The logistics of working from home while juggling childcare duties is leaving many parents challenged with an impossible juggling act. And with the arrival of our third lockdown (our second national) it's hard not to hear a collective parent sigh. We're tired, burnt out and we want our old lives back.
Often the last thing on our minds is our wellbeing, and mental health. When our relationship is fraying and we're tired of working at night, it's easy to neglect ourselves. Try these tips to support yourself as we start 2021 and more pandemic parenting.
1. Accept you can't do it all
Try not to get overwhelmed with everything that is available - from singing, dancing, art and live drawing classes! Focus on what you can do with your child, what you both enjoy and put this within a daily structure.
Schools are not expecting parents to be teachers and to teach their children everything they would've learnt at school. Do what you can and try not to worry. It's almost impossible to work and parent equally well without support, so manage your expectations (and those of your boss).
2. Have a loose plan for each day
And keep it on the fridge. This is key to avoid children whining about being bored or fighting with siblings. Try to arrange regular activities that have an element of challenge or purpose - even if this is going to the grocery store and teaching your little one to be your shopping assistant.
You don't have to fill each day with special activities - the four cornerstones are sleep, eat, exercise and stimulation!
3. Do one quality time activity with each of your children, daily
In the midst of your worst parenting spiral, it can feel as though you’ve lost your connection with your children. Stop and breathe. Take a moment to reconnect and be present with them.
One small way of giving our kids the kind of attention they need the most is to offer special time. This is one-on-one time with each child, offering your undivided attention. You might set a timer and offer to do whatever your child wants to do for 15 minutes.
Bite size is more achievable than taking on unrealistic goals. And it's something you actually end up looking forward to more times than not!
4. Alternate 1:1 time with your children
Children thrive through bonding and attention from parents, especially one on one time. Alternate with your partner and each take your child once a week on a special 'date'.
This might be an early supper picnic in the park or a special walk before bedtime together. Use the opportunities pandemic life offers to keep things a little slower and more local.
5. Accept that anxiety is part of this journey we're on
And not just anxiety. Burnout, fatigue, relationship issues and difficulties with sleep is something most parents are struggling with. Single dads. Mums juggling it all. Squabbling siblings. The couple who used to have grandparents helping out, and now don't.Those who have given birth and are struggling with know-how and confidence, or feel guilty for wanting more postpartum support.
6. Stop beating yourself up
Beating yourself up? Analysing all the ways you're not being a good enough parent? Shift focus to your own feelings and self-talk, and notice what you're thinking.
There is no perfect way to parent! Notice when you tighten up and judge your thoughts. It's normal to feel like a failure some days, but if your inner dialogue is endlessly negative, examine why you're being so self-critical.
Do you have an image of what great parenting looks like in your head? Are you striving to get to a perfect place? Well, the good and bad news is - you're never going to get there! Because you're the best parent for your child, and you're doing the best you can.
It's totally okay to want your kids to vanish in a puff of smoke temporarily. To resent being a parent when others seem to have it so easy. It's okay to feel how you feel. If your children are well, and happy, you're doing a great job.
7. Share, share, share!
Tell your family and friends how you are feeling - other people will most likely be feeling the same way. Reaching out is a sign of strength. Whether it's via chat forums like Netmums or more dedicated helplines, support really makes a difference.
Most of all, take time to share, and listen to, your partner. Many of us have been locked down with kids and our partner for almost a year. This is tough on relationships and often the thing that starts to slowly suffer. Prioritise connection time and carve out daily talking time with your other half.
8. Plan meals and exercise ahead of time
Making a meal plan for the week can make things a little easier, especially if you don’t have your usual food in the cupboards. If you can, get someone in your home to take the kids away and let you cook and prepare meals ahead.
Or, get your children involved with cooking and household chores! These are easy ways to teach them life skills and making them feel involved and important.
9. Celebrate what you've done well - and say it out loud.
This is a tough one. When your kids are screaming for screen time, or at one another, it's easy to negate all the efforts you've put in to making lockdown life happy and playful. Force yourself to shift focus from your little ones to yourself. Look at the day in its entirety.
Did you get out of bed? Did you show your children love or get them breakfast? Any of these tasks are cause for celebration! You are also in a pandemic - not just your kids. You're doing a good job. It's up to you to take charge of reminding yourself!
10. Allow your children to feel their feelings
Are your kids squabbling? Are they acting out? Sleep disruptions, tantrums, behavioural changes are pretty normal during times of stress or change. Support your children, but remember that you don't have to fix their feelings.
We're all struggling, and being present with one another (regardless of age) is the best support we can give. It's super tough, but your children are in a pandemic too - and they will grow and learn in their own way through this. Just show up and accept their feelings - whatever these look like.
11. Take some alone time every day
You can't pour from an empty cup - you have to make sure you are alright before doing anything else.
It can seem impossible to make time for or think about yourself, but this is the time when you need it most. All parents need personal alone time and it’s okay to find and take it!
If there are other adults in your house, give the gift of alone time to one another regularly. Put in a video call to your extended family or friends and let your little ones get attention while you give yourself attention.
12. Trust in change and that this too shall pass
It will. When, no one is sure. But as with previous pandemics, and difficult times, the one thing that is dependable in life is change. During the longest days, remind yourself that this is not forever.
Get Lockdown Support With EasyPeasy
Looking for tips, expert advice and playful games to help you through lockdown? We've got you covered with the EasyPeasy parenting app!
We've collaborated with the best early years experts to design a parenting app which not only helps your child's development, but equips you with new ideas to bring into daily routines.
Along with practical advice, there are loads of fun, playful games to help you connect with your child. Explore magical content from partners Scouts, LEGO and NCT, and share your own tips through the new parent community sharing feature!
Click below to head to to the app store.