Parenting is an amazing life experience. We all know how lucky we are to watch our children as they grow into the people they are meant to be. We try to stop and appreciate the little moments. We take hundreds of photos. We try to prepare them healthy food and space to run and play. We tell them we love them and do our very best to really be present.
Then in 2020, the unimaginable happens. A global pandemic takes hold of our lives. Now here we are in 2021, living through a Level 4 lockdown with schools closed and stay at home orders in place to keep us safe.
Parenting is really hard in ordinary times, but it takes on a whole new level in extraordinary times. Whilst everyone’s personal family circumstances are different, stay at home orders mean we are all juggling multiple roles and learning from home adds another level of responsibility to parenting. There’s a reason that adults when flying (not that we’ll be doing that for a while) are asked to place their oxygen masks on first before they place them on their children. You can’t look after their safety if you’re not safe. Just like you can’t fill from an empty cup, taking care of yourself first is your fuel for helping others.
Now more than ever we need to be anchored in our values. This extended lockdown is tough. Whatever choices you are making, they are good ones because you are owning them and it’s right for your family. There will be moments when it all feels rather overwhelming. That is totally normal in a crisis and we are living through a crisis, but it doesn’t mean it’s pleasant. Being proactive and intentional in our daily actions will make this situation more manageable. It starts with prioritising time to care for ourselves. We all know this, but it can be easy to forget as we get caught up in meeting everyone else’s needs.
Right now, you can’t afford not to take care of yourself.
Consider this as a reminder to slow down and do something for yourself. If it’s been a while and you need a few reminders as to where to begin, we’re here for you. Don’t worry about implementing all these suggestions at once; start slow and try to add in one or two where it feels right. Over time, try to mix in a couple more. As hard as it is to imagine adding more to your already busy life, we promise it won’t feel that way in the long run!
We’re guessing you read this heading and reacted in one of two ways: you either smiled because you’re already exercising on a regular basis and know and love the benefits, or, like so many of us, you groaned internally because the thought of working up a sweat sounds miserable.
If you find yourself in the former group, you can probably skip to number 2. If you dread exercise, well, hear us out. Exercise is a proven way to reduce stress and increase energy. Just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of moderate exercise is recommended and can make a huge difference. A good guideline to determine moderate exercise is that while you are in the midst of it, you should be able to talk but not sing. You should feel your heart beating a bit faster than normal, your breathing will intensify, and you may work up a sweat after a bit.
The key is to find what works for you. Exercise should be an enjoyable experience or it’s nearly impossible to stick with it. Would you be most likely to exercise if you could spend the time outdoors? Thankfully, we can still walk with a friend during lockdown. I don’t know about you, but I can walk and talk with a friend for hours. There are so many amazing walks within the 5km radius allowed during lockdown.
Right now, with Stay at Home orders, were all working from home at some time so building in exercise breaks becomes important and look after your posture. It all counts!
We’re not talking about dieting here. We’re talking about fueling your body with the food it needs to function well. Instead of depriving yourself of the foods you love, reframe your approach and find tasty ways to add in nutrient-rich foods. Make sure you’re getting lots of different fruits, vegetables, and protein. Add in some complex carbohydrates, lots of water to drink, and the occasional treat that brings you joy.
Savor each bite. In the rush of the day it’s easy to slip into a fast pace or eat on the go. Sit, smell, taste, and enjoy your food. Take a cue from the French and find little ways to make eating a more pleasurable. (More on that here.)
As we stay at home, cooking together makes eating so much more fun. You can even add theme nights with music, fancy dress, and practical life experiences so even the youngest members of our family can join in the fun.
Isn’t it funny how many children tend to resist naps, but as adults, many of us wish we had time for them? Getting enough sleep each night might help you make it through the afternoon slump.
Can you relate to this scenario? You have spent your whole day working hard and your child is finally asleep. You don’t have much energy left, so you collapse on the couch to watch that next episode in the series. Before you know it, you’ve watched more episodes of your favourite show than you intended to, and it has become later than you should have stayed up. You get yourself into bed, don’t get quite enough sleep, and wake up groggy to repeat the cycle the following day.
It can absolutely be a challenge to find time to unwind before bed. Take a little time to consider your personal situation and ask yourself what you really want your evenings to look like. Do you want to spend time with your partner? Do you want to wind down with no screen time and some relaxing music? Do you want to read the next chapter of your book? Could choosing not to watch one or two episodes of that show leave more time for rest?
Once you get into the habit of sleeping enough regularly, you’ll never want to go back.
Spending time with other people just for fun is so important for our wellbeing. Think about the last time you grabbed a cup of coffee with a friend, went on a date with your partner, or just made small talk with a stranger at the bookstore. For now, we can’t do these things physically, so we must navigate the whole new world of lockdown, social distancing and all our new normal that just feel weird. Making and nurturing connections makes us feel whole.
So, now ZOOM has entered our living rooms and we’re all making the most of online connections. It’s not the same but it’s sure better than nothing. Facetime has given me the great privilege of connecting with my family back in Scotland now we can’t travel. I always feel so grateful after the time together and can’t help but marvel at what technology we have at our disposal.
Routines are great. They give us something to rely on and feel grounded in. Unfortunately, monotony can also get pretty boring sometimes. Mixing it up is a great way to feel your own sense of individuality. Novel experiences challenge our brains in positive ways, plus, it can be fun! Some ideas:
- Take a different route to work.
- Listen to a new (to you) genre of music.
- Try out a fresh hobby.
- Don’t forget to look up when you’re outside (you’ll be amazed at what you see that’s new just because of a different perspective)
- Sit in a new seat (on the couch, at the meeting, wherever!)
We saved this one for last for a reason; while it can be done any time of the day, it can be a simple practice to add in during the last ten minutes before bed. It’s simple: take time to be alone with your thoughts.
Reflection can take on a variety of forms, but it’s usually quiet, it’s usually done alone, and it can be really relaxing. Depending on your personal preferences, this may take the form of meditation, journaling, prayer, or something else altogether. Find what works for you.
Whilst we live in lockdown, what can we learn about isolation. Here’s what living at sea for 80 days taught Hannah Altschwager about isolation.
Whilst it may seem tough at the moment, we will get through this and if the time is right for you, think about Thriving beyond COVID-19 and what you want your children to remember from these times. They will forever remember this time in their lives and like every other day, they are watching you. They will model how you think and act on your lead. If they see you taking care of yourself, they will do it too. If they see you being optimistic about the future, they will be too.
Being a parent is one of the most important jobs out there. Not only does caring for yourself prepare you for the task, but it helps you be a great role model for your child. Love for yourself and others in the time of COVID-19 has never been more vital.
“Of all things, love is the most important”Dr Maria Montessori