We are a couple of weeks into our voluntary shelter-in-place (the official only began a few days ago). I chuckle as I write this title, because honestly maintaining sanity in the midst of chaos is fairly standard for our house. At least, 90% of the time. Sometimes my fairly well developed patience muscle gives out, and I am forced to resort to what some people would label “self-care”. I just call it “not killing the kids”. And recently, my non-homeschooling but now forced-into-homeschooling friends have started calling me. They want tips. Tricks. Survival guides. So here is my short list for how to stay sane when you can’t get away from each other.
1) Don’t get legalistic about school times. Having a framework for a schedule is great, and helps keep the day moving, but if they are melting down and you are too, RELAX. Take a break. Mix it up a little and go do lessons outside if possible. In a treehouse. Upside down hanging off of the couch. Get it done, but make it fun. Spelling words can be studied using chalk in the driveway. Math concepts for youngers work great when combined with snacks… I am partial to M&Ms. Particularly subtraction, because you get to eat the ones you ‘take away’…
2) Make sure you have unstructured time for them to just be kids. Generally speaking, most kids are done with their lessons around lunch time. I have made after lunch a “quiet hour” for years… mama needs a break, and so do they! Quiet activities like reading or coloring or doing puzzles are fine, but LEAVE MOM AND SLEEPING BABIES ALONE. If you wake the mama bear, heaven help you. Because I have toilets that need to be scrubbed. Baseboards that always need washing. Or if I am super irritated with you, maybe a chicken coop that needs to be cleaned or a goat pen that must be mucked out.
3) Time with the kids is important, but time with hubby is importanter. Yes, that’s a word I just made up. You two have to stay friends, and you need a sounding board. The kids don’t need to catch the burden of your frustrations, fears, or drama… they need a mom who is sure, at peace, and can be their safe haven in a mixed-up world. But the safe haven also needs a safe haven. My hero and I always spend a couple of hours together when he gets home. He hangs with the kids some, but we make sure we have “us time” before bed.
4) Date night. Absolutely imperative. It has been more of a challenge since we can’t go out, but last week our kids put up a shade awning in the yard, moved our patio table and chairs under it, strung up a lantern for mood lighting and aluminum foil heart decorations, and served us our dinner outside. Then they left us ALONE. It was wonderful.
5) Pull weeds. I’m not even kidding. Both in the yard/garden/flower beds AND in your heart. Weed out the negativity, complaining, grumbling, snarkiness, fear, drama… pull it out and replace it with the beautiful plants of positive thoughts and words, thankfulness, confidence, truth and peace. It is frightening how much of our attitude as moms trickles down into our kids… listen closely. What do you hear from their lips that you know they heard from you? If it is good, keep it up mama. If it is ugly, STOP IT. It will only get worse as they and you are stuck in the house together!
6) Look small and look large. Remember when you were a kid and you could watch the fascinating world of insects trundling along in the grass for hours? Be the one who introduces your kids to that amazing little world. Or the beauty of rocks. The shapes of leaves. Or the stars… the other night the kids and I saw TEN satellites come over. We made up our own constellations. Our minds were blown by the thought that if Betelgeuse exploded we would be able to see it with our eyes, but it would have happened thousands of years ago by the time that we did. Oh, the wonder… the special, amazing world that we live in.
7) Love on other people. Today our project is drawing/painting/writing letters to our great grandparents who can’t get out. They are so happy and content making things to brighten up other people’s day! And they are NICER to each other while they do it! Focus is everything.
8) Most importantly, be nice to yourself. You are rocking this mom thing, one day at a time. Nobody else is going to do it like you do, and you won’t be Martha Stewart… give yourself and your kids GRACE. House still standing and kids all in one piece at the end of the day? It’s a win. You ARE enough.
9) Remember one little phrase: THIS TOO SHALL PASS. Write it on your mirror. Post-it notes in the kitchen. Sharpie on the back of your hand. Whatever it takes to remember that being stuck in the house is NOT permanent.
Daily: put on your makeup and get dressed like you were going out into public, even though you aren’t. Maybe try some new makeup looks. Face masks and hair treatments, fun stuff that you wouldn’t normally have time for. Do the fun stuff with your kids, my girls love doing that stuff with me. So does the baby…
He did his “minkup” himself.
So have hope, brave mamas. You WILL get through this. You will be stronger, braver, and more confident than ever. Tell me your stories.