Parenting Through A Pandemic

Where I live, we entered into another lockdown which included a 2week extension. Schools have been closed for weeks, and businesses including restaurants have either temporarily closed, permanently closed or have become delivery/pickup only. There is no question that this is a hard time. We are all tired, exhausted and very frustrated. We all want this to end.

This is a trying time for so many parents and families. We are faced with sacrifices we never knew would exist, and there is so much added pressure trying to maintain work and home life. While we are feeling upset and stressed out, there are some things to be grateful for. These will never take away the many struggles we faced, but I wanted to show you that not everything was crap!

I have formed a special bond with my daughter.

Being at home, and my daughter’s preschool was closed the beginning half of the pandemic, she was home with me full-time. At first, this was the hardest parenting lesson I experienced. How would I teach, and entertain my daughter for a full day, while being house bound? I felt panicked, and knew I was not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom. I have had to pull up my sleeves and get creative. We walked, ALOT! We spent a lot of time outdoors in our backyard. We made friends with our local garbage & recycling truck men. I would be lying if I told you we didn’t watch more TV than planned. Sometimes we all need a break. Spending one on one time with my daughter, allowed us to form a better relationship we otherwise wouldn’t have. We created a routine that allowed us to dance, be silly, snuggle and just hangout, just the two of us. We created memories.

Photo by Angela Best

Our family worked as a team.

During the majority of the pandemic I was pregnant with my second daughter. While I got bigger and further along in my pregnancy, I had to rely on my daughter and my husband for more patience and help. Although, my husband was forced to work from home due to the pandemic closures, this was a blessing. Having him close by allowed me to lean on him a bit more for help. If he was at the office I wouldn’t have had the same level of help. This was certainly an adjustment, but overtime we were able to develop a groove that worked. I was able to develop a routine with my daughter that allowed me the necessary rest I required while she got to do activities she wanted.

I learned to let go, and pick battles.

Not everyday was a walk in the park. Some days we watched Frozen 1 & 2 in a day, while other days we spent more time outdoors. Excessive TV watching and tablet play, I was picking my battles. In normal circumstances I would have been more mindful. However, being house bound and with limits to what you can do for fun, I learned to let go, a lot! Wrestling a toddler to wear shoes, playing with sticks and using them as wands, while making sure she wore her hat on sunny days, didn’t always end up happening. I learned to pick my battles because not wearing shoes, playing with sticks, and not wearing a hat was not going destroy my day, it would have ruined my daughter’s day. We learned to let go when it came to meal time and meal prep by ordering take out more often than before. Our house looks “lived in”, with a side of chaos. We have learned to accept that things aren’t perfect and it’s ok to let go, sometimes. 

Photo by Angela Best

We have slowed down. 

Scheduling playdates, and activities have been canceled. This free time was hard to get used too at first. Now, it has been nice. Not having something scheduled a couple times a week, has been a blessing. As a family, we have adapted to more quality time, and planning more family activities around the house. Everything we do as a family has been thought out and slowed down. We have enjoyed taking a more “relaxed” approach, and we no longer feel that we have to cram so many activities in our day.

Even though a lot of days have felt hard and super stressful, I have learned so much. I have practiced patience, gained strength, and learned to love in many ways I didn’t know was possible. I felt so angry when I would see others not following the rules. It would make me so mad while others would travel to visit loved ones while I was waiting until it was safe. All of these feelings were so raw, honest and consuming. There is no doubt I felt pissed off!

It took me months before I accepted that this pandemic was out of my control. I’m still working on not allowing this pandemic to consume myself and my family, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with my girls and husband. This has been a blessing in disguise. Our kids are only kids for such a small amount of time. The time we have with them, are the times they will remember the most. Sometimes we have to experience the hardships, and stress before we can truly appreciate, and see the little moments that are meaningful. I find myself less mad and upset with this pandemic, and more excited for all of the new things we can do as a family, and the memories will continue to make.

Learning To Love Myself

If you were given the opportunity to redo parts of your life, would you? Would you go back to your teens? Or would you go back to your 20’s? I’ve caught myself thinking about my life before I met my wonderful husband and before I had my girls. I would find myself asking, would I ever do it again?

The answer might seem like an easy one for so many. One of the biggest promises I made for myself was to always live my life without regrets. This was so important to me for so many reasons. I remember that first feeling of regret and how it made me feel, and that’s where I started to do some internal, emotional digging, and learned the tools I needed to cope and learn from each experience.

