Could we all just stop what we’re doing for a split second to acknowledge how tremendous of a job us parents are doing with parenting during a pandemic?! Nothing could have prepared us for what we’re going through at this moment. No parenting book. No parenting podcast. No parenting resource. At least for myself, I can proudly say that my husband and I are simply winging it. For those who don’t know me, my name is Meenakshi Sharma — I’m a mom to two little girls, whom I call my little warriors: 3.5 year old, Amia and 8 month old, Aliza. Life is beyond hectic. Under normal circumstances, my 3.5 year old would be on her merry way to daycare 5 days a week, my husband joyfully (insert sarcasm) at work, leaving just me and the littlest at home to enjoy our time together.
I have to admit, my first maternity leave was a blur – a lot of adjustments, many unknowns, serious fears, and overall trying to always make the most of it. I had big plans for my maternity leave this time around. I knew that the time would go by fast. And just as I was starting to venture out places (because let’s be real, having a baby in the middle of flu season was also VERY scary), lockdown hit the world. So naturally, just like many of you, our life has pivoted. We weren’t big on setting a schedule — a schedule just naturally unfolded. So, I’d like to share a bit about what our day looks like.
- Our alarm clock is our 8 month old who is clock-work up at 6 AM every morning (thanks, kid). But our toddler casually strolls out of bed whenever she’s ready. And to think pre-covid, we were getting her up at 5:30 AM to be out the door at 7 AM for daycare…that sounds cruel.
- Breakfast consists of whatever we want. My husband and I have been trying intermittent fasting, so we get away with breakfast — but we let our toddler decide: oatmeal, toast with peanut butter, or on occasion eggos (normally on Friday’s).
- After breakfast comes the tricky part, where our toddler usually asks us the most infamous question of all, “What can I do now?” During which time, my husband or I will very kindly ask our toddler to independently play for some time. Meanwhile, the 8 month old has had a bottle, eaten her oatmeal and ready for a nap at 9:45 AM. I think Aliza is the one who keeps us on somewhat of a schedule.
- We do get a bit of a breather (I mean this in the nicest way possible) when the littlest goes down for her first nap of the day, but that’s when I’m usually in charge of doing an activity with the toddler while my husband is working.
- And then I don’t know how this happens, but magically our day fast tracks with lunch and quiet time for the toddler, awake and bottle feedings for the littlest one. The next thing we know it’s 5 PM and the husband and I have yet to figure out dinner plans. That’s one thing that we could probably be better at — MEAL PLANNING! I hate cooking. Much of the meal preparation (I’m good at sending him Pinterest ideas) is left to my husband (bless his soul).
Of course this is a quick rundown of what our day’s look like. We try and head out for an afternoon walk because during the day we’re surrounded by construction trucks and workers. We have lots of dance parties and I wouldn’t be true to myself if I said there isn’t excessive screen time for the toddler. We are doing the best that we can. Having two little ones at home 24/7 is no joke. The demands. The noise. The crying. The tantrums. It’s HARD! Some days I’m hiding in my closet for a breather. Other days I’m on the floor fully engaged in playtime. And that’s okay. As I type this, I have an 8 month old yelling at me (it’s a phase) to pick her up. This time has been an ultimate test of resilience, perseverance, and commitment. I give myself grace for the days where I don’t feel like parenting and I encourage other parents to do the same as well. We do the best that we can. Otherwise, there’s always tomorrow. I know I put a lot of pressure on myself because I’m worried about the consequences of my toddler not having social interaction, not being outside all of the time, not engaged in a proper routine. But I very quickly remind myself that she is surrounded with love and comfort at home. She’s safe. We’re all safe. And my infant, who has literally been in isolation her entire life, is fortunate to have her older sister to look up to and play with. The two of them interacting is my calmness in this storm of chaos.
Although the school situation is uncertain at the moment, I’m mentally preparing that we might be at home for a little bit longer. If that’s the case, come September, I’ve decided that I will implement more of a schedule for my toddler that might mimic a school like environment. I say this now, but who knows. That’s the intention. And with Aliza, I’ve just accepted that she will not be attending daycare this year. And we’re okay with that.
On that note I want to stress one last thing. I’ve said this before in a vlog but I want to mention it here…whatever choice you make or decision you take, be comfortable with it. Don’t feel pushed or swayed in a certain direction. Always look out for your family first. Avoid and ignore the judgements and eyebrows raised — you don’t owe it to anyone. We all are trying to figure this out but we all have to do so in a way that protects our physical and mental well-being. Parents, I like to say, take it one hour at a time. Recharge, reset, and reboot…do whatever it is that you need to. But always know, our kids are watching us and we need to set that tone for them. So as a takeaway (by all means this is just me trying to pretend I have it figured out), I want to suggest a few things that might help parents who are feeling the burnout:
- Ditch the routine from time-to-time. I know every professional will tell you that children thrive off of routines, but don’t we all love a little stir in our schedules. To switch things up, every Friday is movie night. Amia picks a movie, stays up late, and sleeps in our bed. And weekends…hah, we might have had pizza for breakfast one day Saturday morning.
- Communicate. As much as we’re sharing our parenting journey’s through this pandemic, a huge element to all of this fun stuff is communicating with your partner. In the beginning (and on occasion it still happens), my husband and I were butting heads about EVERYTHING. We’ve quickly realized, we need to do a better job with speaking up when something isn’t working. Whether it be with the kids or work. We have to talk to each other.
- Let the tantrums happen. I’ve observed my toddler having more meltdowns, and that’s okay. If us adults are feeling the daunting wave of isolation, so are our little ones. I let her have the tantrums. I give her space. I walk away. And after a few minutes we reconnect and we talk about it. This happens multiple times during the day. I’ve moved away from the “time-outs” to more so this approach. I find it more effective and it helps not just my toddler let out her feelings of frustrations but I get a better sense of where she’s coming from.
- Keep up with the laundry. If there’s one thing you can schedule, schedule your laundry. I still do most of my laundry on Friday’s to get it out of the way for the weekend. I’ve been slacking in the folding department but at least we have clean clothes. Even though we may not be venturing out daily, we make it a point to change out of our pj’s (at least the kids do) and yes after a week, the dirty clothes pile up.
- Have fun. I don’t want to make this some long-winded laundry list (but remember to keep up with laundry!). Honestly, have fun. The silver-lining in this entire ordeal is that we get to watch our children grow every minute of every day. It used to irk me that I would miss out on precious moments when sending them off to daycare and school. I get these moments now and that’s the best feeling ever.
Love to all, always. In the words of Dory (a favourite movie around here), “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”