Parenting amidst the Pandemic
March 16th I woke up and realized I would soon become a completely different parent than the one I was the day before. Since my children were 5 years old and 2 years old, I have held a full time position, in an office, surrounded by sharp thinkers with unmatched wit. I defined myself as a “working mom” a busy mom that has a lot on her plate and feels competent in balancing the challenge of work life and home life. I like to dress for work. I enjoy the intellectual complexities work has to offer. In addition, I enjoy the drive home from work, as I listen to my music before I jump in to that infamous phone booth to emerge in my suit of wife, mother, and “Chief Family Officer.” But, what was this? A new identity creeping in to view? An identity that was muddy, murky, with no well-defined pin stripes and block heeled pumps. An identity that might wreak havoc with my steadfast routines and parenting strategies. My head was spinning.
As I packed up my office and drove home and parked in front of my garage, I thought “this isn’t going to be so bad, I’m always longing for more time at home, I have a great relationship with my kids….why am I so anxious?” Then, the morning came. “Mom, I can’t get on the WiFi.” “Mom, would you make me breakfast” (it was 9:45am). “Mom, want to see this game I just made up?” “Mom, we don’t have any kale to feed my lizard.” “Mom, mom, mom…….” The requests, the questions, the knocking, the talking, just kept coming and coming and coming. It was at this point that I realized my husband and my children were the exact same person.
A week, or maybe 10 days evaporated from my life. As I was trying to focus on work tasks for the day, I found myself tapping my fingers and looking out the window. I turned and caught a glance at my disheveled self in the mirror, no makeup on, black sweats and a hoodie; this had become my “new normal” and I was grumpy. At that very moment I decided I would no longer be held hostage to these invaders of my workday! I would do what I do best, mange my way out of a challenging situation. I would take back control.
That control started with myself. No more sleeping in and blowing off my work out to a later time in the day. No more excuses for not following my daily work/life routine. No more interruptions. I was going to have to don a teacher’s cap and educate my children about the etiquette of work life and give them support in navigating their online distant learning life.
I made a sign on the door for office hours with a caveat at the bottom that read, “Please do not knock, if you truly need something that can’t wait, please text or message me.” Shortly after the sign was hung, I discovered dogs can’t read but, they surely figured out how to demand my attention and pull me away momentarily.
We posted their school hours and discussed how all of us need to get up, stretch, take a walk outside around the house, anything to break up our day of endless screen time. We talked about self-care and the importance of routine, good food, and lots of water.
The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry or in our case, transitioned into some intense arguments. What I realized is that we had some decent plans but no rules to go with those plans. What was I thinking? Wasn’t that Management 101? Rules of engagement, we needed to devise some boundaries that we could all agree to, where we all had a little bit of control.
What I also realized is that although the package looks different I still work full time, in an office, surrounded by sharp thinkers with unmatched wit. COVID-19 has taught me to slow down and be grateful for what is in front of me. My normal may not look like your normal, each of us needs to find out what works best for you and yours and be confident that whatever it looks like, it’s ok. Sometimes the path of least resistance is the right path to take. Now that is Management 101.