Growing up, I have had my fair share of being in the wrong places at the wrong time and making friends who made questionable decisions. Everyone around me saw me as crazy, reckless and wild. I was the “problem” child. I was labelled as defiant, and rebellious. These were the constant labels that I would often hear. But, was I actually rebellious, or was I seeking independence? No matter what outcome this had brought me, I learned from each mistake and learned things about myself that others around me wouldn’t have learned

Some of the best choices I have made and lessons I have learned were from pushing back, and making my own choices. Despite what others would think, I did choose my friends carefully. Despite what others thought, my friends were my village. I surrounded myself, and spent most of my time with my friends than I had with most of my family. I chose friends who allowed me to be who I wanted to be, without judgement. I surrounded myself with friends who not only chose their own decisions and their own path in life, but would never question my decisions or my paths. My friends, for the most part, were always there for me, when I needed someone the most. Early on, I knew how to look past questionable differences, because the choices that someone makes, doesn’t always translate to the choices I make. Everyday, we are making choices for ourself, consciously and subconsciously. Even though we can’t always control all circumstances, we always have the choice on how we act and react. This was something I remember that was not always trusted of me. From early on, it was easier for my parents to guard me instead of allowing me to experience and learn from them. When people hurt us, whether its from their choices, the choice is still ours even if we let it consume us, or if we choose to move on, and forgive. The choice to find something to numb the pain, run away from the pain, or choosing relationships with people who were wrong for you, are all choices we make.

I knew this all too well. Some of these choices I have experienced first hand, and others I have witnessed. I became very aware of my wrong doings and in so many cases I have allowed them to linger or have chosen not to correct them. I was not very good at navigating through challenging situations. I avoided shit outcomes of my poor choices.

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Pexels.com

So, if I could redo parts of my life, would I? I would! But… The part that I would change would be to have learned how to love myself in its entirety. For most of my life, I have put others first before myself. I have learned early on, how to love others, but I was not very good at knowing how to love myself. From a young age, I was not very comfortable in my own skin. I struggled with appearance issues which led to unhealthy habits. I have found relationships in unhealthy ways. I grew up not feeling confident. Self-esteem was something that would drift in and out of my life. I never felt 100% comfortable in my own skin. I found ways to dodge pictures, even though I was outgoing and wanted to participate. I found excuses to not attend gatherings that involved swimming, where you had to wear a bathing suit. In the summer time I mostly wore pants and ignored the idea of wearing shorts, no matter how hot it was outside. There is no doubt that some of these issues stemmed from my upbringing. I would watch different family members express discomfort with wearing certain clothes and expressing vocally their discomfort with their own body. When they say that kids are like sponges, this is so true.

It wasn’t until I became a mother where I felt the most comfortable at being myself. I found comfort in my life with how my body is, now. I remember struggling with my weight a lot growing up, and what my weight was, consumed me. Now, that I am a mother, I have realized that weight should not consume your thoughts day in and day out. I have made a promise to myself that I would focus on “living in the moment.” Not just some, but all of it!

I am raising two young girls and the last thing I wan’t to display to them is how uncomfortable our body can be. By shifting the mindset from “I feel fat,” to the mindset of “I need to exercise more to keep my body healthy,” shifts the body image mindset. If I start to openly complain about how I dislike myself, my body and mind, this will translate to my young girls faster then I can predict. Part of my journey to loving myself begins with ACCEPTANCE. Accepting that I’m not like everyone else. Learning to love yourself begins with baby steps. Begins with ACCEPTING, RECOGNIZING, and GROWING with yourself. This will never be something that happens over night. I have to acknowledge and understand that this journey will be lifelong, and there will always be moments where there is doubt. So, one of my reminders is that my body carried and delivered 2 beautiful girls, and this is, and will be the new Me.

I have to remind myself that it’s OK to age, and that we all get older, despite what the media will show us. We are meant to age. It’s natural, and it’s ok for our weight to fluctuate. Staying healthy doesn’t always equal weight loss. There is no such thing as “perfect.” The word “PERFECT,” is so subjective, it should be removed from how we identify each other. What is perfect? What’s perfect to one person, is and will always be different to another person. We should look at people the same way we look at clothes. There are a million different styles, not one style is the same, and that’s ok.

I am here to set an example to my girls, that we need to embrace imperfections and remove the word “PERFECT.” I need to continue to love myself, and model that love to my girls. We only have 1 life to live, and we should be fulfilling our life with things that truly matter in life. I will never be like everyone else. There is only 1 of Me, in this world, and I am here to make the best of it. There is only 1 of YOU in the world, and that’s damn special!

