Single Parenting During This Pandemic; Ways to Embrace this New Normal.
Single parenting demands more from you in almost every facet of life during "normal" times...but add the COVID-19 quarantine, the kids being out of school, feeling like "Katniss" just to get groceries for fear you're risking you and your family's health anytime you leave your home? So how do you stay cool, calm and collected while holding down the fort, working, homeschooling, cooking, cleaning and everything else that goes into your daily routine?
Trust me...I will be the first to admit, there are moments where I feel completely overwhelmed. I’ve learned that this single-parenting life isn’t about me doing something (or anything) perfectly. Reality is, I'm one person doing things that most families have two adults doing...and even my married friends will say they have a hard time keeping up with everything. This is a journey and the most important thing I've learned so far is to relish whatever the day brings you. Tomorrow isn't promised and time flies by way too fast. Embrace the chaos, give yourself some grace and for God's sake...don't set your expectations of yourself too high. You can do this, you're not alone and if anything keeps you going...remember why you're doing all that you are. For your kiddos and trust me...they see it.
Below I've shared some of the things that were challenging for me and some solutions that have been working well in our house so far. Perhaps some of these may help you and provide some calmness amongst all the chaos.
The best way for single parents to keep their children busy and entertained is to create a schedule that is similar to their school schedule. Not only does this help with the transition from school to home, but it also will allow you to have time to devote to them as well as your own job. Throughout your work-from-home tenure and their home-schooling adventure, you can maintain order with a routine allowing for them to continue schooling and times allotted throughout the day for you to complete your work. You will probably need a quiet place to work. If space is an issue and you don't have a room to turn into your office, a walk-in closet is perfect. If you have younger children you can make a felt traffic light and hang it on the door so they know when they can come in. I used velcro on the lights so I could change them out. If the light is green...then they can come in. If it's red...they know they need to be patient (unless its an emergency) until you are finished.
Get Some Fresh Air
Don’t get the wrong idea here. The idea of quarantine or temporary lockdown is to diminish the chances of you or your family contracting COVID-19. But this isn’t a zombie apocalypse. As long as you adhere to social distancing guidelines, a walk with your kids after lunch is great to incorporate into your daily routine. If the weather is nice, work and have school outside.
Schedule exercise with the kids once or twice a day for 10 to 15 minutes. Not only is it ideal for improving physical fitness, but getting outside has also been linked to improved concentration — for both you and your children. If you’re uneasy about going onto public streets, use your backyard. City dwellers may not have either option, so jumping rope or even a game of indoor hide and seek is always fun...even for us adults.
The media has 24/7 coverage of COVID-19. And while it’s important to see what’s going on in the world and how it affects you, don’t let it distract you. Your best bet while working at home as a single parent is to turn off the television during the day, close your extra browser tabs, and turn off talk radio. You don’t have to do this the entire day, but while you’re working and the kids are at “school,” you should make a vested effort to steer clear of media bombardment. Not only will you avoid distractions, but you’ll also help maintain your sanity and keep anxieties at bay. That goes a long way during this type of crisis.
Lead by Example
Unless you’re already a remote worker, this may be your first time working from home for an extended period. As a single parent, odds are it’s the same for your kids going to school at home. Therefore, you need to lead by example. If you’re diligent about your work, limit your distractions, and adhere to the schedule and guidelines you laid out, your children are likely to do the same. It may take a few days or a week for them to get into the routine, but setting an admirable example will allow them to more easily fall into place.
Understand and Accept That You Can’t Do It All
In some instances, working, parenting, and teaching become mutually exclusive events. During the COVID-19 lockdown, it’s a foregone conclusion that your kids will interrupt you, they won’t get all their tasks done for the day, or they’ll get caught up in YouTube and TikTok videos. Regardless of your diligence and resolve, taking on three jobs at once on top of your other duties around the house will become exhausting and all but impossible. This shouldn’t discourage you; rather, you should accept it as a predictable outcome. Your work and your kids’ schooling will get back on track and when, not if, you all have a day that is just a wash...don't beat yourself up. It happens to all of us.
No one is quite sure when the COVID-19 precautions and protocols will die down. Even experts are baffled as to the extent and the severity of the outbreak. As a result, you may have to turn your home into an office and school longer than planned, but remain calm...this too shall pass and enjoy the little things and moments you share with your kids.
Hang in there, Mama, you're doing a great job!