I see you, mama, sitting in a messy house, filled with dishes from last night’s dinner and laundry piled high. You’re trapped in a house during a quarantine and it’s taking everything to not go stir crazy. I see the exhaustion and the exasperation that comes with toddlers running around. Demanding snacks, begging for attention, needing to have what they want, when they want it. I see you trying, trying to juggle their needs and your work’s needs, and maybe, sometimes, even your own needs. I know that feeling of being stretched so thin that you’re barely keeping it together. The seams beginning to unravel, slowly then all of a sudden… you’re hanging on by one tiny thread.
I see the frustration of an interrupted Zoom meeting, the agitation from a plea for yet another snack, the expectation to be completely focused on that work project and completely focused on caring for your kids. It’s not supposed to be like this. It’s unrealistic to think that anyone could handle the balancing act that all of a sudden we are called to perform.
So why do you feel like a failure? You know it’s impossible. You know you’re only human. But what about them? What about society? And employers? And family and friends? Yeah… what about them? Everyone needs to adjust their expectations. Including yourself. You are doing the best you can. You are facing the unknown and taking on more than anyone should be expected to. Give yourself grace.
In fact, give yourself permission to let the dishes sit in the sink a little longer.
Make friends with the dust bunnies who have joined your space. Let your kids jump in the piles of clean laundry that still need to be folded. Go outside and take a second to breathe. Feel the fresh air fill your lungs and be grateful for all the things that are going right in your world. And for anything that’s got you stressed or worried or on edge, add “but” onto the end.
“We’re stuck at home… BUT… we’re SAFE.”
“The house is a mess… BUT… I have a roof over my head.”
“The kids are driving me nuts… BUT… I get to be their mom.”
“Working from home with kids is so hard… BUT… I’m grateful for the flexibility and that I STILL have a job.”
So, take it one day at a time, mama. This is just a season that you WILL get through. Be mindful. Tell yourself a different story. One of resilience and patience and overcoming obstacles against all odds. You are NOT a failure. You’re capable. You are strong. You are amazing, in PJs and all.
It’s fair to say that we are all thinking about money at the moment. Let’s be honest—most of us don’t have 6 months, 6 weeks, heck, not even 6 days‘ worth of money saved up in our emergency fund—and nobody planned for COVID-19.
These are unprecedented times that we’re facing and there’s not a great road map out there for how to deal with all these pressures hitting at once. To help you get through this with some financial peace of mind, make sure you and your significant other are on the same page (no hidden accounts or, oops, forgot to tell you about that credit card), everything needs to literally be out on the table.
Start by figuring out what you have coming in and what you have going out. Once you have this down, then start looking at where you might need help with money during COVID-19.
I am going to start making some generalizations the rest of the way, but please reach out and communicate your individual situation with all of your financial life connections.
On the banking front, think mortgage, car loans, personal loans, credit cards (yep, all of them) and student loans. Definitely call them before you miss a payment if you can. They also might be able to defer payments—you’ll still have to make them, but not today. Think about bills that might be auto-drafting and decide if you want to cancel the payment. Your bank is there to help you. Call each and every credit card you have and ask them about how they’re helping people during this time.
A lot of utilities (think about your water, electric, cell phone, internet) want to help but you have to reach out to them. Ask about assistance programs, ask if they’ll defer a payment or two. Will they provide a wifi hotspot so you can get online access to work from home? Most utilities have suspended cutoffs for the next 30-60 days, but still, call them if you are having a hard time making the payment.
Also, please be aware of scams during this time. Please avoid any payday or cash advance loans. Call your bank first—they’re there to help you. Be careful with “offers” that come in the mail. Because… if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is! If YOU can’t figure out a so-called debt relief “program” on a napkin then run for the hills.
If you get laid off or have already lost your job during this time, go file for unemployment. It won’t replace all of your income but it may be just enough to help you stay afloat.
