There is a lot of pressure on families to keep up with school and work and therapy AND to make up for lost time with friends and peers, missing celebrations and life-events. There is the additional well-meant pressure to “make the most of it” and “enjoy this time with family.” The intention is good, but the pace will become exhausting and impossible to maintain. For all of us, there are some important steps to take so we can care for ourselves and our families well.
- Breathe – Take a deep breath, let it out slowly. If you can, find a place where no one will bother you, even if it is only 5 minutes behind a locked bathroom door or in the pantry.
- It’s ok to grieve for a minute. – Even if you don’t know anyone who is ill with the virus, you have likely suffered losses. A family vacation, a dance recital, a play date, a job, or a business…the loss of freedom, the feeling of safety, the belief that it will all pass quickly. Name what you lost and let yourself be sad. Cry if you need to.
- Take a few minutes to go through a personal division of responsibility. (For those of you who don’t know Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility for feeding, you can read more about it here.) Use your own words and your own examples, but think about the things that are within your control, and those that are not. Write it down. If it makes you happy, you can type it up or decorate it or cover it with stickers. Refer back to it as many times as you need to.
Everyone’s list will be a little different, but my examples look something like this:
- It is my job to keep my family safe by doing our best to adhere from the advice of the medical community. It is not my job to make sure that every moment is fun and worthy of an Instagram post.
- It is my job to buy the food available in the store. I can look for what I know my family enjoys. It is not my job to procure food that is not available, turn dinnertime into a party every night, or even make anyone eat it.
- It is my job to try and figure out a way to get us all through the day. A schedule to make sure that everyone has computer/school time and mealtimes and outside times may be helpful. It is not my job to make sure that we keep to it every minute of every day or to create one that is worthy of Pinterest (Although here is a great one if you need help)
- It is my job to be kind to my family, to listen as they try to grapple with the big feelings we are all experiencing, to let them cry sometimes if they need to. It is not my job to replace all of the events that they have missed out on or to make them feel OK about missing them.
- It is my job to tell them we will handle whatever comes our way together. It is not my job to give them the perfect answer every time.
Rejoice with the little things – There will also be moments to treasure. Take some pictures. Believe it or not, there will come a time when the difficulties are past and you will want to remember the times you are sharing today.
When you are ready to face the day again, remember this, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (A.A. Milne in Winnie-the-Pooh)