November 2020

Crazy Decisions in a Crazy Time

Can stressed parents also take care of themselves?

By Jeanette Prather

 What’s overly emphasized during this pandemic is the in-person versus distance learning decisions that parents are faced with, especially as childcare facilities and private schools open (or have been open), and public schools remain closed. It’s been stated and seems to be the first, sometimes the only, topic of critical decision-making among parents, but what about everything else that we are giving up (i.e. loss of wages, personal time, orderly home, quality family time, etc.) to host not just distance learning but the continuing pandemic, SIP orders, and everything in between?

“We make thousands of decisions every day,” writes contributing journalist, Brett Whysel, in a July 14 article for Forbes titled, “‘How Could I Be So Stupid?’ Making Decisions In A Pandemic.”.

“Under pandemic conditions, many of these mundane decisions have suddenly become life or death choices. No wonder anxiety is rippling through society. Should we: get needed medical care; go to the park, see friends and family; go shopping; order-in; eat out; or send our kids back to school? Decisions must be made.”

Not only are parents riddled with seemingly simple daily choices, but already stretched schedules and fatigued moms and dads can come face-to-face with juggling long mornings full of zooms, remote work, distance learning, and toddler play.
Showers and personal daily maintenance that once had a set time and routine must be squeezed somewhere in free pockets throughout the day.
“In times of crisis, self-care often goes out the window, writes Kristen Rogers, of CNN. “Who talked about self-care during the 1918 flu epidemic, World War II or the fall of Saigon? But this pandemic is different. Life goes on, albeit in an altered state, with parenting duties still piling up. Self-care is necessary, not optional, for recharging one’s batteries and fulfilling responsibilities.”

Rogers addresses the issue of self-care, but there is still a plethora of other items parents stick above self-care. Things like choosing between extra early rising to complete a personal task over carving out time during an already busy day; planning outdoor activities (or any activity outside the house) instead of more screen time; attempting to work remote or choosing between unemployment benefits or paid family leave; maintaining a tidy home; and/or actual human interaction over more zooms, tend to plague parents as they navigate throughout their days.

Not saying that every parent is having the same type of pandemic experience, but a lot of single-working homes or those attempting to work remotely while distance teaching, especially those with multiple children, are feeling the imbalance of mundane yet crucial decisions sprinkled throughout days on repeat, much like in the movie Groundhog Day.

“I want families to recognize that they need to shift their expectations, particularly the ones they hold themselves to,” said Dr. Bruce Perry, an expert in child trauma, during an October 1 webinar for the Facebook group, Pandemic Parenting.
While there are resources abundant for parents grappling with self-care, there’s not a lot of discussion on forging the way through the day-to-days, although it can be construed that one is a direct link to the other–self-care versus overall parental decision-making.
“As a parent at this time, it’s easy to feel that you have so many roles to fulfill that you can’t possibly perform any of them well,” advises helpguide.org “But it’s important to remind yourself that this is a unique situation, a global health emergency that none of us has had to face before. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not functioning at your usual standard. This can apply to your quality of work, your upkeep of the home, or your ability to keep your kids focused on their schoolwork.”

For self-care, all experts suggest getting plenty of sleep, eating well, exercising daily, and practicing good personal hygiene. “Caregivers also should be sure to take care of themselves physically: eat healthy, exercise and get enough sleep,” writes healthychildren.org in a post titled, “Parenting in a Pandemic: Tips to Keep the Calm at Home.” “Find ways to decompress and take breaks. If more than one parent is home, take turns watching the children if possible.”
Another piece of expert advice is not to try and do everything all at once, and to rather space things out and take your time with tasks. “Your current lifestyle is likely chaotic, so don’t worry about making big changes all at once,” writes Kristen Rogers. “You can make one little change at a time, so you don’t become overwhelmed.”
While there is no shortage of help and resources out there for over-stretched parents trying to navigate through this pandemic, and to remain solution-oriented, you can read more in-depth any of the articles referenced here. There are also a few communities set up like the Facebook group Pandemic Parents, and its accompanying website pandemic-parent.org, that connects people via regular zoom sessions. First 5 Santa Cruz County offers regular classes on several topics and can be accessed here: first5scc.org/calendar/parent-trainings.

Whatever it is you’re trying to work through as a parent in these very unique circumstances, just know that there are definitely others out there experiencing the same or similar things. Sometimes it just helps to know you’re not alone.

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