Niche Resources
Niche Resources
Niche Resources

Pandemic Parenting: Learning to Let Go

Remember when you found out you were expecting a child? With all the excitement came a little bit of panic: stress in the beginning about what you should be eating, how many kicks you should be feeling, and the looming labor and delivery. You also worried about if you’d do it right. How would you know when and how much to feed? What temperature should the room be?

And how do I keep it together in ways that don’t include locking myself in the closet with a bottle of wine, chocolate and cheese, and using noise-canceling headphones to rewatch the Billy and Ally McBeal love story while sobbing?

You’d imagine your years child-rearing. After infancy, you’re sure you’d have to deal with bed-wetting, the boogeyman, and a battle of toddler vs. vegetables. Then, perhaps, you would see fights about TV time limits, homework, shoes on the rug, and snacks on the couch. Then curfews, seat belts, SAT studying, and so on. But, I’m pretty sure that nowhere in those little daydreams did you envision yourself navigating parenting in a world that has bubbled over and is fighting a global pandemic and standing up against racial injustice at the same time.

I’ve listened to the outside world, hit the issues head on, had the hard conversations, and continue to learn from the pros. More and more experts advise being honest with perceptive little minds.

Parenting has the same sort of vows you may have taken with your spouse. ’Til death do you part, through sickness and in health, through pandemics and epidemics. Our country absolutely needs to solve the problems that have been around for decades too long, but the pandemic part would have been nice if it stayed in a laboratory, in a bat, or wherever it hailed from. But, it is what it is, and it’s our new normal.

So, we sit in front of the CNN/Sesame Street Town Halls on racism and coronavirus and we talk. And if my three-year old has questions, we talk some more.

That term has been thrown around a lot, and it’s an important one to support. Not because any of this is normal. But, because kids need normal. Kids need parents that are able to manage stress and adversity while managing them. Kids need parents that are even-keeled because the child mentality and temperament is anything but. So what does this new normal look like? And how do I keep it together in ways that don’t include locking myself in the closet with a bottle of wine, chocolate and cheese, and using noise-canceling headphones to rewatch the Billy and Ally McBeal love story while sobbing? Well, here’s how…

How to Find Work-Life Balance in Quarantine

First, I’ve given my kids an understanding of what’s going on. Well, my preschooler, anyway. The baby has no idea what’s happening. I’ve listened to the outside world, hit the issues head on, had the hard conversations, and continue to learn from the pros. More and more experts advise being honest with perceptive little minds. So, we sit in front of the CNN/Sesame Street Town Halls on racism and coronavirus and we talk. And if my three-year old has questions, we talk some more. I’ve found that the more she understands, the more she is willing to cooperate when it comes to mask-wearing and my obsessive hand-sanitizing. We tackled the five Ws, and once it all sort of made sense and we all accepted the fact that we would be hanging around the house for awhile, it was time to figure out how to make the rest work for us.

 

As for schooling, I’ve learned to take remote learning for what it is. We all know it’s not ideal. The Wall Street Journal recently put out the headline, “The Results are in for Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work.” Our remote learning has been solely virtual. Remote, or distance learning, may or may not have a virtual learning component. Virtual learning is teaching through a virtual space, such as through a Zoom meeting. A child may solely learn via Zoom, have just a weekly virtual check-in with a teacher, or complete assignments independently without, but under the supervision of a parent.

Overnight, it all shifted, and suddenly I was the mom, teacher, and IT tech, taking care of two, and taking on more than I had before my daughter was in physical school. 

My daughter was enrolled in a 2s program at the New York Kids Club in New York City. For three hours a day, three days a week, I had some alone time while my second-born napped, and then some one-on-one time with her while my toddler hopefully learned structure and responsibility. As a stay-at-home mom, I felt my daughter could use the exposure to other children and adults while working on her listening skills. At home, I let her beat to her own drum and cleaned up after her far more than I should have. (Come on, it’s just so much faster that way.) So, to the NYKC she went. Luckily, it was located IN my building, so there was really no downside (except for the exorbitant private preschool prices in NYC).

 

I had a month-and-a-half of bliss before the pandemic hit. My daughter was coming home with artwork I didn’t have to clean up after, singing songs I didn’t know, sharing words in Spanish, and, most importantly, talking about friends! She gave the most heart-warming debriefs each day after school. Overnight, it all shifted, and suddenly I was the mom, teacher, and IT tech, taking care of two, and taking on more than I had before my daughter was in physical school. 

Find The School Where Your Child Belongs

There was a lot of trial and error at first. The school tried to recreate an actual day at school via Zoom. They also offered the learning five days a week for all children enrolled, including us, who were just MWF-ers. I was so naive and willing to make quarantine the most fulfilling it could be that I started with the three hours a day, every. single. day.

I was so naive and willing to make quarantine the most fulfilling it could be that I started with the three hours a day, every. single. day.

It doesn’t sound like a lot (it didn’t to me), but once you realize children don’t sit in front of the computer and participate for three hours willingly, and that you, the parent, will be on the ground unmuting your computer, prompting answers, building bridges, learning the weekly sign language words, finger painting, singing all the songs, doing yoga, gym & stretch, and every other little thing that makes preschool worth paying for, you’re wiped out just thinking about it. Some parents dropped off immediately, and I didn’t blame them. We stuck with it, and luckily, the NYKC responded to needs and suggestions and cut it down to an hour-and-a-half a day, combined some locations, and put their most engaging teachers front and center. We went back to our MWF schedule. Even with all of the changes, virtual learning still is tough. So, how did I make it work for us? 

