Checking Back In
I am sitting on the patio right now with a cup of coffee and my laptop. Birds are singing. Some are chirping. A book I hope to read is at my side, and an old dog lies near my feet. The morning sunlight filters in, lighting up the succulents scattered about in colorful pots. Lovely, yes?
What I haven’t mentioned is that inside the house, my two boys are bickering about how to make breakfast and what’s wrong with the toast and how stupid the other is, and now one is crying. And the youngest girl is making repetitive blathering noises while the oldest is shouting at her that she is SO annoying. Silverware is slammed around. Angry voices clatter out onto my patio sanctuary. There is actually nothing peaceful about this moment.
I should go into the kitchen and referee this mess, right? I used to. I wish I could. But we are now on Day 119-or-more of “no-break parenting", and I have nothing left in my tank. I have temporarily checked out. I really do love my kids, and I have been fortunate to be home with them. My work is part-time, usually accomplished while they are at school, and has been temporarily paused due to current circumstances. I am grateful for all of that. And yet the reality of raising four children from the ages of 6 to 12 is that it is just stinkin’ hard. Relentless, in fact.
With no school to go to, no church, no camps, no babysitters to watch them, no long visits with grandparents; nothing to focus on unless I create it, I wither. I have no margin to regroup, plan something fun, or accomplish my own goals. And as an introvert...no alone time to recharge and protect my mental health.
Welcome to parenting in The Time of the Covid.
And yet I can’t let every day be like today. Today happens. More than I’d like. But it can’t go on forever, so what can I do? I brainstormed some practical possibilities.
1. I’m going to start leaving a couple of evenings a week. During dinner, because dinner through bedtime is when the wild gets wildest. It’s also when The Papa is home. I have some cognitive dissonance surrounding this -- family dinners being an important thing and all, but I figure that we are around each other ALL. THE. TIME. right now anyway, and my sanity is probably more important than two meals a week, so I’m gonna roll with it.
2. We’re going to play Gnomes at Night. Yeah. A game. But here’s the cool thing...it’s a “cooperative” game. We have to work together to beat it. And it is one of many cooperative games out there should we need to expand our options. I’m sure we will, because with multiple kids in the house, competition and better-than-ism comes with the territory. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I try to show them that I have enough love for each of them, and that they don’t have to earn my love, they still squabble and compete with each other. Maybe this will help us focus on working together.
3. I’m looking for a sitter two days a week so I can go to work. It will cost me more than half of what I make, but it will give my mind a chance to think about marketing instead of parenting, and I will get a quiet lunch to myself. The challenge is going to be finding someone willing to risk joining our bubble, but I am going to get serious about the search.
4. We’re going to enjoy nature once a week. We used to get out and walk regularly as a family, but somehow we fell out of the habit as I became more overwhelmed and checked out. So nature walks and beach days are going back into the mix on a weekly rotation.
I’ll report back after a few weeks with how things are going. In the meantime, what are you struggling with? How are you staying mentally healthy? Got any tips for people dealing with “no-break parenting”? Share in the comments!