Welcome to the hood… motherhood. Entry is costly – you decide that instead of being responsible for just you, you want to create, adopt, foster or add another human or humans to your life – and become responsible for them until the end of time. No pressure, right?
I’m recording this episode on night 6 of 7 nights of my kids being home from school and daycare, isolating, because of a positive exposure to COVID at daycare a week ago. The call from daycare came the night before Dan left on a seven day business trip. Talk about bad timing.
I’m sharing with you what to do in the hard seasons. The times when situations are thrust upon us that we don’t want to navigate. The stretches of time when we feel like we are alone on this journey.
Logically, you know it’s not true. You are not the only mom in the world to walk through this situation or similar. Heck, you aren’t even the only mom navigating it today. So why does it feel like you are the only one?
Here are a few things that helped me during this stretch of isolation. These tips could apply to quarantining with your kids, being home isolating like we were, moving to a new city, or really any time when you are feeling alone in this business that is raising tiny humans to become larger humans and going out into the world.
In no particular order, here are 10 things I’d tell myself one week ago to help me survive this lonely stretch.
OWN YOUR MINDSET
This one was huge for me. When I got that call from daycare that the kids would need to be home, when I realized I would have to cancel my office hours all week long and that Dan would be gone, essentially unaffected at all by this news, I was bitter. I cried. I threw myself this great big pity party, and as Dan was prepping for his trip I gave him a one-way ticket on a guilt trip to go along with his traveling to Tennessee.
I felt victimized by my kids exposure and the policies at school and daycare. Honestly, that sounds so immature, and looking back, its OK. It’s absolutely normal to have these “why me” reactions when we are walking through hard things.
Here’s the thing – I wear my working motherhood as a badge of honor – in fact, this show is designed to reach other working moms who are dealing with some of the same challenges I’ve faced in my time as a mom as it coincides with my career. And I’ve been loudly, inside my own mind, and to the world in conversations on repeat for the last 7 days, saying “I’m just not cut out to be a stay-at-home Mom.”
The ironic part (the universe is laughing right now) is that I often follow that phrase with saying “I mean, I could DO it if I was FORCED to, but I’m so glad that I don’t have to.”
Touché Universe. Well-played.
When I realized that I could see the next 7 days as a sentence in a medium security prison with three tiny cellmates, something to be endured and that I could aim to just suffer through it… or I could decide that it was an opportunity to connect with my kids, to create memories, and to slow the flip down, things shifted.
You are in control of your mindset. You get to rewrite the stories in your own mind.
Instead of saying “I’m just not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom” I started saying “I’m going to do my best and make the most of the next 7 days”. I’d LOVE to tell you that magically things went smoothly and we thrived. But we didn’t. We still struggled. I still had to hype myself on a regular basis. Sometimes once a day, sometimes every 15 minutes.
LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Yep, adjust the minimum operating standards for your household, your parenting, your cleanliness. Level set with yourself and those in your life that you are walking through a season that is challenging you and give yourself the permission to not be firing on all cylinders in all areas. Be selective about what matters most and pour into those areas.
For some reason, after I finished throwing myself a pity party, adjusted my mindset I went in the exact wrong direction. Like if I could compare it to fight or flight, at first I wanted to take flight… to run away and hide from the situation and responsibility… then I switched into fight mode. I decided that I was going to be SO productive, to do all the things, to take on DIY and makeover projects that had been on my list for the house.
I hope you can laugh at my naivete when I tell you that within 10 minutes of Dan leaving for the airport I sat down and made a list of 27 things the kids and I were going to accomplish. Bless my heart.
Narrator: She did NOT repaint the foyer, go through the entire house with bags for donation or redecorate the boys bedroom updating the theme from dinosaurs to superheroes. She DID keep her home (relatively) clean, she DID play 13 games of candy land, she DID do crafts and coloring, she DID adventure outside, she DID keep herself and the kids clean, safe, clothed, fed, and rested.
So, if you, like me, have this inclination to face a challenge with on-upping the demands the universe has placed on you, tap the brakes.
