The worldwide actual situation of social distancing and isolation is being very hard for almost everybody. Many of you are worrying about how to pay the next bills. Many may feel lonely. Lots of you are worrying about your elders or just missing so much to visit and hug your best friend. Some of you may be even mourning the loss of a dear friend or family member.
But today I will write not write about them, or maybe yes, because I will write about these people who on the top of it all have children to take care of, to home-school, to entertain. I will write about moms and dads, specially the ones with several children.
When family or friends ask me how I am doing and I do explain my day, many answer: oh, you don’t get bored, do you? Some mums with just one child at home and sometimes even a man doing home office say: I don’t know why people complain so much, I am even enjoying the time at home with my family all together.
Well, I am not. Please do not understand me wrong. I have three wonderful daughters (10, 6 and almost 2 years old). They are healthy, smart and cute as hell. They are well behaved most of the time. And I usually love spending time with them. So what can be possibly wrong with it?
I will tell you. My partner goes working from 8-17h (no home-office) and I am at home alone with the three kids (and my business). Three kids in three very different ages. It is NOT a vacation week when we can just wake up late and play all the day. Go out for the movies, meet friends. It is nothing like that. What this is, is an extraordinary situation in which we have to continue our lives the best we can do, but indoors, keeping the roll of mother and business owner or home-office worker but assuming also the rolls of teacher and friends.
Psychologists suggest to establish routines, wake up at the usual times, get dressed up, do your home office, take on on hobbies if you lost your job. Avoid lying in bed or watching Netflix for hours. Avoid inactivity, avoid depression. Try to have a normal life. But what does it means for a mum like me, maybe like you?
Two of my kids are now home-schooled by me. While my eldest daughter is in 4th grade and works more or less on her own when it comes to her homework, she is struggling with the use of computer programs, new to her, to attend online classes (beside doing her regular homework, she has to learn to use MS Teams, Zoom, Skype and stuff like downloading/uploading documents, Word editing and so on… in few days, I would like to see many adults managing this), the 6-years-old is learning to write and read and need my constant supervision and the toddler expect me to entertain her every minute of the day. I have taught her to play with her toys but she will just not do it without me. Can I blame her? She is not even 2!
So I see myself in the kitchen cooking the meal while listening to my middle daughter trying to decipher and make sense of the words in her reading book while the eldest comes in and out every 15 minutes to ask me to explain her something she didn’t understood or frustrated because the computer crashed again (probably she only press the wrong button) and the toddler whining in the background because I am not making the horse sound that she loves to hear when we play with her toy horses.
That is not 5 minutes situation. That is 8-9 hours at day… every day.
Add to it the laundry, to change wipes or in many cases to keep working from home. In my case, I own a bjj academy which is at the moment close like everywhere else, but I implemented a live streaming training plan and i continue to teach kids and adults online. So i still have to manage to work some hours at day, preferably without a toddler crying in the background.
And this is just f+#^$ insane.
So when I say that I need a break, I’m not talking about wanting a vacation or a treat as a reward for doing my job or my responsibilities. What I mean when I say that I need a break is that I need a moment to feel like a human being and not a machine.
I read somewhere a mum who said: “I feel like I am living a life where I give my love and energy away, every moment of my existence, and can’t figure out how to keep any for myself” I felt the same so often in the last days.
And even if I am one of the most active and positive persons you would ever met, I had a few days ago a nerve breakdown.
It is not one thing what it broke me. It was the sum up of all of them: job, family, household and the new responsibilities added to the explosive recipe such as home schooling. So I cried myself out for two hours. The whole accumulated frustration and stress came up when my daughter computer crashed (again) at the moment she had to attend an online class and I coudn’t stopped the tears. In that moment I thought that I had come to my limits and the perspective that this situation is going to last at least one month more (if not more) just didn’t help. I sat down in the middle of the sitting room, cradled like a baby and cried. Yes, in front of my kids, and yes, I saw in-between tears their faces of surprise first and then sorry and worry. Of course I didn’t want to put this on them. But I just couldn’t control it any more. Yes, I am a mother, but that doesn’t make me a robot!
My partner came home, saw me and took the kids outside to ride the bike (at least we can still go outside here in Germany) to give me space. He took care of leaving me alone the whole afternoon that day.
After I calmed, I started thinking: what can I change? I need to do something to make this situation something we can live with. Something where we can be happy. I don’t want to waste these months just burning ourselves out and ending hating the motherhood, the family, the society. Time is precious, time goes by with or without quarentane. Are we going to be unhappy as long as this last? I don’t!
And I want my kids to remember this time as something hard but also special. Not the time where her mu/dad was crying or yelling every second day. I want them to remember it as the time in which they learned to ride a bike, there were more movies night than even before, we had all meals together as family, we played games or do home parkours.
So here my advices. These are not necessarily big things either. But whether they are easy or hard, we need to put some activities in our days that help us so we’re able to love our family and to love us again!.
- Lower your expectation. We are in a extraordinary situation any of us have lived before. If the kitchen is dirty or the homework was not finished, it is ok. Tomorrow there is another day. Stop trying to be perfect and control everything. It is not possible and it will make you very unhappy.
- Ask for help to your partner or whoever is living with you. Not only ask for it, demand it! Yes, they have also long working days. But if you are not the only adult in the household you shouldn’t be the only adult taking care of house and kids.
- Learn to say no. Also to your kids. I don’t want to be a mean mum and say not when they want me to read them a last good night story or to play that game again but trying to avoid being a «mean mum» was getting me to be an angry mum. I was irritated and yelled a lot. That is not better in any way. Say no when you think it is enough. Establish boundaries. For example, I told my kids that if I am in my room it means I don’t want to be talked to or bother for ANYTHING at all which is not an extrem urgency. It means i need my time and they need to respect it.
- Take time for yourself. Do it, please! Here some activities that may help you to relax and find yourself:
- reading a book
- taking a long hot shower
- doing your hair or make up
- chatting with a friend
- writing in a journal
- take a nap
If you don’t take breaks, get sleep, relax and have others helping you out, the stress (and anger) continues to grow. If you never have time to recharge yourself you will have more than a temporal nerve breakdown. Neither you nor your kids need this. Do it for yourself, do it for your kids or best, do it for you all. But do it.
Take care of yourself. And if you need to chat, I am here. From mum to mum.