With kids out of school for an extended summer and families cooped up for months on end, you might just feel like you’ve been thrust into a balancing act that requires playing the part of teacher, playmate, and parent, often all at once. Mama Bear Domain blogger and “mom life coach” Kelly Hater gets it. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the mother of two has experienced firsthand the stress of parenting during a pandemic and shares tips for other moms feeling overwhelmed by this year’s unique set of challenges.
Start with a “brain dump”
A cluttered mind can manifest itself in more ways than one. When Hater’s clients feel overwhelmed, she often recommends they begin with a method of journaling that can take as few as five minutes. Start with a piece of paper, and write down anything that comes to mind. Worried about keeping your kids occupied? Feeling overwhelmed by kitchen clutter? Write it down. Then, Hater says, separate your “brain dump” into categories. “So you have your family life, your kids, your work, and errands—and you separate everything, then you prioritize based on that,” she says. Before you know it, you’ll have the skeleton of a plan to handle stressors and help you tackle your to-do list head-on.
Remember: Your kids are probably overwhelmed too
A lack of distractions and an empty summertime schedule can make it seem like the days are blending together for both you and your kids. And if you’re a mom working from home, Hater says it’s important to set limits and boundaries so you can stay productive, while also acknowledging the stress and boredom your kids might be facing. “So many moms feel like they can’t focus on their children,” Hater says. “Which is really sad, because they feel like they have so much to do. You can’t just sit there for 20-40 minutes and just not have to worry about anything.” Be honest with your children about how you’re feeling and don’t be afraid to ask your partner for help. After all, you’re all in this together.
Encourage independent play
Moms don’t always have the luxury of quiet time. And with the family stuck at home, opportunities for peace and quiet might be fewer and further between than ever. When she needs time to work with minimal distractions, Hater sets up activities that allow her 4-year-old and 1-year-old to play independently—something she’s encouraged throughout their development. “I teach them that I’m there in the room with them, but they’re playing Legos, or they’re doing magnetic blocks or puzzles, and they’re there together playing and they’re not really supposed to bother mommy,” Hater says.
Acknowledge your “mom guilt”—and learn to overcome it
You might know the feeling. That little twinge in the back of your mind that makes you like you’re a bad mom for letting the COVID-19 burnout get to you. Maybe you snapped at your kids for interrupting a Zoom meeting. Or maybe you feel guilty for plopping them in front of the TV for a few hours when you needed a break. “My biggest tip to the moms that are feeling that way is that they need to have boundaries and set expectations for their kids, especially at an older age, because it helps them have responsibilities,” Hater says. Chores might not sound glamorous or fun, but delegating a few tasks throughout the day can instill a greater sense of responsibility around the house—and it might just give you a few moments of me-time. And on the topic of TV and electronics as a parenting cop-out? Don’t sweat it. “If you’re doing that, it’s allowing them to have some quiet time, which is healthy for them, but you don’t have to feel guilty because you’re not sitting there entertaining them,” Hater says.
Prioritize your own self-care
Sure, self-care might be a tad bit of a buzzword. But we’re not talking about face masks and scented candles—though, if that’s what you’re into, go for it. Hater, who’s also a personal trainer, knows you can’t fully focus on your kids unless your own wellness is in balance. In her case, that means waking up bright and early (around 4 a.m.) to reserve mornings for herself and her clients. “Self-care does not have to be, Let’s go do a face mask or a pedicure,” she says. “And it doesn’t have to be spending a bunch of money. It could just be like telling your significant other, I want to read for 20 minutes by myself, quietly.” And self-care doesn’t necessarily mean getting away from your family. One of Hater’s favorite ways to unwind? Crank up the radio, grab your kids, and have an impromptu dance party in the kitchen. It doesn’t just get your family up and moving. It’s also the perfect way to release some endorphins and let go of stress—which, let’s face it, every mom could use right now.