lock myself in my room and mindlessly scroll through Facebook for 10 minutes.
However, that simple alone time recharges me enough to allow me to redirect my energy to my children.
5) Prioritize Family Time
This step is the grand slam for rediscovering motherhood happiness.
We must, must, must prioritize family time. If you wait until you are caught up with work, laundry, and cleaning, you will never connect with your family.
You don’t have to plan fancy events or extravagant activities. In fact, studies show that even short bursts of attention make children feel loved and secure.
Try one of the following:
- A hike around the neighborhood
- Family game night
- Bake cookies
- Cuddle and chat
- Watch a movie together
- Ask open ended questions
- Read a book together
When you schedule time to bond with your family, there is a two-fold effect. Your mom-guilt dissolves, and your children feel fulfilled.
You can’t help that all of your responsibilities have been thrown in an emotional blender; however, you can help put a lid on that blender by finding a new way to cope with this lifestyle.
Follow this 5-step plan to rediscover your joy of motherhood, and turn this mess into a beautiful bonding experience for your family.
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Gallup Poll, https://news.gallup.com/poll/312605/parents-say-covid-harming-child-mental-health.aspx Assessed 7-7-2020.
Return to School During COVID-19. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/Return-to-School-During-COVID-19.aspx Assessed 7-7-2020.