During these uncertain financial times, please know you are not alone. Reach out to your bank, credit card issuers and utilities early and let them know your concerns. Make sure they know your financial situation so they can help you. Reach out to your friends so they can help and hook you up with other resources. You will get through this—you just might need a little help.
For most Americans life isn’t “business as usual” these days. Smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic, COVID-19 has flipped our normal life on its head and conjured up a mix of panic, anxiety, uncertainty and fear. Every family faces unique struggles and obstacles when it comes to creating a new norm with unfamiliar parameters such as social distancing, quarantine and vigorous personal hygiene. But for those of us who have a spouse at risk working on the front lines, whether they’re physicians, nurses, first responders, childcare workers, truck drivers or the countless other essential workers that keep our country running, the stakes (and consequently, the stress) immediately go up.
My husband Bobby, for example, works as a FedEx Express driver. For him and millions of couriers around the nation, not only is it actually still just business as usual during this pandemic–it’s a crazy whirlwind of employees calling out which creates a shortage of workers. And since we are all at home, ordering our essentials online, there is an increase in packages to deliver as well. For those who take on the extra load, like my husband, it means long hours and late nights. It’s job security at its finest (yay for overtime pay!)… but an awful lot of anxiety for the family he leaves at home every day.
The Process of Figuring Things Out
I’d like to say we have it figured out, but let’s be honest, it’s week 2 of our social-distancing adventure and things seem to be changing every single day. Currently, I’m working from home and watching my two daughters (who are under 5 yrs old). Oh, and I’m 5 months pregnant. Bobby leaves before any of us get up in the morning and is usually home right as I’m getting the girls to bed. That means my day consists of all meals, diaper changes, snacks, naps, playtime, mediating quarrels, kissing boo-boos, calming meltdowns, baths, bedtime, laundry, dishes, washing hands, cleaning/sanitizing and trying to work the best I can at my kitchen table, on my laptop, in the few minutes my children are occupied by Frozen 2 or when they can actually get along and play nicely together. It makes my head spin just typing it out.
Suddenly, I feel like a single parent and it’s HARD. (Seriously, single parents are superheroes.) Not only is the sheer exhaustion enough to break me, the effort it takes to not let resentment build up or let the anxiety over whether Bobby will become infected and unknowingly bring home the virus weighs like a ton of bricks on my shoulders every single day. So how can we navigate these murky waters?
Arm Yourself With Knowledge and Safety
If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a billion times, but the recommendations from the CDC are imperative to follow. In our unique situation, we’ve struggled to know how far to take it. Should Bobby self-quarantine and sleep alone in a separate room? Keep 6 feet away from me and the kids? Wear a mask, even at home? The resounding answer to all of these questions continues to be, “We don’t know.” In times like these, all we can really do is look at the data we do have and factor in our unique preference and comfort level. Ultimately, decisions like these come down to what works best for your family.
For our family, the stress of trying to do it all on my own was so much greater than the stress of the possibility of contracting the virus and the uncertainty of how it would affect me during pregnancy. Since we do know that stress has a very negative impact on pregnancy and is not good for the baby, we decided to choose the option that created the least amount of stress for me. I have no other health issues, eat a vegan diet and (try to) exercise regularly. Plus, currently there is no data that suggests that pregnant women are more susceptible or even at a higher risk for severe symptoms. There is also no evidence that the virus affects the fetus in utero. (Sources: CDC, NPR, YaleMedicine)
So, after a very long, emotional conversation, Bobby and I decided that we would follow these precautions:
- At work, he asks permission to sign for anyone he delivers to, in order to eliminate multiple hands touching his power pad screen and uses hand sanitizer frequently.
- Upon coming home, he strips down in the basement, throws his clothes in the washing machine and comes upstairs to immediately shower.
- Before he showers, we sanitize ever surface he touches.
- We continue to diligently wash our hands and try really really hard to not touch our faces.
- Physical touch is limited. (No kissing and minimal hugging/touching.)
