Bonkers Parenting in Quarantine
Parenting, no matter which way you slice it, is hard. Add a pandemic to the mix and suddenly every piece of confidence may crumble like your first foray into French baking from scratch. Or Do It Yourself Haircuts... you choose your poison.
I felt good in my first two weeks of Quaran-homeschool. I'm a teacher by trade, I love routines and emergent learning, and I was born to bake. I didn't bat an eye when I learned we'd be teaching our kids and staying home all day. Budgeting and rationing reminded me of my childhood--- I felt prepared to take this on.
By week three I noticed my sanity fumble...a lot. I stopped getting dressed every day because I never found time to just stop and do it. I lost track of self-care needs. I put everyone and everything ahead of myself. My carefully crafted menus consistently faced rejection by the three kids in regular intervals. I cried after my son refused to eat his dinner....again.
I felt overwhelmed with all the invites to Zoom, What's App, Facetime, conference for this and webinar for that, learn new technology expectations for work blah blah blah. Suddenly all the "connectedness" made me want to disconnect more and more. I approached daily living with extreme caution.
On top of adapting to the daily parenting changes and sanitation practices required of COVID 19 my mother's health dramatically altered. A new layer of worry kept me up at night. My role as stepmom intensified as my two extra kiddos extended their stay due to unforeseen events. I love them, but felt overwhelmed by high-spirited, hard-to-entertain boys. I couldn't center surrounded by chaos of never-ending snack requests and I hurled us into high stress mode. None of my awesome charts and Pinterest plans were working.
Week Three Hurt.
Instead of crying in my millionth cup of coffee I called my home-girl Heather. She's an important anchor in my circle of support. I needed to hear from another mom that it's hard to stay grounded right now. Imploding emotionally can happen to the best of us. She validated my feelings of guilt that I'm not consumed with "joy" spending all day being all things "Mom." She also stopped me in my tracks that my home is a home and not a classroom I'm managing. I can't approach everyday like we are in school and I'm the teacher making sure everything goes according to my plans. There is no Quarantine Assessment or Evaluation to work towards. We just need to be a family first.
Heather helped me identify my biggest trigger these days: roughhousing. I'm so tense sometimes I can't easily gauge the distance from simple rough play wrestling like Star Wars battles to the potential for real harm WWE style. When I start working only to hear the sounds of three boys jostling the panic sets in. Who is crying now? Are they really hurt? Can't they just stop when someone says "STOP!" Will another TV monitor break due to an unforeseen "accident" playing too hard? I'm terrified someone will get seriously hurt when I'm not watching. And does all this hullabaloo mean I am failing as a mom?
My kids aren't bad--- they have strong sensory input needs. Those needs drive impulsive behaviors and can take over their bodies. Roughhousing, play boxing, bike riding, or contact games help them meet the need. But without structure they struggle to keep contact safe. Kicking gets stronger, punches more forceful, and feelings hurt. I have to work so I can't keep an eye on them all the time to prevent a simple game from going rotten. So tears happen. And I feel more stress. No matter how many walks, hikes, rides and so on we offer the sensory stimulation these kids require often feels like we have three Jack Russel Terrier puppies. Heather reminded me to take important steps back.
Hearing her confirm my anxiety has taken root on the "wildness" of the boys lifted my worries that if Corona doesn't get us a stupid accident will. That's the self-care I needed---another voice chiming in to soothe the confusion. That's what friendship does. It quiets a restless heart by investing in your need to feel understood. A good friend helps you feel less bonkers even if you are being a little bit bonkers.
**Update in week whatever this is: I'm doing so much better. Some days it's like I'm living in the Twilight Zone and I'll wake up with no pandemic. Then I realize--- actually the pandemic is here for a while. I'll be ok and my kids will be ok. We have so much to be grateful for and we are healthy. Perspective, peeps, helps keep me from going bonkers again. What do you do to help you reign in anxiety during these strange times.