Staying Sane(r) In Quarantine
Stop staying "should" and "shouldn't" and do what works for you!
I pitched this article as a “how-to” piece providing insight from our most recent month in quarantine. It’s been a challenge to write because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to quarantine; Everyone has different resources, unique kids of varying ages and stages, family units, and work situations. So rather than writing another article with ideas of what to do to keep kids off TV (I couldn’t), and remind you to practice self-care (I didn’t), I wanted to try to normalize the lack of balance, discipline, and overall ‘bad’ parenting happening right now by sharing my pandemic-time parenting bible, which is not about should or shouldn’t, but about getting through by any means necessary.
Screen time, our friend
An extra hour or two (or three) of TV allowed me to do critical things, like work and talk to my husband. So I tried to ensure that the excessive TV my four-year-old watched was educational, like StoryBots or PBS Kids, by putting parental controls on YouTube and downloading age-appropriate content. An unpopular thing to say/do, I know, but #SorryNotSorry.
Throw money at the problem
The Dollar Store and Five Below have become our go-tos for cheap arts-n-crafts, games, and puzzles. I kept them in a closet in my office and if she came in while I was in a meeting, I’d pull something out to keep her entertained. Bonus: whatever we didn’t use is now a birthday present for someone else. Or will be used in the next quarantine which I fear with the heat of a thousand suns.
We are lucky to have family and friends nearby who offered to pitch in. But when LO got COVID, we were on our own. We did ask them, though, to support us by sending activities (and wine.) My local buy nothing group also came through with puzzles and games. It takes a village.
Eat to live, not live to eat
I have a super picky eater. If I let her, she’d eat a pack of bacon for breakfast, popcorn all day long, and a banana for dinner. And I did. Because forcing a balanced diet last month was too big a stressor on all of us.
Make new rules
Rather than try to stick to what we did before, we did what worked for now. Snacks on the couch? OK. No rest time? Sure. Tattoo on your face? Whatever. Easing up on rules made all of our lives easier. Which leads me to …
Break the rules
I know this will be controversial because the CDC has clear guidelines for what to do and what not to do. But our class had playdates anyway when we tested negative but still had another week until return to school. It was SO worth it to get out of the house and socialize – for all of us!
Cooking and cleaning are time-consuming. So I’d use my daughter’s mini broom to sweep up crumbs while I waited for my tea to brew, bought muffin mix versus baking from scratch, used the smell test to cut down on the amount of laundry we amassed, and stocked up on frozen food. I lowered my standards, and while it hurt my sensibilities, we had other priorities.
Pick your battles
I hear that some families have a dynamic where children listen to their parents. This isn’t generally our experience. But we did stand firm on a few things: Bedtime within a half hour of 8 PM; the TV went off one hour before bed; and we brushed teeth twice a day. Because if she didn’t sleep, we wouldn’t. And if she wasn’t clean, she might get sick(er).
The concept of self-care in quarantine is a joke. I’d say the best I could do is get 15 minutes of quiet during my kid’s waking hours. I usually accomplished this by an exchange of goods – she’d give me 10 minutes to enjoy my tea and the NY Times’ Spelling Bee, and I’d give her pretzels for breakfast. If she let me take an interruption-free shower, she could pick something from the crafts closet. Me getting quiet time was the difference between keeping it together or losing my s&#t and I will use any tactics to make it happen.
Ironically, this article was due on my daughter’s first day back at daycare after being home most of January. As I dropped her off I thought that maybe I’ll make some of these new rules the new normal. Because being a parent is hard. And being a working parent is hard. And being a working parent in a pandemic is brutal. So I’m going to extend us all a little grace as we do our best to navigate these weird times together.