Of course, if he knowingly is exposed to the virus, we will reevaluate and implement a complete self-quarantine for him at that time. But for now, this is our new routine! It means he still gets to help out with the kids and the household, sleep in the same bed as me and enjoy family time when he’s home. The stress of feeling like a single parent is minimized (at least on the weekends and days when he gets home early.)
Protect Your Marriage (Especially From Resentment)
It would be easy to slip into resentment during these times. Working from home and taking care of the kids is no joke. All the stress and anxiety of life is quadrupled, and who ends up getting the backlash? Our spouse. Bobby and I have already had our fair share of arguments since this quarantine began, all exasperated by the current circumstances. So we have to intentionally work at keeping our marriage strong and healthy. Some of the easiest ways to do that?
- Acknowledge each other’s sacrifices. We are both putting forth an extra amount of effort and there isn’t one that is better than the other. We both feel seen and cared about when we’re speaking words of affirmation and appreciation for what we’re doing daily.
- Communicate your feelings. For some people, talking through their feelings comes easier than it does for others. But it’s so important to have that self-awareness and let your spouse know what’s going on inside your mind. (Remember, none of us are mind-readers!)
- Actively listen to one another. Part 2 of communicating your feelings means that the other person actively listens to you. Passive listening (when someone is listening without really reacting or interrupting) is really just one-way communication. It doesn’t make the person talking actually feel heard. Actively listening (when someone responds and shows that they genuinely understand the message being conveyed) creates a safe space that allows both people to connect on a deeper level. It builds trust and respect, especially in the midst of tension.
- Remember, you’re on the same team. Fighting against each other instead of for each other can happen in the blink of an eye. Suddenly your argument turns into subtle (or not so subtle) jabs because you know exactly what buttons to push and where your spouse’s Achilles’ heel is. But remember, your spouse is NOT the enemy. COVID-19 is.
Connect With Each Other Daily
As you read this, we are currently significantly limiting our physical touch. And yes, it’s tough. Bobby’s primary love language is Physical Touch, so it makes it much more difficult to show that I love and care for him when we are purposefully maintaining our distance. Although it’s not ideal, we both recognize that this isn’t for forever. It’s just a season. We are determined to get through it together. And we will be stronger for it. So, while we may not be able to touch each other… We can still connect through quality time, conversations, little gifts, notes and meeting each other’s needs the best we can right now.
The Four Points of Connectedness
Our connection has grown tremendously over the past couple of years because of this amazing concept I learned. According to studies done by relationship researcher Dr. Linda Duncan, there are four powerful points of connectedness between couples during the day. When you are intentional about connecting at these times on a regular basis, they can increase the intimacy in your marriage. Yes, please!!
How you wake up.
Figure out a simple, loving way to say “good morning” to each other. It’ll set the tone for how you engage with each other until you part for the day! If coffee is your love language, it’s a no-brainer.
How you part for the day.
Parting is such sweet sorrow these days, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Take some time to talk about what the day looks like and be sure to leave on a positive note… (“I love you” and “Thank you for working so hard!” are great parting words.)
How you greet each other.
After being apart all day, the way you greet each other when you get home really matters! Even if it can’t be a big hug and kiss, you can still express excitement with a warm smile and a genuine, “I’m so happy you’re home [sappy nickname here]!”
How you say goodnight.
When the day is done and you’re ready to call it a night, take some time (just the two of you!) to debrief on the day. Even though you’re probably not going to bed at the same time, getting “tucked in” isn’t just for the kids! These sweet moments before bed can actually impact how well you sleep that night!
The bottom line is that having a spouse who is still working adds a level of complication and stress into the mix of an already difficult situation. But just remember… this too shall pass. In the meantime, while you’re taking all the necessary precautions, don’t forget about keeping your marriage healthy as well. Eventually, when all the dirt settles and the waters are clear again, it’ll be so refreshing to know that your relationship is even stronger for it!
