With Mother's Day on the horizon, I've been thinking a lot about how I've had to shift my daily life as a parent, as well as the expectations I have for myself and my kids. Celebrating the holiday during a pandemic feels a little strange, and it's easy to list everything that's hard, draining and frustrating about parenting through this crisis. There are days when I get so overwhelmed that I yell at everyone, including the dog. Yet the last two months, though difficult and scary, have offered some enlightening moments, too. Here’s what I’ve learned about being a mom while quarantining.
I’M NO LONGER ANXIOUS ABOUT LONG STRETCHES OF SOLO PARENTING
Look, I've been pretty spoiled. Usually, my 4-year-old daughter is in preschool three half-days a week, and during that time my sitter would watch my 1-year-old son so that I could focus on work — meaning I was only alone with them for two full days a week.
And yet, I used to worry a lot about those two days. How would we fill the time? Would we be able to make it out of the house between my son’s two naps? Will one (or both) kids melt down in the middle of a long stroller walk — and if so, could I make it home carrying one of them and pushing the other? (The answer is yes, but just barely.)
The pandemic upended all these fears. I'm been on my own with them five full days a week, for eight weeks straight. No preschool. No sitter. No grandparents swooping in. Though my husband is home full-time now, he typically can’t takeover in the middle of his workday. I feel like I'm completing a parenting boot camp — and it’s made me more confident.
I’VE REALIZED WE DON’T NEED MUCH TO BE ENTERTAINED — OR HAPPY
Pre-quarantine, I'd take the kids to the zoo, the playground, the park; my job was to keep them stimulated and entertained. If the forecast called for rain, I’d scour Pinterest for craft projects to do with my daughter or sensory bins I could make for my son.
Now, we’re being more resourceful and saving money as a result. This past weekend, my husband taught my daughter how to play baseball using his old racquetball racket and a squishy toy ball. It's now her favorite activity. We take walks and collect leaves to glue onto printer paper. We draw pictures for friends and mail them. And, yes, sometimes we also turn on the TV and take advantage of the educational cartoon canon that is PBS Kids. Even with nowhere to go and no supplies in a pinch, the kids aren’t bored.
I feel like I'm completing a parenting boot camp — and it’s made me more confident.
I’VE LET GO OF THE MOM GUILT
Speaking of screen time, I used to feel bad allowing my daughter to watch TV by herself while my son napped. I thought I should at least sit with her, even if I was catching up on emails or scrolling the news on my phone at the same time. Now, her TV time is my only chance to sit down and work. And you know what? That's fine. Yes, she's watched “Frozen 2” every day for the past two weeks. But she's also asked me a lot of thoughtful questions about the plot (like, why does Sven the reindeer cry when Kristoff proposes to Anna? Cue life lesson about happy tears). And, more importantly, I've met all my work deadlines.
I GET TO WATCH THE SIBLING BOND GROW
No school and no sitter means my daughter and son now spend all day together. While there are squabbles — like when my boy tears through the yard with his sister’s beloved stuffed turtle — they are really bonding. She enlists him to play the Olaf to her Elsa, chases him around the backyard (to his delight) and insists on feeding him at every meal. He adores every minute of her attention.
Being home with them this much has allowed me to watch their dynamic grow and to better respond to their needs, like when he needs a break from a wrestling match, or when she needs some time to play with her toys solo. Seeing their relationship grow and evolve has been one of the biggest gifts of our time together.