Mom - You Are Doing VIRTUALLY Everything
The last 6-7 months (has it BEEN that long?) have been like something out of a movie. A freak tsunami sweeping the coast, leaving destruction in its path. A bizarre and unexplainable outbreak turning people into literal zombies. If you think of it that way, it makes all the sense in the world that our first reactions when COVID-19 rocked our world were nervousness and fear. Think about it- we were literally told to go home and STAY THERE with very little warning! In a word, that was TERRIFYING!
For many of you, not only were you expected to stay home and work from home, but your children would be learning from home as you juggled an already taxing load of responsibilities as Mom.
As a teacher, mom of a three year old, and wife to a police officer who works nights (yep- that layer of stress is a whole OTHER story), I experienced three solid months of little to no sleep, constant stress and anxiety, and enough wine consumption that I should have turned into a grape by now. Trying to find balance between work and home was nearly impossible. Teaching from home meant daily meetings with my third graders (almost all of which were interrupted by my toddler- once to declare “mommy, I went poopy in my underwear! It's a stinky one!”), answering calls and Google Hangout messages from 8am-9pm every day (even on some weekends), and trying to keep in touch with parents. All of this fell under a suffocating feeling of inadequacy.
It ALSO meant logging on to social media to see other moms struggling. Many of my mom friends were confused, concerned, overwhelmed- how were they supposed to “teach their kids” while many were working from home, or running businesses of their own, or taking care of an entire household?
I feel you, moms. I was there too.
In some capacity we will all be navigating a piece of our worlds virtually this fall. School. Work. Self-care. Exercise. After a summer of perhaps more low-key living, we again find ourselves on the cusp of a school year that will look completely different from anything we have ever seen before. As we enter this uncertainty (and “Into the Unknown” rings in my head… thanks, Frozen II), we would like to offer a few pieces of advice to you:
1. CONTROL THE CONTROLLABLE- I know, I know… easier said than done. However, if you begin the school year panic stricken, trying to pin down every little worry that you have about the return to school, you’ll be burnt out and crispy before September is over. One thing that I’ve learned since this started is that things are never going to go the way you think that they will, so expecting them to is a hopeless cause. One way you can gain more control over the return to school is by starting school routines at home. Have your children wear a mask for chunks of time during the day to make it seem more “normal”. Teach them to wash their hands after they touch their face (and help them understand how to do it properly). Establish a space at home for “homework” time that resembles a school setting as much as possible (limited distractions, somewhat isolated, comfortable).
2. BUILD-UP YOUR FLEXIBILITY- This may sound silly, but hear me out. When you are trying to learn a new exercise, you take it slow and learn at your pace, right (think burpee progressions here ladies)? You don’t look at it and say, “forget that- I’ll never make that work for me!” You MODIFY, ADJUST, and EASE into it! Think of this situation in a similar way. If you approach with a defeatist attitude, you will never find a rhythm that works for you and your family. Your expected routine doesn’t work? Adjust it where you can. You don’t have time on Wednesdays and Fridays for school work because your family has other obligations? Communicate that with your child(ren)’s teacher and work toward a better solution. You don’t know how to use Seesaw/Google Classroom/Chromebooks? YouTube has TONS of brief videos perfect for showing even the newbiest of noobs how to do these things (and I’d bet your mom groups do, too).
3. YOU ARE NOT YOUR CHILD'S TEACHER- SO DON’T FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO BE- Release that burden from your shoulders, or it will crush you. I can tell you, as a teacher who was very involved in the planning process for distance learning when it first began, not one single teacher threw up their hands and said, “Well, it’s up to you parents now! Here’s the work- good luck!” It is OUR job as educators to help your children continue to learn, whether they are in the classroom this fall or learning from home. Furthermore, we had to go through a LOT of schooling, and still have frequent coursework and professional development to do the job that we do- no one expects you to take that on. I know as a parent you don’t want your child to suffer or struggle, but I’ll remind you that it is only with pressure that diamonds are made- let your child be a diamond! If you need help, REACH OUT to their teacher first! They know your child’s educational needs the best.
4. SOCIAL MEDIA MOMS ARE NOT THE NORM- One of the most frustrating things for me this spring (and summer!) was trying to keep up with the “innovative” and “resourceful” things that teachers (and moms) were doing to “make distance learning work”. I’d open up my feed and see some Ms. Perfect Pants who created individual desk shields for each of her students, or Mrs. Mommy of the Year creating word walls at home on her Cricut machine. It was exhausting. The trouble is, if you pay enough attention to those things, your brain will start convincing you that you are not doing enough, not BEING enough- and that is dangerous. If you are feeding your children daily, encouraging them, keeping them active, communicating with their teacher when possible, showing them you love them- YOU ARE DOING A GOOD JOB! As a side note: if you see or hear another mom who is doing things for her children that you don’t agree with or you don’t think is right, be kind. She is doing the best SHE can, too!
5. REMEMBER- YOU ARE IMPORTANT, TOO- Take care of yourself so that you can then take care of your family. Do whatever you need to do to lessen your anxiety. Build in exercise to your weekly schedule- it can literally be a lifesaver. Endorphins are real, ladies! Preplan dinners for the week on the weekends to lessen the decision-making load during the week. Ask for help from a teacher. Take breaks when the opportunity arises.
6. YOUR FAMILY COMES FIRST- When it comes to your choice on how to approach the year (distance learning vs. in person instruction), the right decision is YOUR decision. Whatever you choose to do for your family, choose with your family’s best interests at heart, and know that you are SUPPORTED more than you are JUDGED, even when that does not seem to be true.
We are RESILIENT, STRONG, and POWERFUL- don’t you ever forget it! Best of luck to all of you, mommas!
My name is Justine Hill. I am a third-grade teacher and a health and wellness consultant. My husband, Tom, is a local police officer, and we are the proud parents of a beautiful three-year-old girl, Morgan. I have been with Momleta Syracuse since our daughter arrived, and I have fallen in love with this community!