I Come First Too!

Have you ever wondered how some families seem to have it all figured out? They have somehow found their balance. Someone once said to me while I was shopping with my kids ” oh wow! I don’t know how you balance having a toddler and baby. You look great!” When that was said I couldn’t find the words to reply back, I was too busy thinking about the word “balance.” I mean, what is balance? I almost wanted to spurt out a chuckle, but instead I smiled and thanked her. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely appreciate any complement that comes my way. But, what this woman didn’t see several minutes before was that my 3 year old threw herself onto the floor when I told her I wasn’t buying the Paw Patrol yogurt drinks, my youngest crying because her sister was crying, and I had spilled my $6.00 coffee down the side of my pants. I’m already too tired to curl up and watch a movie with my husband when my girls are in bed, so how on earth do I balance his needs, my needs… all of our needs? I’ve always wanted to find the moms I see on my Instagram feeds who appear to have figured it all out. Showing that their balance is a solid 10/10.

I have been married almost 8 years and yet figuring out the intricacies of marriage remains constant. Along the way I have been given so much advice on various subjects around marriage and parenting, but no one really talks about both parenting and marriage together, and what that actually looks like. Does it even exist? It must if my Instagram moms are doing it, right? How do you balance both? We all want to be that great wife or that great mom, but how do we fit both of them together? There is no proven textbook on how to balance parenting and marriage. There are tons of books suggesting ways to improve things, but what works well for others will not always work for you. So how do you balance being an equal wife and an equal parent?

Along time ago I stumbled on articles that discussed putting your husband and yourself first, children second. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “how could anyone do that?” or ” I would die for and do anything for my kids.” So before you get your pants twisted, let me explain. These articles made some valid points. It discussed that we wouldn’t be parents without our partners. We were married & together first, so why would we make that less of a priority. As we navigate parenthood, we often put ourselves and our husband last. We are so caught up with our children’s needs, that we forget about our own needs. When we put ourselves and husband’s needs last, we lose a part of our identity. The identity that we worked hard on developing before kids became part of the equation.

Photo by JoEllen Moths on Pexels.com

When the parental team breaks down, this not only impacts your marriage, but it also impacts your children. It’s so easy as parents to put ourselves and partner last while you figure out raising your children. When we do this, you not only lose a sense of yourself, but you lose those moments and much needed connections with your husband. Having a positive secure family are the building blocks for your children’s security. If you are focussing equal efforts on your relationship, this helps your children see that marriage is an important relationship to have. Just because we shift our focus to our needs or our husbands needs first, this is doesn’t mean that I care for my children any less. Infact, it means I care for children so much more, that I recognize times where my husband or I come first in the equation. How do I find this balance?

While I’m knee deep in various bodily fluids between, scattered toys, and lack of sleep for the foreseeable future, I ask myself, “how on earth do I have spare time?” I haven’t seen spare time since before I had kids. I remember hanging out with some of my friends who are also a mom, and it was said that they plan “couple” time and “me” time. “Couple” time? “Me” Time? They pre-schedule alone time with their husband and alone time for themself, without their kids. This might include time spent once the kids are in bed, or calling a family member, or babysitter so they can take the afternoon to reconnect with their husband over coffee, a meal, or just a walk in the park. This sparked some good ideas. I’ve only read about couples pre-scheduling, but I never knew for a second this would be me. My husband and I pre-schedule our kids appointments, and family events, why not add “couple” time? and “me” time. I’m not suggesting that this becomes frequent as weekly; this could be monthly. If I’m already using my phone, what’s another appointment?

For a happy and balanced marriage, scheduling time together and apart is so crucial. Whether it’s a round of golf, or a few hours spent getting your hair done, or meeting up with a friend, plan this time. This is balance! This is not you being selfish, this is you, recognizing that your marriage comes first, sometimes. In order to raise positive, happy children, you also have to be living a happy and positive life. Find time for yourself and your husband, you will thank me later!

