As a working mother of an overly energetic 2-year old, I wanted to share some QUICK tips on how to find balance during this pandemic (especially since now many of us are starting to study again!) Special emphasis on the word quick: since anyone needing to read this won’t have time to read more, and I won’t have time to write it.
Before the tips, here is a brief background on why this is so important. Aside from the obvious lack of daycares and schools, this pandemic has also caused us to become isolated from our “village”. No more babysitters, no more play dates with friends, no more getting our energy out at the playground, no more weekends with Nana – it has been hard on all of us. Adding onto that the stress of studying for an actuarial exam, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Below are tips and tricks to keep this from becoming a full-on catastrophe:
- Do not strive for perfection. Is your family fed? Then you’re doing great! It’s fine if you are eating macaroni and cheese again.
- Be transparent with the people you work with. Maybe that deadline can be pushed back a day. Everyone knows that these times are unprecedented, and we are only human. I had a tear-filled breakdown to my manager less than a month into this.
- Talk to other parents. You are not the only one going through the struggles you’re experiencing. It was helpful for me to talk with another toddler mom who is dealing with the same issues. Picky eating, tantrums, lack of sleep, potty training -- we talked about it all.
- Use PTO if you need to. Many of us had to cancel summer vacation plans anyway, so why not take some time off and give yourself a break? Or at least as much of a break as you can get.
- Find something to look forward to. My family and I took a morning and picked strawberries. It was simple and extremely refreshing. Bonus: strawberry picking was a low risk activity. It had wide open fields, limited numbers of people, and masks were required for entry.
- Enjoy the outside. Take your family out for some fresh air. Go for a walk, have a picnic at home, or get your whole family to pitch in with yardwork. Soaking up the sun can do wonders for your mental (and physical) health.
- If you are lucky enough to have a child with a consistent nap schedule, use that time to your advantage. My son will usually sleep for 2 hours in the middle of the day. That is my time to close my office door, put on some music, and focus on work!
- If your child no longer naps, then they might be able to play by themselves for a while. Use those precious moments to your advantage! I saw an idea of having a little desk for your kid to “work” next to you. I’m not brave enough to try it, but it seemed like fun!
- Not everything is going to be accomplished. From housework to planned study hours, this is the time to understood what is least important. For my house, this means that laundry only gets done when one of us runs out of clean clothes, and vacuuming is a rare occurrence.
- Take advantage of early bedtimes. Not your early bedtime (although sleep is important!), but the bedtimes of your kids. My son goes to bed by 8 pm. This leaves me with 2-3 hours to study, clean, and hang out with my husband. It is arguably my most productive time of the day (and when I am writing this!)
- Plan a virtual play date. The first couple of times we tried this with my son he was too distracted to care. After some trial and error, we learned that he is most interested if we are doing a video call on my laptop in a closed room. This has helped us stay in touch with the outside world.
- Set boundaries. Set boundaries with the people you live with, so they understand when you need 20 minutes of peace and quiet for that important work meeting. Set boundaries for yourself so you don’t stay in your office chair all day or get sucked into working extra hours. Set boundaries with your friends and family. If you aren’t comfortable with seeing other people yet, don’t give in just to avoid a confrontation. Many kids don’t understand how to social distance.
- Most importantly, take time for yourself and self-care. My favorite thing to do is take a long bubble bath in the evening with my favorite drink. It helps me reset and rejuvenate to take on another day of this craziness.
Know that you are not alone. Many of us are struggling through this. One of my favorite quotes about being a parent is “The days are long, but the years are short”. Days sure have been long in the year 2020, but it too shall pass.
How are you managing studying, work, and COVID-19? What are your tips for staying sane?