Virtual learning would never be a replacement for the real thing. We weren’t going to replicate a place where Mommy and Daddy weren’t there, where she was challenged mentally and physically by different caregivers, where she navigated the world of making friends.

After the first couple days of forcing my daughter to pay attention, sit in front of the computer and not run off to her room, or wherever, to play with toys tempting her from every corner of the house, I began to realize that this was sucking the life out of both of us. Virtual learning would never be a replacement for the real thing. We weren’t going to replicate a place where Mommy and Daddy weren’t there, where she was challenged mentally and physically by different caregivers, where she navigated the world of making friends. So, I had to take what it really could offer: consistency, familiar faces, and fun. 

Now that I’m not forcing her to stare at the computer either, she actually participates (granted, in and out) on her own. She’s not being the perfect listener or participant by any means, but she’s happy.

My daughter now selects a small amount of toys she wants near her during school. She does a Show & Tell with them to the class and plays with them throughout the hour and a half. Now that she has them, I’m no longer forcing her to stay in the living room. Now that I’m not forcing her to stare at the computer either, she actually participates (granted, in and out) on her own. She’s not being the perfect listener or participant by any means, but she’s happy. She’s clapping along, listening to stories, singing the songs long after the Zoom has finished, and looking forward to the next session.

 

And, I’m okay, too. Sure, I had to make my own Mother’s Day card and I still have to sit there and unmute and prompt, but I’m not feeling like a drill sergeant to a little child who lost her whole world overnight. I’m obviously in the position to be able to treat school this way since my daughter is only in a 2s program and not legally required to have any formal schooling for a couple more years. Parents of Kindergarteners right now, I feel for you. But, hopefully you have found a type of throttle control that works for your family.

But my three-year old—she holds the bowls, pours in the ingredients, and stirs to the best of her abilities. It’s not perfect, and the process takes twice as long, but at least it’s getting done!

As for the rest of the day, I’ve decided if you can’t beat ‘em, make them join you! We all need to eat, and cooking is a big part of my life and business, so I’ve started incorporating my daughter into the process. The baby just sort of crawls around underneath us eating scraps. But my three-year old—she holds the bowls, pours in the ingredients, and stirs to the best of her abilities. It’s not perfect, and the process takes twice as long, but at least it’s getting done! Plus, we can afford to slow down a little bit seeing as our whole life has already come to a screeching halt. My little lady will also sort some laundry and help put away dishes! She makes a thousand messes of her own, but I’ve learned to take advantage of how she loves to be included and loves to help.

More Resources For Parents

We’ve also added a little fun. This means a little more TV time and a little more sugar. My daughter’s TV time was always in the middle of the day during the baby’s nap. Now, we’ve snuck in a family movie night! Every Sunday, we put pillows on the floor, make a big bowl of popcorn, and watch something that none of us have ever seen before. (Basically to prevent her from being able to strong-arm us into Frozen over and over and over again.) This fun little tradition, complete with a late bedtime, has really been exciting. We all get into it, and, once I get my act together following our big move up to Connecticut, I’m committed to making the weekly movie night into a full theme day with fun activities and foods that match the feature presentation! A girl can dream.

 

I’ve also eased up on the no sugar rules. My preschooler is old enough to know it exists, so in order for her to have a healthy relationship with the sweet stuff, she needs to be able to indulge and appreciate all aspects of food (in moderation). So, we’ve spent an afternoon making chocolate pies. We’ve made our first S’mores of the warm-weather season. We’ve had leftover birthday cake way too early in the day.

My point of all of this is not to just throw your rules up into the air and hope they never land. It’s to find a way to get through these long, heavy days and not feel totally depleted at the end of them.

 

My point of all of this is not to just throw your rules up into the air and hope they never land. It’s to find a way to get through these long, heavy days and not feel totally depleted at the end of them. My hope is that my kids will remember this lockdown as a fun time of togetherness, if they remember any of it at all. I do not want fear and loss to be the zeitgeist of this crucial time in their childhood. So, to preserve their youth, they can play while learning, eat a cake, and fry their brains on Paw Patrol here and there.

This pandemic has shown me that parenting isn’t about sweating the small stuff, it’s about celebrating it. Finding the joy and the magic in the everyday. Letting go a little bit. And remembering that we are so darn lucky.

This pandemic has shown me that parenting isn’t about sweating the small stuff, it’s about celebrating it. Finding the joy and the magic in the everyday. Letting go a little bit. And remembering that we are so darn lucky. There are so many people fighting for their lives or their rights right now, and some of them without food or paychecks, that staying inside with too much technology isn’t bad at all. The last bit that keeps me from locking myself in the closet is this: perspective. 

Author: Ashley Hutchings

Ashley is a New York City writer, cook, wife, and mom to two little girls. She’s currently residing in Connecticut—enjoying a city break and the ability to social distance in a backyard!

http://momuptown.com