Hello, readers! I haven’t posted a personal update lately (or much of anything) because I am busy looking after my four kids, who are on summer break, eating us out of house and home, and generally making messes everywhere. Oh, and the laundry… there are mounds and mounds of laundry to be sorted and folded. Every. Single. Day. Add in swim team practices and meets, dance classes, camps, play dates, vacations, doctor appointments and all the usually errands and chores, and it’s a lot for this mom to handle. But, it’s been great because I don’t give a f*ck.
It sounds like a terrible thing for a mother to say, but those five little words have freed me from that pesky existential dread and a whole lot of mom guilt. Here’s why: pandemic times have been so very hard on moms, especially the working kind, the ones who already suffer from anxiety or depression, and the moms who have perfectionist tendencies. Giving yourself permission to care a little less about what is expected and connect a little more with your kids is so liberating.
When the world turned upside down in 2020, I felt the pressure to keep my kids safe but also take on the roles of teacher, play mate and psychologist. With no support system, hardly any time for myself, distance learning, and the house filled with little people 24/7, things got a little hairy. I’m not the only one. Just look at these headlines:
- “Anxiety, depression have increased among mothers since onset of COVID-19 pandemic”
- “Mothers losing their support systems during COVID-19 took a toll on their mental health”
- “Postpartum depression on the rise during the pandemic”
- “2020 was a record year for stress, hitting mothers with children at home hardest”
I had a choice to make when it all began. Keep up or slow down? I chose to keep up…
[Insert wrong answer buzzer sound here.]
How can you be all things to everyone and still keep your sanity? Working moms, I’m see you. I’m lucky to be a stay-at-home mom at the moment, but all of us moms are in the trenches right now battling for our mental health. How do you keep the house organized when kiddos are home all day snacking, playing and leaving their dirty socks everywhere? How can you find the time to relax when the kids need help with their schoolwork and you need to supervise their distance learning while checking everything off your “to do” list? You can’t. Or you’ll go crazy trying. (Trust me, I tried.)
Holding myself to pre-pandemic standards and meeting the emotional needs of my children was just too much, so we tried something new. Slowing down. Sleeping in. Lounging in our PJs all day. Watching cartoons together. Playing outside more. Cleaning less. Not worrying so much about school and grades. Cutting out the extracurriculars. Staying up late to watch movies or play a board games instead of adhering to strict bedtimes. And, you know what? It was a breath of fresh air.
When the pandemic restrictions eased and people resumed normal routines, I hesitated to over-schedule our lives. I liked this slower pace and feared revving up into high gear again. But, the changes were inevitable. Although this summer was as busy as ever, it didn’t mean I had to give up my relaxed attitude.
I forgave myself for not signing the kids up for the summer reading challenge at the library. I overlooked our late arrivals to swim practice, and when I forgot to sign up for one of the meets, I didn’t pass judgement on myself for “not having my act together.” We needed a break anyway, and breaks are okay. I didn’t schedule every afternoon with crafts and activities, like usual. Instead, I let them be little. I let them be bored.
We took it day by day. I didn’t pressure my kids to get up early. Heck, I encouraged them to sleep in so this mama could get some extra rest. When an argument broke out, as they often do, I sat back and let the kids work it out (most of the time). Instead of ushering them to bed at dark, I relaxed in a lawn chair and watched my little minions running around in the yard with the neighborhood kids, chasing fireflies and playing hide-and-seek. It made me nostalgic for those carefree summers in the 1980s and 1990s when I was a kid.
Most importantly, I took a respite from social media. I didn’t compare myself to the other moms on Facebook. I stayed off of Instagram and freed myself from FOMO. I recommend this to everyone, regardless of whether you are a parent or not. It’s a self-esteem booster!
I’m not saying it wasn’t a stress-free summer, but it was easier to manage my anxiety when I let some things slide. And, guess what? My kids had fun. They didn’t do anything Pinterest-worthy or practice their math facts, but they had a calmer mom. A happier mom. And, that’s something. So, the next time you feel social pressure to step up your mothering game and keep your kids scheduled to the max, I encourage you to utter that simple summertime mantra, IDGAF, and see where it takes you. You may find yourself breathing a bit deeper and hugging your kids a bit tighter. You deserve a pass, Mom. It’s been a tough year.
Love and light to you!