Ever since the pandemic started, the “Mom guilt” has been amplified. For kids going to school; mothers are asking themselves, Will they catch or pass this deadly virus that’s already caused so much destruction? For kids not going to school; Have their basic physical and emotional needs been met? Have they had a fulfilling day with independent play, books, and activities that engage their minds? In June, when we re-enrolled my older toddler at preschool, I needed to put these worries aside and trust that my 3-year-old socializing in a school setting outweighed the risk of him catching or passing the virus.
In a recent collection of articles exposing the impact of the pandemic on working mothers, the New York Times reported that 69% of mothers surveyed reported they’ve experienced adverse health effects due to worry and stress during the pandemic, compared to 51% of fathers.
This pandemic has forced parents to really juggle it all– everything from work, family responsibilities, meal planning, self-care, and personal career-driven aspirations. During this pandemic, I have found myself stepping through the day with pulls and tugs in multiple directions. Navigating from changing another dirty diaper, to a toddler who needs help on the potty, to jumping on the next Zoom meeting has made our house feel tense and strained.
The same New York Times study identified that 66% of mothers reported that they are chiefly responsible for child care, compared to 24% of fathers. Two times the amount of mothers are likely to worry, compared to working fathers, that their performance is being judged negatively because of their caregiving responsibilities.
As working parents, the pandemic has certainly illuminated our self-doubt and undermined our confidence levels, leaving both of us questioning: Is my spouse’s job really more important than my own? Am I a terrible parent for letting my kid binge watch Daniel Tiger while I take this one meeting?
Here are some additional strategies that can help keep you and your partner sane, if you are faced with a similar situation of juggling work with caring for your kids at home. Do not feel obligated to adopt all of these at once, applying any one of these tactics for even a week, has really helped to keep our household sane and calm!
6 Tips to Juggle it All During this Pandemic
- Clean Up During Transitions: Since you are likely working in the same room your children play in, carve out time to clean up as they transition between indoor activities, outdoor time, and meals. If toys are all over the place, it’s impossible to concentrate on work. Try to include your kids in the process of cleaning up. Show them that helping can be fun! For example, how many towels and squirts does it take to clean this surface? How fast can we do this?
- Plan Ahead: Decide what meals you’ll be making ahead of time no later than Saturday, so you can make a list and get all your shopping done over the weekend <link to pdf I created>. You can also look to meal planning services that deliver ingredients right to your door (e.g., HelloFresh, Mighty Meals). Make meals in advance and have your partner make them. Schedule your days so that you & your spouse are doing laundry and other household chores at night, allowing you to get them done quickly and uninterrupted.
- Make time for yourself and make it worthwhile: Carve out time for yourself to be active, as it will recharge you physically and mentally. Look for a local yoga studio, fitness group, or activity that excites you. Set aside time in the morning or evening to take a bath, read or listen to a book, or meditate with apps like Headspace or Gaia,
- Re-Energize Your Household:
- Is there a local restaurant you’ve been wanting to go to? Give yourself a break from cooking and get takeout from there one night.
- Is cooking getting too ordinary and repetitive at home? Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to get local produce delivered to your door or nearby so you can amp up the flavors of your home cooked meals. (e.g., Find a CSA Near You)
- Brainstorm with your partner to identify ways to make quarantine life fun! Can you both participate in a “date night” workout or an at-home dance class?
- Is there something you can do as a family unit virtually to connect with others and share kindness? Collect donations for a local pantry with a box at your doorstep. Donate old books or toiletries that you won’t be using. Over the holidays we donated travel toiletries to a local organization and it was a great opportunity to show our three-year-old the importance of helping those who have less than we do. We also hosted a virtual sing-a-long for a local organization that provides residential support services for adults with developmental disabilities, something our whole family really enjoyed doing together.
- Encourage your partner to remain positive throughout the challenges, and have them do the same for you: This is really important to me to retain sanity. Trying to smoothly transition through the day with work and kids is bound to cause some frustrating moments, making us grumble, complain, or even lose our temper. Remember that this makes it more difficult for your partner, and also for your kids who will pick up on the negative energy. Now more than ever we need parents to be working together as a team. Talk to your partner to figure out the best ways to keep pushing forward. Do you need to step out of the room and take five minutes to yourself? Should you alternate hours on taking the reins with the kids? How can you support each other to keep the spirits up and the attitudes positive?
- Find Your Virtual Village: Reconnect with old friends and new friends, whether it be a fitness village (Fit4Mom) or a hobby. Humans are tribelike in nature and we crave collective shared experiences, especially while we are physically apart these days. Ask friends for help when you need it, even if from a distance. Remind them that they can also lean on you for support.
Hang in there, because this too shall pass. “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”– Albert Einstein
About the Guest Author
Jackie Malkes is a wife, mother of two, and a working Mom. Jackie works as a Senior Implementation Manager at an analytics software company. After attending college in DC, she made the move to Merrifield, Virginia. Jackie is a native Philadelphian, and came to the DC area to attend American University where she received her BA and MA. Jackie loves traveling, coffee shops, volunteering, yoga, and fitness, and connecting with friends over dinner or coffee.