It’s almost the end of what has to be the weirdest, most challenging school year most of us have ever faced. Some of us are working from home in addition to helping our kids through distance learning assignments; some of us are facing financial challenges due to layoffs. Regardless of our individual circumstances, we’re experiencing stressors that are unfamiliar to us all, which means we don’t even have others’ experience to rely on. It’s a new frontier, and we are all mommy-pioneers exploring Corona World.
In my house, we have two parents working full-time from home, in addition to a middle schooler and a first grader, who are both completing online lessons. There have been times in the past that I have considered being a stay-at-home mom, but never seriously; I find my career pretty fulfilling most of the time, and I have a supportive husband who shares kid duties equitably. But I have to say, since coronavirus has forced me to stay home and erased sports practices, dance classes, birthday parties and religious commitments, I feel like my family has connected in ways that we haven’t in a long time–maybe ever. I feel like I know my children better, which gives me such conflicting feelings: it’s wonderful, but at the same time, was the old way worth it? When we get back to whatever “normal” looks like, what pieces will we keep from Corona World?
It seems the one thing we can count on right now is that everything will change again soon. So here are some ideas to mine the gems from our current times and bring them with us into the future.
Focus on gratitude
I know that I speak from a place of privilege, because we have been fortunate enough to keep our financial stability and have not been personally affected by the virus medically. But don’t take it from me: take it from research. This article from Harvard Health’s Healthbeat details studies that show that expressing gratitude makes us healthier and happier in general. It also offers some ideas for developing a stronger sense of gratitude, including some activities that you could do with your kids. You can write thank you notes, keep gratitude journals, or meditate on the things in your life that you feel thankful for. Use a chalkboard in your kitchen, and tell everyone in the family to stop and write something they feel thankful for every day!
Our family calendar has been wide open since Corona World, but I know eventually it will start to refill. It might seem awkward, but as that begins to happen, schedule in family time! Make it a priority over all those other obligations that took up time BCW (Before Corona World). Dr. Jane Nelsen says in her book Positive Discipline that creating special time with your kids will not only make your kids happier, but will help them behave better, too. Bonus! Nelsen says that even just ten minutes a day of focused time with each of your kids can forge stronger and deeper connections. She suggests pre-planning the special time with your child. How about a list of bedtime stories for a little one, or for older kids, a monthly date night of their choice?
Be kind to yourself
Remember, Corona World is new to us all, and whatever comes next will be too. The things that used to work might not anymore, or they might work differently, or they might work better than ever! But we won’t know until we try, which means making some mistakes. That’s okay! Dr. Lucia Giovannini, a psychologist who studies human potential, says that too often when we experience change, we beat ourselves up when we make a mistake or fail. How to combat it? Make mistakes on purpose! Yeah, I cringed too. But her suggested “mistakes” are really just ways to accept less than perfection or relinquish complete control. There are even potentially fun ideas, like taking a wrong turn on purpose or–now stay with me here–leaving your phone at home. You might rediscover that variety is indeed the spice of life, or even remember what life was like when we weren’t governed by incoming emails or push notifications!
We hear a lot of “we’re all in this together,” which provokes different feelings in different people. But the one thing that we’re definitely sharing here in Corona World is a completely new experience. No matter how you get through to the other side, it’s the right way for you and your family. Stay strong, mommy-pioneer!