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Parenting From Home During a Pandemic

Parenting from home...sounds weird, doesn’t it? As I move into week two of working from home, I realize that I am one of the lucky ones who do get to work from home. While that is happening, I am also parenting from home now as well. There is nowhere for them to go; we are all home. My kids are eight and six, so not quite as demanding as the under five crew BUT are still young enough to want and need me throughout their waking hours (which usually begin around 6 - 6:30 am).

Explaining COVID-19 to them is an everyday process; I am extremely honest with my children and they have experienced a lot in their young years. Every day we talk about why we need to be mostly indoors, why we need to wash our hands when we come in from being out, why school is on hold, and why things can change almost every day. We talk about why it’s important to keep other people safe, and why sharing what we do have with our neighbours is important (of course that means leaving things on people’s doorsteps and then, again, washing our hands and NOT touching our faces until we do, when we return). We talk about how boring it is and how we ALL want to do what we used to… and we talk about how if we do our part, we can return again to the freedom we so enjoy. We talk about social distancing and why it’s important to keep everyone healthy and why we don’t want to have to go to the hospital if we don’t have to (cut to my son parkouring around our dining and living room).

One of my dear friends is working front line in the hospital, and is often in the emergency room tending to those who are dealing with the Coronavirus diagnosis. She spoke of having stopped hugging her own children when she returns from her shift in order to keep them healthy, and the toll it’s taking on her and her family. It drives home my own sense of duty to keep those around me safe and to keep explaining to my own children why we are doing what we are doing again, and again, and again. It is most certainly a test to all our patience as there are many, many, emotions that we go through in a day. This conversation is ongoing.

As for parenting from home? I can’t speak about all the crafts I make with the kids... because I don’t. I can’t offer my two cents on doing math sheets, spelling, etc., because we also aren’t doing that. To be honest, I know that once things settle and life returns to normal, the teachers (who I truly hope get what they are asking for after alllll of this is said and done) will do what they do best, and my children will grow up to be well-educated people. Side bar, that is part of what is keeping me calm during this time: we are blessed enough — in terms of this specific virus — that if we all do our due diligence, life can return to normal for most. Here is what we are doing: working on treating each other right.

This is the first time in a few years that we have all been home together like this, just the three of us, with restrictions we need to respect. We often find ourselves snapping at each other — it’s easy to be annoyed, frustrated and downright angry at times. We are bored. I mean, my kids are rollerblading through the house frequently, but that too gets old. As much as I emphasize to my oldest that he needs to treat his younger sister respectfully, the climate of our home and how my children interact begins with me. 

For all my parents out there who find themselves home like this with their kids: I encourage you to feel your way through your own experiences, as it really all does start with us. I encourage you to take moments of self care and refill your own patience. Remind yourself that our kids don’t know better, and it’s our responsibility to work through our own stuff to do and be better for them. We are all easily agitated in these times; and for those of us who live with mental illness and are parents, that struggle is unimaginable. I’m not suggesting this process is easy, and there is no simple answer. 

This is a time where we must do the things we need to do for ourselves, so that we can be an anchor for our little ones. Take your medication. Have a nap with the kids. Have a bath. Connect virtually with a loved one. Play music and have a dance party. Go to bed early. Journal (especially about your triggers and connect them back to the family you grew up in; there is healing in connecting those dots. Then you can let go of things, finally… or at least begin to). Hide out in the bathroom for five minutes… maybe 10. Most importantly, give yourself a break — parenting is hard. I spend most of my day talking to myself through my own triggers, reminding myself to check my own tone as I say the same thing for the 100th time. We will get through this, and my hope for all is that we come out the other side healthier and happier families.