Let’s be real. 2020 is a planetary dumpster fire.
Virtually (pun intended), every societal norm has been altered, and our generation will probably spend the rest of our lives putting the pieces back together.
And there are so many pieces out of place.
The hits just keep coming. Aside from the coronavirus, 2020 has brought us murder hornets, deadly forest fires, unprecedented political tension, civil unrest, plane crashes, locust swarms, sandstorms, the death of legends (RIP Black Panther, Kobe Bryant, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg), and so many other stressful, anxiety-inducing events.
These national and global problems only compound the stress on parents everywhere who are trying to find some semblance of normalcy in their already hectic lives.
I have a rambunctious five-year-old, an introverted three-year-old, an immunocompromised spouse, two dogs, and four chickens. My pre-pandemic life was chaotic, at best. We love to travel, eat out, go shopping, and generally spend time away from home. As you can imagine, this pandemic has turned my life upside down—and I know I’m not alone in that.
I keep asking myself: how does someone fulfill all the necessary roles at once? Parent, spouse, employee, teacher, housekeeper, cook, just to name a few. Doesn’t it feel like we’re being asked to star in a mission, “Impossible” style action film?
But we’re not Hollywood actors, and parents simply can’t do it all. Prioritizing is an absolute must, and some things just won’t get done. I’ve spent months pondering where my time is best spent. How do we get through this pandemic with the best possible outcome?
My family and I have tried a lot of things to get by. My husband has moved around his work-from-home desk several times. We tried both distance-learning and homeschooling for kindergarten. We’ve tried planning future vacations to give us something to look forward to. We’ve tried focusing on family time. We’ve thrown ourselves into movie marathons and TV show binges. We’ve tried focusing on learning new things. We’ve tried getting out of the house in socially-distant ways. And it all feels like pure survival.
Here’s the real question: what can we do to move from surviving to thriving?
It would be easier for me (and probably parents everywhere) to get through the rest of this crisis if we knew we’d come out the other side better off. I could tolerate this upcoming winter (which is predicted to be a cold, wild one by the Farmers’ Almanac, as if we needed any more craziness), if I knew it was going to make my family stronger.
All of a sudden, it hit me like a ton of bricks. To thrive, my family needs to focus on self-care. I need to teach my kids and my spouse how to truly take care of their mind, body, and soul. More importantly, we need to practice it daily.
Sometimes, the idea of self-care is seen as selfish. People picture luxurious spa treatments and expensive vacations that can only be afforded by the wealthy. However, while manicures and massages may work great for some people, self-care isn’t all about pampering ourselves. It’s so much more.
It could be as simple as journaling, practicing yoga, or Tai Chi. It can be learning to cook delicious comfort food or finding the perfect exercise routine. Some people find baking therapeutic. Exploring music, joining a book club, coloring, gardening, writing stories—self-care is all about finding activities that recharge you.
Developing self-care skills is immensely valuable. People will thrive, pandemic or not, if they have the right tools. If we understand how to rejuvenate ourselves, we will have the perseverance to push through any stressful situation. Since we’re stuck at home anyway, why not take this opportunity to teach and practice these skills, not only to ourselves but to our children?
You may be asking yourself, “How can I possibly teach self-care when I can’t finish the dishes? Isn’t this just one more thing to take on?” I asked myself those same things. What I’ve discovered is that it may seem overwhelming, but the small amount of effort it takes to prioritize self-care makes every other task a little easier to tackle.
First, I discussed self-care with my little ones. At the dinner table, during bath time, and on our way to pick up our Target drive-up orders. We simply had conversations about what it means to recharge your mind, body, and soul. I let them come up with activities they want to try, then gave them opportunities to practice.
My oldest loves to draw, so I leave out paper and crayons for her to access at any time. My youngest loves to help me cook, so I invite her to chop veggies (with a kid-safe knife) and stir pots any time I’m in the kitchen. Bonus: this is completely in line with our positive parenting strategy.
I also make a point to practice self-care so my girls can see that it’s a priority for me too. No teaching tool is more powerful than serving as an example yourself. A strategy I use is to ask for self-care type gifts from my kids, so they know it’s important to me.
I’ve made a commitment to continue exploring self-care with my girls. For the holidays (and birthdays), we’ll be putting self-care items on our wish lists. We’ve found plenty of virtual cooking courses, at-home spa kits, and fun activity kits to keep us busy for many months.
The world feels out of control. We are mourning losses on all fronts. It will be months, maybe years before our lives return to any kind of normal. But I’ve realized I can do more than just help my family survive this pandemic.
We thrive in spite of it, and you can too. And it all starts with taking care of ourselves first.