Making It Work: Handling Social Isolation As A Parent

Overwhelmed is an understatement.

We’re on the third month of 2020 and I wake up each day hoping that this is all just a bad dream.

2020 was supposed to be THE year. The previous decade wiped clean. Onwards and upwards! Isn’t that what we all cheered about as we welcomed in the new year, champagne flutes in hand, less than 3 months ago? (Metaphorically speaking, of course. As a mum of a toddler, I stayed home and forced myself to stay up till midnight…and then went to bed five minutes later. But this little detail is besides the point.)

We’re on the third month of 2020 and I wake up each day reminded that this isn’t just a bad dream.

My heart goes out to all those whose lives have been turned upside-down because of all this. The lives lost, the businesses closed, the families separated by quarantine rules or travel bans, the plans postponed, the medical staff working round the clock. It is all truly heart-breaking.

Overwhelmed is an understatement. But we wake up, we plod on, we do our bit, we make it work.

And my bit right now looks like keeping a toddler entertained indoors all day, whilst giving my husband the space and time to work from home, making video calls to my family, whom I miss dearly, and trying not to think about what lies ahead.

As a mother of a young child I am comforted by the knowledge that the virus seems to go easy on children. But I am also very aware of the great chance that she may become an asymptomatic carrier, a threat to other, more ‘at risk’ groups who deserve every fighting chance to get through this ordeal unscathed. So we’ve been isolating ourselves, only heading to the remote countryside when we need some air.

The loneliness is intense, and if we’re not careful the days can get chaotic and long.

However, my consolation comes from the words I keep seeing everywhere: ‘We’re all in this together.’ As I sit on the carpet with my daughter propped up on my lap, drawing doodles of snails on a notepad for the umpteenth time, I am comforted by the thought that all over the country, thousands of parents are doing their bit. Trying to make this work, just like I am, whilst their routines and schedules have been turned on their head.

This brings me to the main point of this post. Because on the fourth day of the social-distancing-saga I realised that, if Sam and I didn’t address the sudden changes properly, we wouldn’t be able to do our bit effectively. We needed to actually discuss how we were going to make it work.

The following is a list of 7 things that have helped bring sanity and structure into our lives as we attempt to figure all of this out. As always, these stem from our needs and have made it easier for us…I’m sharing them because they might help you too.

  1. Address the changes: As I mentioned above, we’ve now found ourselves together all day in a small apartment, without the usual routines / play dates / errands / social interactions that helped keep us sane. So we sat down and talked about what changed, and how we plan on making these changes work for our current ‘new normal’.
  2. Make your schedules work around each others’: Right now, Sam needs to work and I need to take care of Kate, my sanity & the household. We could have decided that Sam would’ve been holed up with his computer and mobile all day whilst I distracted Kate…but that wouldn’t work for us. This is a unique situation and so we set allocated times for work and recreation that respected our boundaries.
  3. Tag Team – This one goes hand in hand with the previous one. We decided on certain ‘Kate Routines’ that Sam would do, just to give me a little breather during the day. Which leads me to the next point:
  4. Carve out ‘me time’ – We set aside a time, each day, to do something on our own, for ourselves. In my case one of these things is exercise – something that helps me lower my anxiety levels. Sam plays with Kate whilst I smash out 30 minutes of HIIT, it’s a win-win. I will never stop preaching about the positive effects of exercise on just about every aspect of your being…but obviously this ‘me time’ can be anything you want it to be. If you are the only adult in the household this might have to be during a nap, or once the kids are asleep – but believe me it is VITAL.
  5. Video-call loved ones: We have a scheduled FaceTime slot with Kate’s grandparents every morning. She obviously too young to understand why she’s not running around her Nanna Al’s garden chasing Billy Bob the dog, or why she’s not picking snails out of Nanna Tutzi’s flower pots on the daily. So in this case we’ve embrace technology wholeheartedly.
  6. Mute chats & take in less information: We decided to keep up to date, but to avoid spending endless hours scrolling through media sites & WhatsApp group chats. Notifications have been turned off and we check in with the major news once a day (unless a relative spills the beans over FaceTime of course). We also make it a point to steer well away from fake news.
  7. Eat well: Eating the right foods can help fend off the sluggishness that comes with being indoors all day. To avoid reaching for the guilty pleasures simply because they’re right there, we’ve stocked up on healthy snacks and eat light lunches. As a side note: parents, prepare your snacks too! You might get caught up thinking about how you’re going to feed your bottomless-pit of a child, but please don’t neglect yourself in this department.
  8. Last but not least, don’t be too hard on yourselves (or each other): It’s OK that the house is a mess, that your kids ate toast for dinner for the third night in a row, that Netflix is on at 9am or that you’re not thinking up creative activities for every second of your child’s day. Remember, we are doing our bit, and we are doing a good job.

Yes, overwhelmed is an understatement right now. And whilst you might not be on the front line at hospital, as a parent you are still very much on the front line of raising the generation that gets through all this. So take care of yourselves, because that’s the first step in taking care of others.

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