(Because how cool and calm can you really be in a pandemic? Just keeping it real.)
Have you heard of the spoon theory?
It goes like this: those who experience chronic illness explain the little energy they have left or even start with at the beginning or end of each day as if having a handful of spoons. And I think the spoon theory can explain the energy left or depleted that occurs in motherhood. You know the mental load of motherhood. Which is just made worse by having to parent in a pandemic.
If each spoon represents energy that gets traded in for a task you need to complete, if it’s getting the kids ready for online learning or socially distancing school each morning, remembering to wear a mask to the grocery story, or trying to work while your toddler plays at your feet. Then by the end of the day while parenting in a pandemic world WE ARE ALL OUT OF SPOONS!
Or, if you’re like me you are running around asking, “Where did I put the f*!#%@^ spoons?”
So, to put a bandaid on this gaping hole of a wound and temporarily stop the bleeding, the first thing we can do is put our oxygen mask on first until the plane can find smooth air again (I hope to God we find smooth air again soon).
I know, I know. I hate this saying too–put your oxygen mask on first. But, the reality is that a passed-out mom can’t help her kiddos with their oxygen masks. So, if we take a moment for our mental health for a hot second, then maybe we will have more room to attend to our kiddos.
Here are some quick tips that won’t fix your parenting in the pandemic problems but will help you manage your mental health as we continue down this road of our new normal of parenting during these unprecedented stressful times.
Coping Tips for Managing Your Mental Health While Parenting in a Pandemic:
1. Take a mindful mother minute.
Overwhelmed? Stressed? Feeling trapped and like you might explode at the next person who asks you for their 600th snack of the day? Then, if you can, go take a mindful mother minute so you don’t have a mommy meltdown. Lock yourself in the bathroom if you have too, or hide in the closet and just take a moment to breathe. If you have two moments, then try a mediation app there are some great ones for parents: Calm, Expectful and Mindful Mama.
2. Lower your expectations – you only need to be a good enough mother.
You’ve probably heard this term, the good enough mother, that was first coined in 1953 by Donald Winnicott, a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst. Through observation of thousands of mothers and their babies, Winnicott came to the realization that babies and children actually benefit when their mothers mess up and fail a little at getting things right.
Putting this simply: Kids benefit from imperfect parenting. They learn frustration tolerance when we don’t get it right. They learn people who love them and care for them can and will make mistakes. They learn the two most important lessons of all: That no one is perfect and the world does not revolve around them. A parent’s job is to prepare them for these realities. And that is the reality of the world these days. Being flexible and going with the flow will help us tread water as we cope with our new normal.
3. PLEASE remember to take care of your body to take care of your mind.
We don’t have control over much right now in our lives. Politics, the pandemic, where we work, how we work, if we work, how our kids behave or how they are feeling. The thing we do have control over is how we can take care of our bodies to take care of our mental health right now. So remember these few tips:
- PL – treat your physical illness and take your preventive medications
- E – eat a balanced diet
- A – avoid mood-altering substances (including making sure you don’t drink too little or too much caffeine)
- S – aim to get at the amount of sleep you need that’s right for you
- E – and when you can get twenty minutes of movement as your exercise daily.
4. Check the Facts and Ditch the Myths
The fact is that we are all struggling, and we can ditch the myths that someone else is doing this parenting in the pandemic thing better than us. Your neighbor is not handling the pandemic better than you, and if it looks like they are, it just probably means you’re missing all the facts.
Maybe their marriage is struggling, maybe finances are hard for them, maybe they have more parenting help from their parents. If we really stop to look at our own thoughts and feelings about our parenting right now, we will see that there is usually more under the surface that we don’t know about others and that our beliefs about how we think we should be doing are often based on unreasonable myths we tell ourselves.
5. Don’t Sh*t, I mean, Should on yourself
Let’s drop the shoulds, okay?! There is nothing right now we should be doing, as we have never been in a situation like right now. When we let go of the shoulds in our life, we make space to be just as we are in this moment. And who we are right now is a mama who is doing the best she can with the situation before her.
Go forth and be somewhat skillful in this crazy new world we live in as parents who are trying to keep their poop in a group during these strange times of parenting during a pandemic.