As the days and weeks of the Covid pandemic continue, my mom job just feels harder and harder. I’ve been struggling to pinpoint why this current situation is so taxing for moms of young kids. I’ve been a stay at home mom for years- this is so much harder than that was. I’ve been a work at home mom- this is so much harder. So what gives?
In the past, we had other people, places, and experiences to feed into our kids. Others to give them encouragement, education, and memories. Now that all falls on our shoulders. Quarantine moms (and dads) wear so many hats, it’s nearly impossible to count. Let’s look at just a few.
Teacher- this one is obvious. As school closed their doors, we all became crisis school teachers. The lovely idea of reading books, doing crafts, and loving learning together is so far from reality for most moms right now. Instead, we spend our days convincing our kids to get their school work done and managing their schedules. Zoom meetings for kids who can’t log themselves on, online assignments, and pen and paper tasks they are supposed to turn in via email or app. How is a 5-year-old supposed to manage all this?! They can’t. Moms aren’t happy fun teachers right now. We are school assignment and schedule managers.
Cheerleader- Moms are always our kids’ biggest cheerleaders, but normally we have a whole squad of people helping to motivate and cheer on our kids. These days? The squad is down to 2- mom and dad. And do you realize how peppy 2 people need to be to encourage kids at the same level as a whole squad? No wonder I’m so tired.
Tech Support- Kids are doing school online. That sounds very 21st century! Too bad the younger ones need constant tech support. I’m pretty good at technology (I’m even an online course creator!), but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to throw the iPad or the printer out the window! You know what moms really need? More stress. Let’s put them in charge of finicky tech solutions.
Head chef- This is a hat we usually wear but having every single person around for 3 meals a day equals nonstop cooking and cleaning the kitchen. If your kids are older, I hope they can make themselves a sandwich. If not, put on your teacher hat and teach them. My kids are little so when they “help” in the kitchen, things take longer and get so much messier.
Supply manager- A major stressor for a lot of moms? Getting groceries. Do we go to the store and risk getting germs? Do we order delivery or pickup? Sometimes pickup times are 2 weeks away. How can I know now what I’ll need in 2 weeks? So many items have been unavailable for a while- I’m looking at you, flour and toilet paper. We can’t (or shouldn’t) just run to the store for things so meal planning and grocery shopping are on a whole new level. More stress. Another time suck.
Housekeeper- We are here in our homes. And they are a mess if you have small children. It’s impossible to keep them clean when the kids are here making memories- or messes.
Sunday School Teacher/ Gymnastics coach/ Tae Kwon Do Teacher/ Ballet teacher, etc – We had our kids’ lives planned out with activities hand-selected to fit their personalities for development and enrichment. We found adults to teach these new activities and skills to our kids. Now? We are in charge of ALL the enrichment activities. We have no training in these things. But we used to think they were important! We spent so much time (and $$) on signing our kids up for these extra-curriculars. So what now? Oh, the moms can just do it with the kids.
Friend squad- Kids of all ages can still hang out with their friends virtually. But this doesn’t work super great with the little ones. Why? They don’t really chat or visit. They may not have free access to technology like iPads or iPhones. They can’t text their friends to see if now is a good time for a zoom hangout. They need support. Enter the moms.
Tips for NOW
So what do we do? Some practical tips for you right now:
- Ask for help. Make sure you are communicating openly with your spouse or partner about your needs.
- Wave the white flag. Just surrender one or two hats at a time and focus on another. We can’t be all of these things all the time. And in our new normal, that’s okay. Need to focus on just one today? The others can wait.
- Identify what you can delegate. It’s time for the rest of the family to step up and help more with housework, chores, laundry, dishes, cooking- anything age-appropriate they can do! Make a plan and start teaching your kids how to do chores.
- Positive reinforcement for the kids. Increase the positives for appropriate communication and behaviors.
- Positive reinforcement for mom. Figure out what is restorative for you right now and talk to your partner to make it happen. I like writing so I got up early to write this article. Getting it done and sharing with all of you is reinforcing to me.
- Ask others for help virtually. Set up Facetime calls with the grandparents with an agenda. Little kids can’t visit over facetime really. So how about you do it before bedtime and grandma reads bedtime stories over facetime? Or try apps where you can play games together like Houseparty or Messenger Kids. If you both have the same board game, they can play Candy Land together or do show and tell. Let grandparents, aunts, uncles, whoever pour some love into your kids via facetime with an activity to do together.
- Schedule messenger kids time with your mom friends. Text the other mom to say when your kids will be on the app. It’s the new setting up a play date. Let your kids’ friends pour some love into your kids on a virtual playdate.
- Use systems and routines. Have a loose daily schedule. Have checklists that your kids can cross off. Stick with consistent routines for daily anchors in your schedule: meals, bedtimes, wake times.
- Put everyone’s mental health first. Having a bad day? Forget all these hats. Do what you need to breathe life into your day. The same goes for your kids. Are they having a rough day? School is now closed for this morning. Try again later. Get outside and get some movement every day. Seek professional help if you need to- lots of telehealth options for therapy for moms and for kids. Use apps and websites for meditation, yoga, mindfulness- whatever works for you.
- Use behavior tools to make things easier. (Of course, I had to include this tip, duh!) Use positive reinforcement systems to get your kids to listen to you. Use visual schedules for those consistent routines to cut back on nagging. Use praise to keep your kids motivated. Use lots and lots of pairing and noncontingent reinforcement to fill their little buckets and prevent problem behavior at the same time. Use behavior skills training to teach new skills like that housework you are going to delegate.
Ready for more help with those behavior tools? We’ve got quick and easy ways for you to learn a little, put new tools in place in your home quickly, and see some smoother days, even in this crazy quarantine life!