(Yes, I know it sounds crazy but it is possible to enjoy it… sometimes!)
Lockdown at some point or another, will have made most of us feel like we’re in survival mode, holding on for dear life to our sanity, but after 12 months of living with the varying degrees of restrictions, I have come to believe that it can also be a very special and fun time. My daughter is 2 years old and so she has spent almost half her life in a pandemic situation. For our boys aged 4 and 5, it’s a quarter of their time on this planet. I can make a list as long as my arm about what Covid-19 has taken away from us all but in return, it has gifted our family with an extraordinary amount of time together. When this period of our lives becomes just a memory, I hope to look back and remember it more fondly, for how much time we as parents got to spend getting to know our children and how much time our kids got to spend with each other.
Most of Europe is now well and truly into the 3rd wave of Covid and here in Poland, we once again find ourselves living with heightened restrictions. By now you’ve likely had a pandemic fatigue melt down or two – I know I have. With hopes for a better 2021 than 2020 dashed, you could be wondering how you’ll cope at home for much longer, trying to search for new ways to keep a harmonious balance. In this article I’m sharing a few of my own experiences, which at best might provide you with a new tool for your “pandemic parenting toolbox” or at the very least, you can read and relate to.
“The juggle is real!” Whilst everyone’s family shape and size is different and living conditions vary, we can all relate to priority no. 1, making it through the day. With the work for home situation, online learning to support, toddlers to entertain, snacks and meals to prepare, rooms to tidy, washing to do, relationships with family and friends to maintain from a distance – the list of daily tasks is endless. Sometimes, we manage to do it all and can give ourselves a huge pat on the back and on other days, it’s simply about surviving until bedtime. Take each day as it comes, do what you can, and when you’ve made it through, remember that your kids are fed, watered, safe and loved. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and celebrate the small wins of the day.
“When the world got very small, nature has let us live large.” Our kids like to be outside and in this past year, we have a renewed respect and are so grateful for the nature that surrounds us, living here in Kraków.
We have clocked some kilometres cycling along the Vistula, picnicked and played football in the parks, walked to see the dragon of Wawel Castle breathe fire so many times that I swear it now winks at us when we pass, scooted around discovering the wonderful outdoor playgrounds this city offers, gone on nature walks in the forest, hiked in the Tatra mountains, took the sledge out in the snow, and built sandcastles on the Baltic coast. The saying goes “outside is free” and that is true but nature also provides us with the sense of freedom. In a time when our ability to do the things that we want is curtailed, the sense of freedom that we get from being outside is an essential pick-me-up. Everyone benefits, physically and mentally, when we step out of the four walls where we now work and learn, as well as eat and sleep. Happily, Spring is upon us so we can take advantage of the longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures to mix up whatever outdoor activities you can with the children each day, whether walking, scooting, blading or cycling. Take a different route and maybe discover something new. It’s a great learning opportunity too, my children are fascinated by nature, from the change of seasons to identifying bugs and insects.
“Teamwork makes the Dream work” – a mantra I apply to daily life with the “Triple A Team”. I encourage them to work together, whether it be building a fort or cleaning up their toys before bedtime (Alexander does the Lego, Arthur collects the crayons and Amalia picks up the soft toys). There are so many jobs that need to be done in every household, that enlisting the help of your children can not only be fun for them but also helps, from separating colours in the laundry to making their own lunch. We’re not talking cordon bleu cooking here but my eldest child loves to be responsible for sandwich making, spreading peanut butter on bread with great precision, and my middle child makes a mean fruit salad, slicing the bananas and strawberries, peeling the oranges and throwing it all in a bowl with blueberries and raspberries. Also, giving your children activities to do that don’t require your constant supervision makes things easier and whilst they each have differing needs, depending on their age and abilities, you can always find something. This could be giving them a card game to play like UNO or SNAP, making a jigsaw or picking a cartoon that they watch together. If your children have these windows of time throughout the day where they are focusing on a task and playing independently, it will free up time for you. Which leads me to my last point…
“Self-care is not self-indulgence!” You may be a parent but you are foremost a person. It took me some time to realise it but I have learnt to give myself the permission, guilt-free, to take a long shower, go for a tennis lesson during the week, drink my tea when it’s hot, close the kitchen and order dinner from Pyszne, or buy myself the flowers that I feel brighten up our living space. We all have our own ways to lift our mood and we should do it. We’ve more than earned it and self-care is essential to our health and equilibrium.
There were never any set rules for how to parent but whatever you had in place for your family before the pandemic has probably gone out of the window, as you learn new rules that work for your family in these unprecedented times. So let the children sleep over in each other’s rooms, go for a swim in the bath tub with their trunks and goggles on, or have a games night with a kilo box of Good Lood. Make time for some fun, try to enjoy when you can and if all else fails – give the kids an iPad and a hug.
By Deborah Draijer