I see you mama. You are working hard. Trying to keep up with the high standards that you set for yourself. Trying to juggle working, home schooling, keeping the kids from burning the house down, cooking, cleaning, watching the news, but not too much, making sure you have enough toilet paper and cleaning supplies (we were never able to find hand sanitizer), making sure you stay calm so the kids can stay calm. I see you.
Every parent that I have talked to since quarantine started is feeling the pressure. And now that we are weeks into this, the novelty, if we can even call it that, is wearing off. We are still trying to manage through. How do we keep our kids safe and sane for a month and longer indoors? How do I persuade my 18 month-old to play quietly without me for an hour while I take a conference call? Can we figure out how to explain 3rd grade fractions? Will our kids forget how to read? Are they getting too much screen time? How can I manage having 5 people who need to use the internet at home when we don’t have that many devices or that much bandwidth? Do I need to scrub all of the groceries before I bring them in the house? If I show my team at work that I can’t handle everything the way that I did pre-COVID, then is my job at risk? Will my job be at risk with the decline in the economy and COVID disruption? Those are just the comments from those of us lucky enough to be able to work from home.
This is too much for anyone to handle and it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed right now. These are strange times with lots of uncertainty. But there are things that we can do to move through this period. If you could do ONE thing, then I would ask you to let go of perfection. This isn’t easy. I know. I hear this all the time from my stay-at-home and working parent clients: doing anything less than what they were doing pre-COVID, while adding on lots of extra responsibilities that are inescapable in this new reality.
But how do we do let go of our high standards and expectations if they are not serving us?
1. Start with giving yourself permission.
These times are completely unlike any other times that we have experienced. It’s ok to let ourselves act like it. Give yourself permission to try something a little different.
2. Experiment. What does it look like to do things a little differently?
Choose one thing to let go of in the next few days. Maybe it is letting go of making sure that ALL of the kids’ school work gets done that day. It could be coming to terms with Taco Tuesday being on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday too because that is what is easiest to make at the end of the day. What happened? It’s likely that if we experiment things won’t be as out of control as we might have originally thought. Which leads me to my next point.
3. Share the responsibility.
What might it look like to share responsibilities with other people in your family? For example, what does it look like to share meal planning responsibilities with older kids and be OK with what they decide to make because they planned and cooked and you didn’t have to do that. Nobody is going to do things the way that you would do it and there is learning for everyone in that. What responsibility could you try sharing?
4. Think about what meaning you are giving to situations when you are holding on to “how things used to be”.
We hold ourselves to such high standards. We think that if we do anything less than that, then we are not good parents or coworkers. That is not true. There is opportunity in letting go of perfect. One opportunity is connection through vulnerability, as Brene Brown likes to share. Instead of thinking I can’t get my kid to work through all of his school work in a day and that means I am a bad parent or that he is never going to understand math. What if we realized that this is a hard time? Our kids are feeling it too. They are being asked to learn new things in this hard environment just like we are. What if this is an opportunity to relate and share with your kids: “I know this is hard. It’s hard for me too. I love you. Let’s figure this out.”
Who do you need to communicate to? It is not realistic to try to get 50 jobs done at one time. Who do you need to communicate with to get this done, define priorities, or get help? What conversations can you have with coworkers about work priorities and expectations? What conversations can you have with family members about expectations?
What are your priorities? My coach recently challenged me with the 80:20 rule. It goes like this: 20% of the work that we do leads to 80% of our success. What is not contributing to success in our jobs anymore? What can we remove? What can we reduce? Do we need to have all of those Zoom calls? Could we manage with project delivery deadlines, setting expectations, reevaluating what is working and what is not working?
7. Create your own space.
Now more than ever while we are quarantined in a small space with the same people, we need a space to call our own. Having your own space can give you an oasis of control in a sea of crazy. What space can you have to yourself? What corner of that city apartment or square foot in your home?
8. Create your own time.
See above. When we are quarantined with the same people All. Day. Long. we need a little time for ourselves. When can you take a 20 minute walk or do a 7 minute workout or 10 minute meditation or not do anything for 20 minutes?
My business, Parents Pivot, is running a free group coaching program for parents working from home with young children for the month of April at 1pm CST. This is an opportunity to connect with other parents who are going through what you are going through, brainstorm solutions, and support each other. Register in advance for this meeting.
Another outstanding resource for connection: The Social Mama app! This app was built with the mission of connecting mothers. There couldn’t be a better time for you to check this out and connect with other women experiencing the same things that you are. I am proud to be an “Expert Mama” for the app.
10. What are you grateful for?
Even before COVID started, we had a family tradition of our gratitude bowl. We go around the table at dinner and ask everyone what they are grateful for. Sometimes we write this down and add it to the bowl. That physical representation of the papers in the bowl remind us that we have a lot to be grateful for.
And guess what… We can’t do all of that. Start with one thing. Which one thing will you start with? I see you mama and you got this!!
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About the Contributor:
Anna McKay has been a career transition and leadership development coach since 2008. She is the proud mama of two kind-hearted and strong willed girls! After years as an expat in China and the Philippines, Anna founded Parents Pivot to help stay-at-home-parents return to paid work and find careers they love. She offers online workshops, in-person training, return to work programs, and 1x1 & group coaching. Anna is also an Expert on SocialMama.