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
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“If anyone is gonna catch COVID-19, I will…” This is a thought that I’ve had to do mental battle with in the last couple of weeks as I deal with anxiety about COVID-19. Even though rationally, I know my chances of not catching COVID-19 are really, really good, I still find a sinking feeling creep into me day after day. Even the people who know me have hinted at it, heavily implied it, or come right out and said it.
I check the CDC website daily. I check to see if there are any more cases in my county and the surrounding counties. (And the surrounding states… and countries.) I catch myself wondering if “they” are reporting the numbers accurately. My paranoia doesn’t feel entirely unwarranted. The concern of my family, friends, and co-workers is justified.
My health has been a bit of a dumpster fire.
Chronic pain and catching everything going around is just a way of life for me. What follows is far from exhaustive. Consider it my body’s “Greatest Hits.” In no particular order…
- Severe case of mononucleosis in college that went undiagnosed for months, made me miss almost an entire semester and did significant liver damage.
- Spent a week in the hospital with pneumonia. (To answer your question—the worst kind.)
- Contracted a staph infection during knee surgery. Spent two weeks in the hospital being operated on every other day. (Beat sepsis and avoided septic shock! Yay!)
- Diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder. (Of course!)
- Spent a week in the Infectious Disease ward of the hospital because of more staph infections. (Nurses in biohazard suits—scary, not cute!)
- Total of 32 surgeries in the last 25 years on my face, head, both shoulders, elbow, hip, both knees, and I guess you could say, innards. (Not counting numerous other procedures. It only counts if I was completely anesthetized.)
- Totally forgot! Traumatic Brain Injury from a car accident. (Wasn’t trying to be funny.)
It’s a respectable list, but I’m always mindful that there are people out there dealing with far worse health issues. So you can see why I might get a little anxious about COVID-19, right? You can see why people would put all their money on me if there was some kinda morbid betting pool?
Let’s talk about anxiety a second.
You don’t rack up a “body count” like mine without having all the exhausting mental health problems that inevitably come with a broken body. Been there, doing that. Here’s the kicker—I was voted “Class Clown” my senior year of high school and THAT is a distinction I have always been determined to live up to! Laughter is the best medicine! How do you beat anxiety about COVID-19 and stay fun-lovin’ when you have legitimate health concerns?
- I focus on what is right with me and remember there are people dealing with so much worse. There are people that would trade problems with me any day.
- I’ve been through some hard things. Miserable things I don’t want to do again. I’m certainly not happy about COVID-19 and our present situation. On good days, I try to lean into hard situations and even try to be thankful for them and be open to the lessons they are trying to teach me and the character they are trying to develop in me. (And I stay thankful for the people around me who love me and help me through all of this stuff.)
- I try to be wise. (I try.) There are things I just can’t do, even if I think I can. Frequently, I have to swallow my pride and let other people do things for me. (This is one of the hardest parts. I’d rather help someone than be helped.)
- Specifically related to COVID-19, I do what the professionals say to do. Period. Full stop. I’ve been conscientious about eating healthier, staying hydrated, and getting sleep. I practice social-distancing, wash my hands a ton, make sure surfaces in my house are sanitized. We had a family meeting and continue to work together to be smart and stay healthy.
- I deliberately stay away from people, conversations, and information that is generally negative or will make me feel anxious. That has involved putting some distance between myself and some people. That has involved controlling the flow of information into my brain from television and social media.
- I’ve been using apps like FaceTime and Google Meet instead of simply making phone calls or texting friends and family. Seeing another face is so important for helping me feel better and to really check on how they are doing. Face-to-face communication helps me connect to “my people” who encourage me.
- I’m a big believer in the real power of positive thinking. I decide how I’m going to think about my body and my life. (That’s why I don’t even like writing stuff like this, honestly.) I try not to live in worry and fear or self-pity. I find strength in what I’ve already overcome and will draw on that strength for the next “thing.” But only if there is a “next thing.” I don’t deal with “what ifs,” I just take it as it comes. (When I feel like I am losing the mental battle, I don’t hesitate to call on “my people” and even call on the mental health pros when necessary.)