I did find the one adult accomplishment after the kids’ bedtime helped me to feel more, well, accomplished and to have something measurable to show for each day. More on that later.
CREATE COMMUNITY & CONNECTIONS
This can feel particularly hard when you are forcibly removed from your support system, or maybe you cannot safely see them during this time. First of all – I see you. This is hard. We all want to feel seen, heard, supported and connected to those around us. God designed us to exist in community with others.
If you aren’t feeling connected to others, seek out opportunities for connection. Schedule FaceTime dates with friends after your kids are in bed or during naptime. Voice text those who matter most to you.
Be vulnerable and tell those you love and trust that you are struggling and would appreciate if they checked in on you in the coming days to weeks.
PRIORITIZE ONE SELF-CARE ACTIVITY A DAY
Because let’s be honest, trying to do an entire morning routine, a list of nourishing activities, journaling, praying, exercising, getting out for a run, meditating, and reading that nonfiction book on your nightstand just might not happen on a daily basis. For a win, an opportunity to take care of yourself, choose one self-care activity that you are going to do each day.
It could be showering, washing your face or taking a bath. I could be stretching. Choose to move your body in a way that feels positive and nourishing during this time. It’s not a season for punishment and pushing yourself to your limits, be gentle and go easy on yourself. Find ways to release stress that are healthy and productive.
A note on alcohol during seasons of struggle. Society has told us that coping with motherhood necessitates a glass of wine every evening, or at least on the ones that were very hard days, presented challenges, or tested our nerves. I want to take a moment to challenge this. Alcohol isn’t self-care.
Silence? Yes. Alone time? Definitely. Creating space for you to decompress, download, process and regulate your own emotions is absolutely necessary – alcohol as a part of that ritual is not.
I love a good glass of prosecco, a well-mixed margarita and a crown and coke as much as the next mom. I enjoy the taste and the ritual of sitting down over cocktails to visit with Dan after our littles are asleep, but I reject this notion that drinking alcohol is necessary to get through hard times.
If you want a glass of wine, momma, have that wine, but stop telling yourself it’s the only way to survive motherhood.
SEE YOURSELF & THIS SEASON THROUGH YOUR KIDS EYES
As I mentioned earlier, I threw like a major hissy fit when I got the news that we’d be spending 7 un-interrupted days trapped at home, just me and the kids. I cried and stomped my feet. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t gracious. I was rude to Dan and I was ungrateful and uncouth.
The next morning, after having slept on it, I was in my office, doing my morning routine and Archer makes his way into the room. It’s maybe 5:30am. Archer has his own version of a morning routine and he snuggles me, colors, moves his body with me, and at some point he always asks “Are we going to school today?” He’s about to turn 5, so his concept of time and what day of the week it is is elementary at best. I explained the situation of needing to isolate and not going to daycare.
His eyes lit up. “Mom, you and me and Rae and Colby ALL staying home all week long? No school? No karate? No swim lessons? Just time together at home?”
He was JAZZED. It was like an extended winter break and he was looking forward to 7 uninterrupted days at home with as much anticipation as I had dread at that moment.
So, Momma. First of all, your kids see you doing an awesome job. They WANT to spend time with you. They crave that connection. They crave your presence and the opportunity to do things with and alongside you.
His anticipation was like a punch to the gut for me. I am always saying that I wish I had more time to spend with the kids and I was now being forced to do it. Where was my joyful anticipation? Talk about a wake up call.
This one was huge for us. The research supports the benefits of getting outside every day, but for me it was a survival mechanism. Two days into our isolation and I couldn’t fathom surviving five more.
A friend posted on her instagram story that she just colored in the last block on her coloring page – a printout from 1000 hours outside – a movement where you aim to spend 1000 hours a year outside. You can find them on instagram or at 1000hoursoutside.com. I had fathomed embarking on this challenge in the past, but never really committed to DO IT in the past.
When you do the math, it works out to be 2 hours, 45 minutes a day!
We started going outside more days than not – for a morning and an afternoon session – we printed out the first 100 coloring sheet and the 1000 hours for the year sheet – and each time we come inside the kids ask how long we were out so we could color in another block or two on the sheets.
