By Liz Faria from A Mothership Down
Being socially isolated from friends and family is tough on everyone, but being isolated at home with three very young kids? That’s its own special situation. Consider this. At this very moment, there are literally millions of parents stuck in confinement with children too young to reliably control their bowels. That depend on them for every basic need. Babies that can’t even get from one room to the other without being carried. These parents have no grandparents to help, no sitters, no village. Just mom and/or dad (you should feel very lucky if you have a partner in this!) running the whole show.
I speak from experience. I’m currently on lockdown with a 6-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 1-year-old. The 6-year-old is at a reasonable age for a sustained quarantine. He knows how to get out the goldfish crackers, work the remote, and manage approximately 3/4 of his personal hygiene needs.
My other two children are useless as lockdown partners, and I say that in the nicest way possible. I birthed them, I love them and I know I’m contractually obligated to raise them, even during a quarantine. There is no “opt out” clause for parenting when a global pandemic strikes. I checked. That’s the thing about parenting— once you’re in, you’re all in, come hell, high water, or social distancing.
So how are we managing our days? Well, I’m glad you asked. I was hoping to relive the longest days of my life in written form.
We start out by sleeping in.
HAHAHAHA! I have toddlers, remember? We wake up at 5:00 AM. There’s no such thing as sleeping in with young children. (Please don’t leave a comment about how late your toddler sleeps; that’s just hurtful).
By 7:00 AM, we’ve already hit the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested limit for screen time allowance. We’re overachievers that way, hitting our two hour goal so early in the day.
Next up, we have 13 uninterrupted hours of pure “distance learning,” or watching Daniel Tiger, whichever the case may be.
I’m only kind of kidding. It’s not unlimited, but we are definitely watching more TV than usual. I have to find a way to balance three kids, still get a little actual work done, and not totally lose my mind. It’s a tightrope we’re walking, as I’m sure many of you are all too familiar with.
At some point in the day, I try to get the kids outside for some fresh air.
Our options are fairly limited, given the whole “world is on lockdown” situation. So, we ride bikes and scooters up and down our block while I yell 6 FEET BACK!!!! at the top of my lungs to any neighborhood child who looks like they might edge too close to us. It’s relaxing all around, for me and the kids. Especially with a 3-year-old who can’t even remotely understand what it is we’re trying to avoid by not touching people.
I’ve noticed that it’s harder to get the kids motivated to play outside than usual. I get it though. When they used to go outside, it was because they wanted to play with their friends. And now they can’t play with their friends, so there’s less incentive to go out.
Fresh air or not, we’re doing what we can to make it through the day in one piece. We’ve been doing a lot of Legos, playing with slime, and putting painter’s tape all over the floor to make “cities.” The kids are really into this, and it’s easy. I would highly recommend it, if your kids are young enough to think putting tape on your floor qualifies as an “activity.”
That’s one advantage to the younger kids— they’re pretty simple, and don’t fully grasp what they’re missing. We also don’t have any heavy expectations in terms of academics that parents of older kids are dealing with.
Each age has its pros and cons in quarantine, I suppose.
To get energy out we’ve been doing GoNoodle exercise videos and Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube. My boys are into it, but my little girl feels the same way I do about exercising right now (see photo below).
We both started 2020 with high ambitions to lose the baby fat, but that was way back in January when we lived in a normal world and not in the “end of days” apocalypse.
I also have the kids doing a lot of “free choice time” which is literally nothing, just a free-for-all. But I think calling it “choice time” adds some “school” credibility, so that’s what I’m going with.
One thing I’ve noticed is how quickly my baseline for everything has changed.
A few months ago, if you told me that we were going to have a week of snow days stuck at hom, I would have dreaded it. Now, I’m like, well, assuming we can leave our house by, hmmm, June-ish, that will be FANTASTIC. I guess we’re all adaptable that way.
My plan is to tackle a few “early years” milestones while we’re stuck at home. I want to wean the baby, for starters. And it’s time to potty train my middle son. It’s probably past time, actually, but now that everyone in the entire world knows that we can’t possibly have any conflicting plans, it would be hard to find a good excuse as to why we didn’t make it happen. (I had been secretly hoping he was just going to pick it up through osmosis at daycare, but now that there’s no daycare, that’s the end of that).
As for routines at home, we’re keeping to a fairly consistent daily flow, but nothing over the top. We’re sticking to our usual bedtime routines, although we’ve added a movie every night after dinner. Oh, and we have also added a nightly dessert (we usually save dessert for the weekends). This is a unique time that will stand out for our children, so I like the idea of marking it with some “special” traditions. It gives it a delineation from normal life that is positive, rather than just focusing on what we’re missing.
As crazy as it is to be housebound with three young kids for an unlimited amount of time, I get how lucky I am to be home with them. We are taking social distancing very seriously, only going out for absolute essentials. We’re prepared to hunker down for as long as necessary to do our part to flatten the curve. We know that people are literally risking their lives for our safety every day.
And, I’m assuming that when this is all over, some sort of self-protective mechanism will kick in that will erase large chunks of March, April and May from memory; kind of the way you forget the pain of childbirth. I would definitely like to forget the anxiety and unease of our current situation.
But I don’t want to forget all of it.
We might feel overwhelmed at home, but we are also laughing a lot. And the kids? They’re doing alright for now. We have time to really play together, and I’ve gotten more hugs this month than I ever have.
The world is a mess. But there are some things about this uninterrupted time with my babies that I will cherish always.
Liz Faria is a Mommy Shorts contributor and a licensed independent social worker. She’s has been working with children and families for 19 years and chronicles her own tales of motherhood on her blog A Mothership Down.