This blog post is adapted from a presentation by Sarah McDonald, Galileo’s VP of Southern California Operations. You can watch the full video here.
A couple of weeks ago, something shifted.
I’m usually someone who will get up early to do morning yoga and who will jump at the chance to sneak in a quick run. A couple of weeks ago, the words “20 min yoga” and “30 min run” started dropping off my daily schedule. Instead of getting up early to meditate or write, I started sleeping in. I could feel my emotions floating just below the surface throughout the day, like oil shining on the surface of a lake, warning you not to dive in. There was an unease in my stomach and I felt just, tired. Tired down to my bones.
I sat myself down to figure out what was going on and I realized that I haven’t been away from my kids for more than a run or a jam-packed workday since March. My husband and I are both working full-time with both kids. We’re trying to maintain joy and normalcy for them, but we don’t feel normal. Isolation is hard. I’ve always wanted more time with my kids and I am truly loving that. But we all have limits, and most of us hit them a long time ago.
My husband and I were at the end of our physical and emotional energy to hold it all together, and that was when we signed the papers to homeschool until January. Huh? Yup, January.
We have navigated so many new ways of being, had so many hard conversations, encountered unimaginable situations. We did what felt like the impossible, only to look up recently and see that there is no normal to return to.
We’re heading into an uncertain fall. Some of us are ready to distance learn or homeschool for the indefinite future, many while working full time. Some of us are confidently sending kids back to school, and others are doing so anxiously.
What I hear the parents around me share is different than it has been the last few months. Everyone around me is saying they are just so, so tired. Some say their motivation is gone, or that they’re unclear on what to do.
One thing is clear, parents: we need to take better care of ourselves. Here are five ways to do it.
#1: Feel what’s there.
In Rising Strong, Brené Brown talks about how we often try to “gold plait” the experience of falling down—and how when we do, we miss the point. Falling down hurts, and when we acknowledge that we’re tired, or anxious, overwhelmed, uncertain, or just that we need some help, we can move through it and we can move on.
Right now, this could take the form of lying in stillness before waking up in the morning or at night, noticing what’s there and letting it be. It could take the form of journaling, or of quietly stepping out and taking a two-minute break outside to breathe, and get curious about the information that your feelings have to give you. We can do hard things, but we don’t need to pretend that they’re easy.
#2: Take little sips.
No matter how cheek-chewing cute your kids are, we all need a break from 24/7 parenting. Rina Podolsky, LMFT, says that in order to feel balanced and calm, adults have to take some time away from their littles. Here are some ways I sneak away:
Carve out time.
Get up 30 or 60 minutes earlier than everyone else. Make coffee and sit in the yard with a blanket. I meditate while I’m out there, clearing my mind for what might be the one time I get to do that in a day.
Focus on gratitude.
I’m talking about right now. We all know that gratitude journals lead to happier minds, but right now, I don’t have the time to keep up with that. So I focus on the most ridiculous tiny things that bring me joy in a moment. The specific shade that’s coloring the sky above me, the temperature of the breeze on my skin, the warmth of a coffee mug in my hands, or the way my partner crinkles his eyes when he smiles. Get present and look for what you like. It chases away the worry.
Blow off steam.
I pencil in a 20-minute jog or stretch on as many days as I can, and plan some exposure to nature on the weekends. But I also run outside and hide behind the planter beds if I need a two-minute reset. For real. I duck down low so my kids can’t see me, and I just take a minute to breathe and be a person, in a body, in the world.
#3: Let your partner be just one human.
I don’t know about you, but over the past few months, I have asked a lot of my husband. He has been my playmate, my confidant, my business partner, my apocalypse planning team, my co-teacher, and my love.
Podolsky says that during these quarantine months, couples have expected one another to fill all of one another’s needs, and it’s not tenable. That amount of pressure on one person is just too much.
As the uncertainty of the future continues, we need to lean on more than just our number one. Find time with friends in the moments that you can, so that you can get support from more than your partner. Great ways to do that are through zoom hangs, distanced walks, phone calls, texts, and Marco Polo. It takes a village my friends, and not just to raise a kid.
Podolsky says that people are experiencing stress from all angles. Attempting to meet our normal standards in a time when that’s not possible piles that stress into a leaning tower that’s going to fall. You just can’t do it all, Podolsky says, and if you try to right now, the pressure will be too high. So let a cupboard be messy or a book go unwritten till next year. Choose, and be okay with it.
#5: Know that the kids will be okay.
Choose and be okay with what you decide for your kids, too. Kids are resilient, and they follow our lead. If we are ambivalent, anxious or uncertain about the futures we are leading them into, our kids will feel that way too.
If we choose to homeschool, distance learn, or send our kids back to school, communicate that decision with calm and confidence, so that your kids know they’re on the right track. If you know it, they know it.
Here are three other small things that you can do to keep kids feeling safe:
- Even during summer, stick to a normal bedtime and wake-up schedule.
- Plan in some form of exercise for the kids each day
- Smile at them. With your eyes. It only takes a second.
We can do hard things, but we don’t have to pretend that they’re easy. Get support from your people. Choose and be okay with what you can and can’t do. Notice the tiny joys that still line up behind one another to form your day. Take some adult time for yourself, for the love. Eventually, we’ll walk each other to the other side of this wildly weird time.
Sarah McDonald is Galileo’s VP of Southern California Operations. When she’s not heading up camp operations, Sarah loves to write, paint, and adventure with her fam.