Getting Through It

Sometimes I need to be heard. Sometimes I need to feel that my feelings matter and by feeling this way, it’s OK. Often times when I express various emotions to someone, my feelings often get lost along the way. Either the person I am expressing them to is perhaps going through something of their own. Perhaps the other person isn’t able to connect with me emotionally because they simply don’t understand it for themself. No matter the reason, I find myself going down a very dark and grim path. It comes with no surprise that last year, 2020 hit most of us hard with a worldwide pandemic. This really wasn’t something we were eased into. This came in full force, providing us with very little information and a lack of understanding. While it was expected to be a short term effect, it became over a long term effect. This is where I found myself struggling. Struggling to find balance. Struggling with change. I was feeling as though my strength to keeping it all together was being tested to its full limit.

I have learned a lot about myself. This pandemic has taught me so much. Even though I am feeling the struggles of finding peace with this year long change, I have gained STRENGTH, and WEAKNESS, and I’m proud of that. I know what you’re thinking, how could I have gained both and feel proud of that? Well, let me explain! I have, with all of you, had to adjust my routines and my lifestyle right down to the basics. This was something that felt incredibly foreign to me. What do you mean I am no longer able to see my family? What do you mean I can’t just hop in my car and browse a store? Wait, you’re telling me I have to wear a mask when I go out? No, you can’t possibly expect me to keep my preschooler home with me all day, everyday while we are also not able to go places. I had to learn the basics of teaching my preschooler and adjusting our daily routines while school was closed. This came with so many uncertainties while I was trying cope emotionally, struggling and waiting until I can see my family again. When can my daughter see her grandparents. Let me assure you, we did eventually adjust. I won’t sugar coat it, my days felt long, and my nights felt short, but I was able to get to know my daughter so much more than I did before. We took long walks each day. We played in our backyard daily, read endless amounts of books, made blanket forts, played games. I would be lying if I told you we didn’t watch Peppa Pig so many times that now I find myself questioning why Peppa and her family always seem to roll on to their backs when they laugh. I would be lying if I told you I haven’t seen Disney Frozen 1 & 2 600,000 times and no matter how hard I try, I still find myself humming “Let It Go.” Despite our abundance of TV watching, we did also learn so much. My daughter knows that birds eat worms, and whales eat fish. My daughter has also learned that she should never eat sticks, as our bodies cannot digest wood the same way beavers do.

As we approach the second year of this pandemic, I have realized that my strength comes from overcoming my own unknowns and fears. It wasn’t until June, 2020 where I finally felt comfortable with mine and my daughters daily routine. For once, I felt comfortable and confident with how I was managing with minimal reliance of my daughters school. I was able to force myself outside my own comfort zone for the sake of co- existing in this pandemic. That is where I have gained my STRENGTH. Strength, comes in all forms, and it varies for each person. Some of you might be balancing work and having a child home. Some of you might be adjusting school and work life balance or changing career paths, or adjusting to working from home, instead of in an office. Some of you might be homeschooling, while attending Zoom call meetings, all while trying to stop your toddler from putting their fingers in your office printer, pulling endless amounts of paper off your desk, or running around pantless in the background because today was the day they decided it was a no pants day. Whatever it is you might be facing, remember that even completing the day took STRENGTH.

Now, you might be wondering why I mentioned WEAKNESS? I will openly admit where I have fallen short is my patience. No matter how hard I try to always keep a positive composure, and my emotions in check, I have and still have a hard time with patience. My patience is running thin on how long it is taking for our family, for you, for society to get back to where we were at in 2019. My patience is running thin on having to explain to my preschooler the importance of using the toilet 100 times a day, so she doesn’t have an accident. My patience is running thin to watch Frozen 1 & 2 because its Tuesday, and I have yet to have “Let It Go” stuck in my head, today. I know I will get there. The process takes time. I have to remind myself that my daughter is happy, and, I am doing the best I can, with the STRENGTH I’ve got.

So for all of you all of you experiencing the heightened struggles that this pandemic has given you, please know that when you are faced with a negative impact or your emotions are feeling strong, know that there is something positive waiting for you. You can have STRENGTH while still figuring out your WEAKNESS. Use the power and energy from what is making you feel good, to move forward in baby steps. It’s ok to take that personal day from work. It’s ok to order take out because you know you can’t bare to cook another meal. You know your limits better than anyone else and you certainly don’t need to defend them to anyone. Parents; it’s ok that your child has watched enormous amounts of TV so you can take a break, or finish that work meeting. It’s ok that lunch meals have moved to the couch because a toddler meltdown is not what you’re capable of handling today. Accept the little changes that get you through your day because at the end of the day, you completed the day in one piece. Always find time to reward yourself. Adjusting your lifestyle is not an easy task, and you need to credit yourself for getting through it!