Hi there! If you’re reading this in the future: the year is 2020, there’s a global pandemic going on, and we’ve been told to “shelter in place” AKA stay home. I’ve been sheltering in place for the better part of the four months with twin three-year-olds and, shockingly, we’re all okay. And I’ve been trying very hard lately to express my gratitude and be as positive as possible, which hasn’t always been on-brand for me. In fact, if you had put me in this position last year, I’d probably be the nastiest, crankiest woman in the country. But I’m really, really not, and today I wanted to reflect on why that is.
I put myself and my mental health first.
Let’s get the big one out of the way first. I made my mental health a priority before this all started, and it’s made a big difference. I’ve been open in the past on my personal blog and social media about the challenges I’ve had with mental health, especially since the twins were born and I battled postpartum depression and anxiety and almost lost. It’s been a roller coaster over the years, but in 2019, I was referred to a doctor who got me, and since then, it’s like the entire world is a new place. I used to live in a bubble of cynicism and negativity, assuming the worst about everyone and everything; and now, to put it plainly, I don’t want to anymore. It no longer feels either natural or necessary. So I’m emotionally and mentally far more prepared to handle an unprecedented experience such as this. I’m feeling good about it just because I’m feeling good about everything. Not in a blind or ignorant bliss — I have a healthy amount of fear, enough to be responsible and do my part in keeping us and others healthy — but for the first time I think ever in my 32 years on earth, optimism reigns supreme. It feels really good. Who knew?
I keep my expectations for myself and my family reasonable.
When it became evident that the twins wouldn’t be going back to school, I, like many others, took on the task to be the world’s best homeschool mom. I went to Dollar Tree and filled up a basket with art supplies, flash cards, workbooks. Went on Amazon and ordered tons of manipulatives and early learning tools. Made a little picture schedule for the boys, the same kind the kindergarten teachers at my school use. And I was consistent with it — for about a week.
But I quickly realized that if we were going to actually be okay in this quarantine, I was going to have to throw out my expectations of myself to be a Pinterest-worthy quarantine mom, and for my children to be model home-preschool students. The fact is, we’re at home. The boys want to play. I have to work, and work out, and clean the house, and do the laundry, and feed everyone. And I’m not complaining about that! But it was just too much, trying to fit myself and my family into this little mold of what we “should” be doing.
I cut myself slack. A lot of it.
Some days go great! We do fun learning activities and play outside for hours. The boys nap on time and go to bed on time, use the potty with no accidents, and eat what I cook for them. I get a workout in and get my work done for my actual job. I tidy up the house. I feel like I’ve got it going on. Other days, the boys stay in pajamas all day, have accident after accident, refuse to eat anything that isn’t a Happy Meal or fruit snacks, and watch the tablet for hours. I skip my workout and find myself buried and behind in work. I recognize that those days happen and it’s okay. It’s really okay! We’re all healthy at the end of the day, and isn’t that the point of all of this?
We prioritize fun over function.
I learned really quickly that the most important thing to happen in this quarantine was that the boys were enjoying themselves. The day that ended was going to be miserable. And that day hasn’t come yet, because I’ve made them having fun a big priority. It can be something as simple as putting on their rain boots and letting them stomp in mud puddles or putting them in swim trunks and turning the hose on them. Letting them do silly, messy things that I normally would not say yes to is keeping them happy, and in turn, keeping me sane. My parenting motto, like many others, has become “Why not?” When they ask me to do something, I really weigh up in my head what it would be hurting if I said yes. It’s honestly a philosophy I may take with me when this is all over.
I know someday this time frame will be a distant memory. I hope when it is, we look back and remember what a special time this was — more togetherness, cuddles, and quality time than we ever thought we’d be able to have.