Like every parent out there, Covid-19 and the quarantine showed up and literally turned all our lives around. The most optimistic of us all are our children, who are adjusting to the new reality too, with no playgroups, schools, parties or play dates to attend.
Most days I don’t feel like doing anything to a satisfactory level (work, motherhood or even being a domestic goddess), while other days everything is just as it should be and feels great.
Here are my 23 top tips on how I have been coping with my toddler during quarantine:
1. RELAXED / LAZY ROUTINES
As a parent that has worked from home since the birth of my little human, she is now 22 months old. I thought I was seasoned. I had a working routine, child care and a crazy but manageable balance of mothering, professional life and just a little enough time for me.
Throw in the lockdown and I still have the workload but now with the added complexity of very limited to no childcare, having to pivot and re-strategize for Malée while we are all living a collective traumatic experience.
I found out my days go smoother when I just ‘relax’ on the daily routine, it means something has to give. These are not normal times and YouTube kids is babysitting way more than I would like but, as long as I am giving my little human what she needs in me, we can work out the rest throughout the day.
2. WRITING A JOURNAL
One of the cheapest self care options out there, taking time out of each day to take stock and write my feelings and thoughts out. Studies have found that writing a daily journal can lead to better night sleep, a stronger immune system, an increased self confidence and a higher IQ. Writing therapy, as it is sometimes called, brings with it many positive aspects. like labelling emotions and acknowledging traumatic events. This is a great way to organize your thoughts and make sense of trauma. It improves our working memory as it is no longer processing the experience once we put pen to paper. A great book by Julia Cameron, The artist’s way is a lovely read if you have the time. I find doing this in the morning or just before bed a nice exercise for me to wind down, especially on the evenings, when I am struggling the most to wind down.
3. QUARANTINE FLOW
I came across the concept recently and have been chasing ‘Flow’ ever since. If this is the first time you have come across the concept, you might ask what flow is.
According to research, the average person has 7,000 thoughts a day, and learning to organize them is the key to having a productive day.
For most of us, balancing work and life at home during Covid-19 means we are constantly succumbing to the flurry of thoughts running through our heads while executing other tasks. The theory says that a disorganized mind leads to high stress, chronic negativity and impulsivity. An organized mind falls into a state of flow.
Flow is that blissful state of balance where you are fully immersed in a task, completely free from distracting thoughts. Flow allows you to enjoy your work and perform at the peak of your potential. Research shows that people working in a state of flow are 5 times more productive than they would otherwise be.
To achieve flow, start with the stimulating tasks that do not make it difficult to avoid anxiety or are not too simple that bore you, and work your way through your task list, being conscious of controlling your thoughts and focusing just on the task at hand.
4. CREATIVE PLAY WITH CHILDREN DURING QUARANTINE
Don’t be afraid to get imaginative with things around the house, as it will save you from buying too many new toys. Experts say that creative play is anything that satisfies the need for self-expression as well as developing manual skills. Painting and making things count. Children learn best from play so …. it’s ok to allow play in all its forms as long as it is safe. We are not teachers.
My favourite are cereal box houses. After we are done with a cereal box, or any box, I turn it inside out, with a little cello tape, and we make a new house and rooms for her and her favourite toys. Large enough delivery boxes can turn into magic rooms, and your little one can even design the wall paper.
5. LEARN THEIR FAVOURITE PLAYS FROM THEIR FAVOURITE TV SHOWS
I didn’t always pay attention to the goings on in her favourite TV shows. I would find her acting out different scenes and roles that I thought odd; “where did you learn that?” Then one day it all clicked, as they were all scenes from her shows. When I am stuck on a creative play idea, I watch an episode or 10 of one of her shows depending on how many times she goes for ‘next’ for inspiration, and they never disappoint.
6. CHANGE IN PLAY OR CARTOON INTEREST?
Is your trusted program not working anymore? Don’t be alarmed; it’s not you, it is definitely your little human. I have found that the increased contact time means we are noticing everything as parents. In this time a lot is changing. There is seemingly more time to discover more and develop new interests. Some new shows in the screen time roster is a good indication of a development in aptitude.
7. COOKING IN QUARANTINE: BATCH COOKING (STEWS, SAUCES)
Batch cooking is a real life saver for me as a working mother with a toddler. No day is the same and, on the days when I am stretched for time, I am not worried about making sure she has a balanced diet. I prep her meals and portions in advance and deep freeze them and take them out on the days that I need. On the days you are feeling like Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson, cook, cook and batch cook. I have found a stocked fridge/freezer during the week with a variety of stews and sauces helpful. Bolognese, curries, sauces and one pot dishes. All they require are easy and quick vegetables or carbs on the side, which take next to no time to prep and cook.
