I’m A Business Owner + Toddler Mom, Here’s How I’m Coping During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for Moms and Dads. The hypervigilance and anxiety that parents and caretakers feel at this time about every small decision is exhausting and it’s requiring creativity, resourcefulness, and flexibility to make it through the day. Here’s how one family of 3 in the U.S. is coping and finding joy despite the challenging times.
If you talk to any parent right now you’ll learn about tough decisions being made in order to stay safe during this COVID-19 pandemic and find creative ways to keep our family and work lives intact. This is a stressful time for parents and caregivers as the future is so unknown and our way of life has been drastically changed in such a short time.
My family of 3 has been lucky in many ways as both my husband and I can work from home and my work has flexible hours. All the years I spent transitioning my career and work life to one that is virtual/remote and flexible as a health and freelance writer has paid off and my husband works at-home/remotely for a global company. Nonetheless, when preschool/daycare closed in March, once COVID-19 in the U.S. became more problematic, our lifestyle and habits had to change in a big way to be able to work and take care of our child at the same time.
The next 10 weeks of the stay-at-home order in our city became an exercise in experimentation as we struggled to figure out what would work for our small family in order for everyone to stay safe, happy, and healthy. We found it impossible for everyone to get their needs met every day in this situation and we realized how crucial childcare was for our overall wellness as a family. It became much harder to take care of ourselves- at least all at the same time. Dad could no longer go to the gym, mom could no longer do her daily physical therapy and self-care, and the toddler couldn’t get play time with other children and the structure of school. Most importantly, it was impossible for both parents to work full-time with a toddler at home.
Since I have the more flexible work schedule it made sense for me to reduce my hours to part-time and to schedule my work around when my daughter was sleeping, or when my husband wasn’t working. This was a huge emotional blow to me and a financial setback for our family. All the while we were still required to pay for childcare to hold our spot for when they reopened. We were grateful for our ability to stay home safely and be able to keep our jobs, but the financial stress and lack of space to take care of ourselves was heavy (not to mention the fact that we have a very small home and my husband and I share an office which we have found can really hurt your marriage if you don’t communicate well).
How we Managed
During this time- what I refer to as “phase 1 of the pandemic”- a few things saved us:
- My husband started taking our toddler on daily, morning hikes at a nearby nature preserve (and may have multi-tasked a few work conference calls at the same time) where it was easy to social-distance and also get some exercise for our kid. That allowed me to have some alone time, clean the house, do my exercises, and shower/get ready for the day.
- We began using grocery home-delivery services regularly (thank you instacart!).
- We used the marco polo app daily to communicate with friends and family.
- We took our communication and coordination to the next level—My husband and I started having daily (and sometimes hourly) check in’s about who was taking care of the kiddo, who was on a work call, who was cooking, who fed the dogs, etc.
- We made our space work for us better- We turned our “dungeon” of a basement into a workout area, got a grill and some patio furniture to enjoy the backyard and cook at home more, and made our office into a partial guest room to allow for much needed alone time occasionally.
After the 10 week stay-at-home order our daughter’s preschool/daycare reopened and we were given the option to send her back to school within specific guidelines and health rules. This was a difficult decision to make, as sending her would invite more risk to our family, but after much consideration we decided to send her.
Now, we are in what I refer to as “phase 2 of the pandemic” where we live with uncertainty daily, yet our life feels a bit more balanced and I am able to work more than before. That being said, the hypervigilance and anxiety that parents feel at this time about every small decision is exhausting when thinking: Will the school close again? Do we need to quarantine due to a runny nose? Can I send my kid to daycare if my mother visits? Do I have a sore throat and thus need to pull her out of school? Are the other parents at the school being as vigilant as we are?
These days we are focused on staying positive, flexible, and finding joy in the small things. We no longer are in survival mode mentally, and have embraced these changes in our life and work as possibly long-term. We know that anything can change at the drop of a hat so we constantly are talking through back up plans (we recently had to quarantine for 2 weeks recently due to mild cold symptoms and I had to cancel my clients and rearrange my life last minute) while trying to find ways to have fun safely in order to enjoy our life the best that we can. We’ve relied on getting outside to nature trails, parks, boating on the lake, or walking in our neighborhood to find joy and reduce stress.
If you are struggling with coping right now, you aren’t alone. Reach out to a parent-friend to brainstorm ways you can social-distance but also do something fun outside. Talk with your partner or spouse about how you can change your schedule to meet an unmet need or get some space. Rearrange your house to make your space work for you better and allow your groceries to be delivered to you, if possible. It’s important for all of us to embrace some uncertainty and compromise right now in order to take care of our community, but also find balance and take care of ourselves the best we can so we can come out on the other side of this horrible situation in a good place.
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