And here’s another key – when we went outside, my phone stayed inside. If you heard my episode when I reviewed Digitial Minimalism, you’ll know that I’m on a quest to be less addicted to tech and more present in the moment, and leaving my phone on the kitchen counter was crucial for me.
I find that when I take my phone out with me, I’ll pull it out to check the time and whoops, suddenly I’m in my DMs or googling something that one of the kids is wondering. It pulls my attention away from being present with my kids, enjoying nature and just living in the moment.
So, The Bingaman Family has embarked on this journey to spend 1000 hours outside and we hope you’ll join us!
STICK TO THE ROUTINE
The regular routine or some adapted version of the routine that you’ve developed for surviving this season. Kids (and adults) thrive on routine and staying as consistent as you can during turbulent or challenging times is key.
For us this was the evening bedtime routine. I held the line on the steps we take during bedtime. Rae to bed after brushing and bathroom – one book for her. While I”m doing that the boys head to the bathroom for potty and brushing and get changed into their pajamas or tomorrow’s clothes. One book for them, hugs and kisses.
Also – give yourself grace if things aren’t going well. Kids know when things are strange and they may push back, act like lunatics and just generally push every single button you have. For us, this was naptime. Colby doesn’t nap and so Archer often skips naps on weekends because he plays with his brother. This week, even though Archer naps at daycare still, after two or three days of terrible negotiations – seriously – like worse than negotiating with a bank heist hostage situation – I threw in the towel. I stopped insisting that they sleep and we compromised – I had work to do and they needed some downtime. They could play QUIETLY because their sister was sleeping – in their room. They could do building, books or trucks. They could NOT wrestle, jam, dance, play music or even snuggle – because at our house the line between snuggles and wrestling is pretty much nonexistent.
So stick to the routine, except when you don’t and that’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re doing great!
GIVE THE KIDS JOBS
Depending on the age and stages of your kids, they are old enough to help. I’ve been inspired after reading How to Raise An Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims to empower my kids to DO more age appropriate tasks.
Not only is it helpful to me, it distracts them, and it also gives them this sense of ownership of their tasks and abilities. By the end of the week my boys were unloading the dishwasher with minimal help. The kids were getting, eating and clearing the table from breakfast all together. They were clearing the table, cleaning off their plates and loading them into the dishwasher.
Dan does this thing with the kids – he calls it fun with laundry – where he folds the laundry and the kids help him sort things, put it away in drawers and get it to the right room in the house. The kids love it, they think it’s a party, Dan finds it hilarious and also enjoys it.
Me? I’d rather lock myself in my bedroom, press play on my current audiobook or podcast episode and fold laundry is utter peace and loneliness.
I resorted to fun with laundry and to my complete surprise, it didn’t totally suck. The kids enjoyed it and the laundry got done. A win, win.
ASK FOR OR PAY FOR HELP
Outsource tasks that you either logistically, physically or emotionally can’t get to during this time – this can be through calling in favors, asking for help from those who love you, or paying someone to help.
I am not sure what I would’ve done without Instacart during this week. I LOVE paying someone to do something that isn’t a priority to me.
Give it a try & ditch the guilt – help is there for a reason. Figure out what’s overwhelming, not going to happen, or adding unnecessary stress to your life. During this season, reach out, ask for exactly what you need.
Last but certainly not least:
DO ONE CREATIVE OR FUN TASK EACH DAY
So I tried this a couple of different ways during this past week. On the days when, after the kids were tucked asleep in their beds, I turned on Netflix and mindlessly binged or searched for the end of my Instagram feed until I surrendered and headed to bed… I felt generally crappy. I felt like I wasted the precious time I had to myself.
Alternatively, when, after the kids went to bed I chose one thing to accomplish, I felt better. One night I created a vision board. One night I read a book and journaled for 10 minutes. Another time I organized the shoes in my bedroom closet and chose 5 pairs to donate. Last night I treated the leather on a backpack I was gifted for Christmas. Each of those nights I went to bed feeling like I had DONE something and that feeling was so much better than the hollow – I just checked out for 2 hours, I guess I’ll go to bed.