There is nothing easy about parenting during a pandemic. Not a day goes by that I don’t reach out to my Mom, my family and my friends with questions, like, “Should the girls wear masks in school?” Or, “Am I OK to put them in dance class?” The sheer weight (and guilt) of raising children in COVID times—while trying to nurture their mental and social wellbeing—is terrifying.
But as we embark on our third year living with COVID-19, I’m finding there’s enough distance from the initial shock of March 2020 to appreciate some of the pandemic’s silver linings. Would I want to live through this again? No. But I try to remind myself that, within our family’s own four walls, it hasn’t been all bad and there are new habits to be keep.
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As the masks come off and schedules fill up, instead of forging head-first into the future, I’m taking time to pause and reflect on the pandemic habits I want to bring into our new normal. So far, these are my top three:
1. Going with the Slow
Like many families, our pre-pandemic lives were busy, busy, busy. Between work, school, soccer, cheer, gymnastics and dance, we would spend two, maybe three, hours together as a family each night. We were always running to the next thing, living on auto-pilot without even realizing it.
But over the last 24 months, we finally got a chance to breathe, and we’ve grown so much closer as a family because of it. We watch movies, we cook dinner, we play games. My husband learned how to do the girls’ hair. Sometimes, we just sit around and talk. And through it all I’ve gotten to really know my kids–their hopes, their fears, their dreams, their desires–in a way I never could have imagined.
The calendar creep is already picking back up, but moving forward, “Family Time” will be a calendar hold that can’t be moved.
2. Staying Connected to Family
My husband and I both come from huge families; there are nearly 100 cousins between the two of us. In our old lives, free time revolved around family reunions and traveling to see siblings, cousins or grandparents. Travel took an immediate hit when the pandemic started, and we worried constantly about how those relationships would fare. Luckily, we live in the age of technology.
Whereas we used to see family a few times a year, we now see grandparents and cousins weekly, if not daily. Thanks to nightly video calls on Messenger Kids, our mothers know everything about the girls’ days—what they wore, what they ate, what they learned. The app has been a game changer for us, deepening these relationships during this time of intense isolation. While we can’t wait to hug our families in-person again, the ability to connect virtually has created a level of comfort and intimacy that wasn’t possible with bi-monthly visits alone.
3. Cutting Myself More Slack
As a parent, you want to do what’s best for your children. You want them to eat the right foods, participate in the right activities and do well in school. Inadvertently, this means putting a lot of pressure on yourself, as a mom, to set them up for success.
When COVID hit, I immediately felt like I was failing. I didn’t know what to do, or say, to make things better. And in some weird way, it was freeing. How could I expect myself to do the right things when I literally had no idea what I was doing?
In the months since, I’ve caved in ways I never thought I would. Some mornings, breakfast isn’t the healthiest meal of the day. I’ve become a bit more lax on screen time limits, letting our kids have these precious moments with their friends. Homework might not get done as soon as they get home, but they know to finish before bedtime. The days became less about doing the perfect thing, and more about doing small things that would bring my kids a moment of joy. And truthfully, that is so much more rewarding.
Only time will tell if we stick to these new habits, but here’s hoping we do. What about you? Are there pandemic habits you want to keep?
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