8. USE TV TIME TO CATCH UP ON LIGHT WORK TASKS (EMAILS)
A real lifesaver for me throughout the day. Her scene times are my email times. I use this time to respond to emails uninterrupted. It may be 10 mins at a time if I am lucky. Practice makes perfect.
Luckily a lot of our pre Covid-19 playgroups are now online on Facebook or YouTube like Monkey Music, Heartbeeps or Baby Ballet. I have found the e-classes to be a great way of breaking the day up and they offer the opportunity to repeat the class several times in the week if needed.
10. ALLOW THEM TO GET INVOLVED WITH EVERYDAY TASKS (KIDS LEARN BY WATCHING)
You will be surprised how long washing a dish can take. My little human loves helping and being a part of daily activities so I give her little jobs to do. The mess she leaves behind is a part of the deal but you get a few minutes to focus while they are happily engrossed in something they are enjoying.
11. MAKE TIME FOR YOU TO STAY INSPIRED
This is hard when you feel like you are spinning a thousand plates at once. Try and make time for you. If you give it all to the kids, laundry, work and chores, then what will be left? Steal the time when you can.
12. MAKE USE OF ALL THE ROOMS IN YOUR HOUSE AND CREATE DIFFERENT ACTIVITY SPACES
It’s odd that I have always been quite strict with separating the rooms and spaces at home. In recent times, I have learnt to have something that is for my little human in each room. When we change rooms (kitchen to living room or bedroom), there is something special and different for her to do and engage with.
13. TAKE A PAUSE AND SURRENDER
Now is not the time to take every free webinar going, be the alternative Covid-19 news reporter in your WhatsApp group and take to task everything you didn’t manage doing before Covid-19. Take the time and surrender to the emotions in the day. There have been many for me and at times polarizing. Examine them. Being able to face your own emotions help you to better deal with the emotions of your little human(s).
14. VIDEO CALL
Call a friend. Call several, they are most likely in the same boat as you and could do with the contact time and distraction for both parents and children. It is also a great way to check in on your friends and feel a little more like ‘yourself’, even in your lounge clothes and not your Sunday best. No one is judging.
15. QUARANTINE GAMES: OUTDOOR PLAY
We still get to go outdoors to enjoy our quarantine games. Find a time that works well in your day when it feels like a natural break. Try not to fill this time with TV or social media. Instead, make it your time for you to stretch your legs and get some fresh air.
16. MAKE USE OF NAP TIME (IF YOU ARE LUCKY ENOUGH)
If you have a toddler like me, nap time is a godsend in this pandemic. It offers a natural break in the day and a little time for yourself. I use this to either nap, have a long uninterrupted shower/bath or wash my hair, catch an episode of my favourite program or, dare I say it, work or record an episode of Third Culture Africans.
17. QUARANTINE GAMES: TAG TEAM (WITH A PARTNER IF YOU HAVE ONE)
They say two heads are better than one, in this case two adult humans are better than one. Having another parent/partner at home tag teaming the day is a great way to share the juggling act and lighten the load.
18. TIME AFFLUENCE (SPEND MONEY OUTSOURCING TASKS YOU DON’T ENJOY BUT WILL SAVE YOU TIME)
You work hard; every parent in this pandemic is pulling unreasonable hours on all fronts and, if I have learnt anything in the last few weeks, it is the growing understanding of the phrase ‘time is money’. Decide what is best to spend time on in the day and delegate the rest. Make use of your team. If you are spending way too much time cooking and your mum, aunt or that friend of yours who has morphed into an Instagram chef overnight needs extra mouths to feed, kindly offer them yours.
19. GET COMFORTABLE CLOTHES FOR THIS QUARANTINE
I envy the posts of anyone doing better than elasticated waisted trousers or leggings at the moment. Athleisure is my go-to look. ‘Comfortable’ is my dress code. This changes on a daily basis, but I am on a steady rotation of comfortable threads.
20. BE OK WITH SWITCHING OFF (THIS TIME IS NOT NORMAL)
Take a day off if you need to. Take on several non essential tasks. Emotionally, you are dealing with more than just the pandemic. Take the time to recharge.
21. FIND AN ESCAPE FROM QUARANTINE
Something that reminds you of good times that you can immerse yourself into. I have found having my favourite playlists in the background throughout the day makes things feel much brighter and really lifts my mood.
Having some Me Time is an absolute necessity.
22. BE PATIENT, FEEL AND COMMUNICATE
With yourself and everyone. If there were ever a time to be compassionate to yourself and others, this is it. We are all going through something.
23. FILTER WHAT YOU CONSUME. REJECT FOMO.
You are what you consume, so choose your entertainment and news carefully. No one is going through this without any challenges. No one has a picture perfect life. You are doing just fine.
I would love to hear about your tips for surviving quarantine with your children!