A friend texted from Oregon today and asked our group chat, "So, 5 weeks into this life... how's everyone doing in 3 words?"
The responses trickled in. "Discombobulated." "Stunned." "Pants don't fit." "So. Many. Feelings."
My response: "Am I dreaming?"
This whole experience for me has been surreal. I feel like I could wake up at any moment and tell my husband what a strange, strange dream I just had. "We couldn't leave our houses!" I would say. "They canceled school for six months! And we couldn't hug our parents! I mean, we could technically talk to them from far away, but you couldn't actually go near them."
"Weird," he would shrug. And we'd go on with our day.
And yet, here we are. No dream (as far as I can tell.) This is very much real. And I'm very much attempting to run a business while caring for and educating three children around the clock.
As I'm sure many of you are experiencing, some days I feel like the Queen of the Quarantine, and other days I feel like I might go crazy.
But here are some things that have been helping me survive the Work-From-Home-And-Somehow-Homeschool runaround, in case they're helpful for you:
1. Let the kids get bored.
Honestly, I think I've mastered this one. The key is having the mental strength and fortitude to power through the fight that your kids may put up, and the whines like nails on a chalkboard.
But what follows the storm is the beautiful, sometimes quiet, sing-songy sound of your kids playing on their own.
As I write this, my girls are deep in pretend fairy play, running in and out of the house, twirling around and making things up as they go. (Disclaimer: This morning all three kids were screaming while I tried to use the bathroom for thirty seconds.)
And me? I'm getting some work done.
But it's also for their benefit. It's been demonstrated time and time again that there are scientific advantaged to letting children be bored. It makes them more creative, more resourceful, more motivated, and it promotes psychological well-being.
The best part about this strategy is that it's like a muscle that gets stronger. The more often you do it, the quicker they fall into the leave-you-alone-and-make-up-a-game mode.
2. Wake up before your kids.
This is the single most important thing getting me through this pandemic. By the time night rolls around, my brain is fried and I'm rather tired after a long day.
No matter how disciplined I try to be at night (I know I should be taking an essential oils bath or meditating), my time is typically spent watching shows, scrolling on my phone, or actually talking to my husband.
But in the morning, before the rest of the house has woken up, my mind is fresh and alert (after a couple glasses of water), and I can actually think straight about my personal and professional goals for the day. I can read an inspiring passage, attend to emails that need a response, and determine what I can realistically accomplish that day.
On the days when I wake up before my kids, I feel fulfilled and energized when they wake up, instead of drained and desperate.
Try it once.
3. Intentionally connect with each child a few times a day.
Let go of the idea that you should be entertaining or educating your child all day. Strive instead for a few points of meaningful connection each day, so that your children feel anchored to you and motivated to explore on their own.
Obviously some kids are more needy of your time than others (believe me, I know), but it's a worthy goal for everyone to have a reasonable amount of together time and apart time. You can even start calling it "Together Time" and "Apart Time".
Meaningful connections means there are no phones or devices, you're fully present with them, there's lots of eye contact, and not a whole lot of discipline. It's story time with a snack, a silly conversation over cereal, a special activity you know they'll love, a hike around the neighborhood, coloring together at the kitchen table, and playing catch in the yard.
You'll all feel better after this bonding time, and you'll feel less guilty during those times when you have to say no to spending time with them. You'll know there is built in time later to connect with them again.
4. Identify screen time that you're a-okay with.
It's safe to say most kids are engaging in more screen time these days. So instead of feel guilty about it, I've identified some screen time options that I don't feel one-bit bad about letting them engage with.
These are resources that I know are safe, educational, AND the kids like them. We all win.
5. Re-assess weekly.
I was definitely the person who panicked at the start and created a color-coded schedule. It's what I needed at the time to feel like I had things under control.
But at the end of each week, I take a little time to reflect about what needs to change. Our schedule has become more relaxed, our dinner time has moved up, and my husband and I have tweaked our responsibilities as needed.
Last week, for example, it was obvious that my late nights watching "Love is Blind" on Netflix was translating into irritability and impatience during the day. So as much as it pained me, I'm only allotted one episode per night. I have to pry my hand onto the remote to turn the show off, but turn it off I do.
Another tweak I'm making this week is to (possibly) put on a little makeup during the day. I think I need to get back to feeling like a person who could possibly go out in to the world if she absolutely had to.
The point is, think regularly about what's working for you, and what's not. And then tweak it so you get a little better at this whole thing next week.
What have you been doing to make it through this strange time? We'd love to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.