Coping with no space
Do you have any space in your day to think...or just make a cup of tea in peace?
One of the costs of lockdown is the pressure that is being experienced by parents as they are juggling so many roles, but without many ways to relieve this pressure. Many parents whose work has moved from outside of the home to 'working from home', have lost that natural escape from the pressures and demands of family life, which is now meshed together to create a messy version of 'work'. Their brains, that would normally be slightly distanced from the pressures of home, are now having to multitask in a new and stressful pattern of holding two opposing demands in tension all the time. Parents are struggling to balance getting their work done and keeping their jobs, with helping their children to connect to their online lessons or supporting them with the learning; plus making (or at least having food in the house to provide) everyones breakfast, lunch and dinner and all the other menial jobs that keep a family going.
Parents that are Keyworkers and Critical workers who are leaving the home to work are living with risk and pressure of their increased risk of exposure to Covid 19, their stressful work but without the normal space or relaxing activities that would normally help to relieve the stress. Coming home to start the second job or parenting their tired children.
Daytime merges with evening and for those parents with older children or with younger children that prefer not to sleep, the evening still does not provide any 'space' or respite. Children are less tired, from less activity and their brains are also trying to process the weird changes and restrictions that we are living with. They may be (understandably) more fearful. Your children may be finding it harder to fall asleep. You may be finding it harder to fall asleep!
Wow, what a fun existence I am describing! So what can we do to help create some space for ourselves and to model this for our kids too.
Introduce a day of rest in to your week?
Can you manage one of your weekend days (or other day if suits you better) that you don't juggle work too. (You may not do paid work, but you probably juggle lots of other work like running the house, food shopping etc). This can be a difficult boundary to put into place but you will feel the benefit of it! Think about how that day may be different. You may be doing this already and it would be great if you can share your ideas in the comments below. Perhaps you lock your smart phone in a drawer and put away your laptop. Choose activities that inspire and refresh you, maybe a walk in the fresh air, or pottering in your garden if you have one. Maybe you have a favourite family film you can put on (to have a doze to). You could organise a date night in with your partner where you both find ways to set the evening apart from all the others. If there is someone else to help with childcare, take it in turns and give each other some time out. If you are in a childcare bubble arrange some time to yourself. Go for a run, walk, bike ride! Give yourself time to read a book, or have a long bath or shower. And then do this every week! Schedule in your rest day. You will still need to parent, but take out as many other demands as possible for that day. Games nights can be fun ways for families to connect, or if your kids are smaller, then getting lots of toys out and playing on the floor with them without any other distractions will do you all lots of benefit.
Parents of children with special needs may find that the above is not possible at the moment. Perhaps you could try 1/2 a day, a morning, afternoon or evening where you schedule some time for rest. Can you find a way to make that work?
Accept that we are in an impossible situation and so drop the perfectionism!
On the days that I am working at the moment I have accepted that my kids will probably not finish the school work that is scheduled for them by their school. Since accepting that 'fact', it has proved a much less stressful situation. I sometimes use the days that I am at home to help them 'catch up', but other days I value the chance that they have had to play a bit more, and actually have taken some pressure off them too. Accepting that homeschooling our kids whilst juggling everything else is an impossible task can help take some pressure off.
Finding a chance to sit with your kids and be fully present for a small part of the day is valuable but you are not going to be able to do this full-time! If you can, then I salute you!
Find ways for family fun!
Wrap up warm and get outside for your safe, daily exercise! Breathe in the air and try and look around at nature and notice beauty. Let yourself craft thoughts or words that take in the beauty and wonder you see.
Watch silly or funny TV programmes to lighten the viewing. Our family has discovered the series Pooch Perfect on BBC iplayer and are enjoying giggling and dogs with funny haircuts. Find ways to experience joy together. With younger children that might be spending time tickling each other or reading funny stories. As we relax it gives our kids permission to relax and they get the message "my parent is ok, they have got this".
Reach out to a friend
Let someone else in on your life know how you are coping. You don't have to struggle on alone. You will find lots of empathy and understanding from other people, and if you don't, then connect with someone else instead! We need each other at the moment. Let's find ways to stay connected.