I’m not going to say that anxiety or fear about COVID-19 is justified. I will say that concern is justified.
There is a huge difference. I’m concerned about my health and respond to that concern appropriately by doing what medical professionals recommend. That’s it. That’s what I can control. I’m not going to worry about things I can’t control.
Maybe the biggest lesson I’ve learned about anxiety is that actively looking for ways to help and encourage other people, is like, magical. It’s hard to worry about yourself and someone else at the same time. It’s hard to worry about things you have no control over while helping to meet the needs of someone else. Nothing feels better than helping other people.
This is the perfect time to think about how other people are doing and reach out to them. What if you could relieve someone else’s anxiety while relieving your own?
In light of our current events and the chaos and disruptions they’ve brought, I felt the need to call a good, old-fashioned family meeting about COVID-19! It had been a while, but we had a lot of new important things to talk about—new work situations, school cancellations, health concerns, and how our family was going to navigate these unique circumstances.
Once everyone gathered around in the living room, several things were part of this particular meeting:
- I asked how everyone was doing. How was everyone feeling- physically and emotionally? My colleague wrote a great blog about taking your family’s “temperature.”
- I shared information from the CDC about the coronavirus, how it’s transmitted, risks of exposure, symptoms of infection, and recommended precautions to take. I kept a calm tone and stuck to the facts. Then I allowed room for them to share what they had already heard and where they heard it. We talked about what information sources were trustworthy. (I have teens and up. Adjust accordingly for your children.)
- I went over some new family routines and rules that would be in place for a while. No friends over right now. Who was responsible for sanitizing door knobs, appliance handles, remotes, light switches, etc., and on what days. What the schoolwork schedule would look like. We talked about how we would be having more Family Movie and Game Nights!
- I allowed space for questions and encouraged everyone to be real about their reactions and suggestions. They had some ideas way better than mine!
- I emphasized that this was going to pass and we would seize the opportunity these new obstacles provided- to spend more time together as a family, to learn new things, and to invest time in the things we always say we wish we had the time to do. We are a team and a fun team!
- We talked about how “this” was not all about us and how we needed to keep our eyes open for creative opportunities to help other people.
- Remember: This is opening a dialogue to what will be an ongoing conversation.
Sure, this meeting was necessary because of a set of new, unique circumstances, but family meetings should be a regular part of your family culture. Keep them going!
General Family Meeting Tips:
- Keep them positive and fun.
- Try to keep everyone involved.
- Keep them relevant. (Nothing worse than a meeting that feels unnecessary.)
- Keep them a brief but consistent part of your family life.
Every family is different so be sensitive to your specific family needs as you consider these suggestions. Be ready to adjust when necessary.
- Start them with something fun that gets everyone talking like a silly question like, “What superpower would you want and why?” or “What vegetable would you like to disappear forever?” Talking people are more likely to keep talking.
- Use them to keep everyone on the same page. “What was the best part of last week for you? What are you looking forward to this week?”
- Meetings emphasize family interdependence. They help the family to understand each individual member and help each individual to understand their connection to the family. Let family members put things on the agenda. Let them lead.
- This is the time to address issues, schedules, current events, and even finances in an appropriate way. This is the time to celebrate grades, sports wins, recitals, and character growth you are witnessing as a parent—NOT a time to embarrass anyone or point out individual mistakes or problems.
- Be creative! You can hold family meetings at a pizza place (just not during social distancing, of course!), during a board or card game, or throughout a car ride. No matter what—end with some fun!
Since the family was all together in one place, we capitalized on this opportunity to transition from serious real-world problems into an incredibly competitive, very fun, homemade three-point shooting contest using a pot from the kitchen, a chair, and some paper wads. Then we blasted walkout music for each player. Meeting adjourned!