5 simple ways to save your sanity while parenting in a pandemic
Take shortcuts and get your family involved whenever possible
The end of the day on Friday, May 1, marked seven weeks of working from home while distancing learning with three small children at home . Seven weeks. Who knew that would feel like seven years? Or that for as sluggish as March seemed to pass, April would fly by in a blur of online assignments, interrupted Zoom meetings and yelling at my children 4,296 times to stop fighting.
I've been thinking over the past couple of weeks that our family seems to be getting into a rhythm for our days, and I've discovered a few things that appear to be helping save my sanity (at least a little bit, but don't get me wrong, we're still having our frustrating moments almost daily).
All I can say is that even though Gov. Doug Burgum is re-opening North Dakota for business by allowing his executive orders about social distancing expire , our family is not likely to rush out to a crowded restaurant any time soon, nor will the fear of our children contracting the virus instantaneously evaporate if the doors to schools are flung open to welcome students back.
So, if you're like our family and will still be maintaining some distance from others to keep you and your loved ones safe, here are a few simple ways you could help yourself manage the extended at home.
Make chores a family affair . . . with a reward
Early into the social distancing experience, my son wanted to mop our kitchen floor. I definitely let him do that. Who wouldn't? He also likes wiping down bathroom counters with disinfectant wipes (yes, I still had some from a much earlier shopping trip to Costco; I have yet to see them in a store since this pandemic was declared back in March). So a few weeks ago when I realized our house needed some cleaning, I decided to make it a family affair by writing down the tasks on slips of paper and letting my son and husband select what they wanted to do (I gave my toddler and baby a pass for obvious reasons).
My husband came up with the idea to sweeten the deal by having people sign the paper with their name once the chore was done (to Mom's standard, of course), and then all the pieces of paper were folded up and placed in a bowl. We let my son draw a slip of paper, and the person whose name was drawn was able to select where we ordered takeout that night!
Try to keep up with small, daily chores
Speaking of chores, I think I've swept my kitchen floor every day at least once since the first week — some days multiple times. It started out as a nuisance but I quickly discovered it was one small thing I could do that reduced some anxiety (not all my anxiety, because parenting in a pandemic is the hardest thing I've done in my adult life, as many parents can attest ).
I also try to keep counters cleaned (and I've been making homemade counter cleaner for years now, so I've always kept the necessary ingredients on hand) constantly and put dishes in the dishwasher immediately after we've consumed a meal. Dishes especially can stack up quickly, so we're trying to make sure we don't end up overwhelmed by mountains of dirty dishes from eating three meals and several snacks (so many snacks!) at home every day.
Plan for the week ahead, even incrementally
I am not one for intense meal planning — I've done it off and on but right now, I do not have the bandwidth to spend an hour or more on the weekend just thinking about the meals I want to make for the coming week. If you are doing that, and it's working for you, that's awesome (you might need to send some quick, easy recipes my way).
Because I'm not planning every meal, I'm notorious for looking at the contents of my refrigerator and thinking, "Hey! I can make XYZ . . . except I don't have any ground beef thawed." Bummer.
So, what I've been doing instead is take meat out of my freezer on Sunday night or Monday morning so I have an assortment ready to go when the time rolls around to start preparing a meal. I'm keeping things pretty simple these days, so it's mostly just having ground beef or turkey, sausage and chicken ready, but it has made coming up with meals in a hurry much faster when the main protein is ready for preparation.
Make more protein or double recipes when you can
This is a gold standard for any busy family, in the middle of a pandemic or not. And it's been a great practice during this crazy time. We tend to buy meat at Costco, so we have plenty on hand, so when I've put chicken breasts in a slow cooker for chicken tacos , I'll add twice the meat and seasonings so I have leftovers ready to go for soups, pizza or nachos . Same with taco meat or sloppy joes/barbecues. Take as many shortcuts as you need. You'll thank yourself later.
Use meal time for making as many meals as possible
I started doing this a couple of weeks in to the social distancing experience because I realized I could get a lot done in the hour or so it took to make and serve lunch to my family. Especially if we were eating leftovers — I would decide what we were going to eat for supper that night or lunch the next day and get as much prepped for that meal while my family ate the current one. It doesn't always work out, but one particular lunch time was spent making chicken and cheese quesadillas while I prepped pork chops to bake for supper and put ingredients in a slow cooker for peach cobbler for dessert that night.
Boy, did I feel like Superwoman after that lunch hour. But don't worry — within just a few minutes I was humbled by my kids again, so the victory was short-lived. Like my patience these days.
No matter how you're handling this situation as a parent (or anyone else), just know you are doing your best in an unprecedented time. So hats off to all of you!
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