Question: My friends who have been furloughed keep talking about feeling guilty about not doing enough to improve themselves now that they’ve been given all this time. But I would give anything for that time. I can’t do anything for myself. As it turns out, my days are more regimented than ever. My partner is an essential worker. We have a 6 and a 9-year-old. I get up early, my partner runs out the door, I get breakfast ready and pre-pack dinner for the kids, I have my Zoom work meeting, I spend two hours home-schooling, I work through late morning to early afternoon and the kids serve themselves dinner, I spend another hour home-schooling, then I try to combine their fun time with chores and queuing for groceries with masks and gloves once a week (try to do that with 6 and 9 year olds! The looks I get when I have my kids with me!). Another hour working, have my late-day Zoom check-in with the team at work, then I get tea ready, my partner comes home and we try to share at least that time together, then she’s off to spend time with the kids while I try to finish what I should have done at work during the day whilst they drop in front of the tele. I feel like I can’t be productive because of the constant interruptions on every level; I’m not there enough for my kids and my partner, and I certainly am not there for me. I feel guilty about all those things. I don’t want to bother my partner, because she’s so tired from working out of the house all day while trying to practice social distancing and not bring this virus home, which is of course another worry. I feel like a failure at everything I’m supposed to do, let alone trying to care for myself.
Let me just start by saying, you’re not a failure. You’re and your partner are effin’ heroes. Look at all you’re doing to make sure you honour your commitments and to doing what you can to provide for your family and keep them safe during this insane time.
You’re not the only one going through this shake up of life, even if it seems that way from what you say about your friends. Families all over the world are trying to restructure their roles and activities. From my perspective, this just highlights the unrealistic expectations that our busy lifestyles already had on us and our families before this crisis and the importance of rethinking the way we structure our lives now and after we’re let back out into the world. No one can be a Master-Of-All. We need one another to do what we’re best at, so we can cooperate together.
Sources of Online Home-schooling Help
I’m really glad that the Oak National Academy rolled out today in the U.K., and that there are online programs in the U.S. and the Netherlands. These programs show how, globally, we’re recognizing that our communities can and must work together for one another.
In the U.K.
In the U.S.
In the NL
Give Yourself (And Your Family) Space
First thing for you: give yourself a break. It is easy to unconsciously default to the same expectations you had of yourself before all this happened. But expecting perfect, timely, and complete results was not healthy then, and is certainly not healthy now.
It sounds like you’ve constructed a particularly rigorous schedule of events. If you feel like you and your family is finding it difficult to keep to this regimen, maybe a little looseness is what’s needed.
Let the hours/minutes fray a little bit at the edges. If you or your kids are feeling burnout creep into this schedule, pre-schedule online chats with their classmates and friends and schedule yourself time to reconnect with friends (especially friends who parents so you can commiserate!).
When you are working, make sure that you’ve designated space away from the madness, space where it is your “workplace,” one that separate from your home space. Even if it is a set-up that, due to space constrains, you construct every work day, make sure that set-up is for only for your work and broken down at the end of the work day so you cannot return to it when it is family and self-time.
Let your kids and partner know that when you’re in this space, you’re not to be disturbed unless it’s an absolute emergency. Noise-cancelling headphones can help with that.
Exercise That You Can (and Must) Fit In
(Disclaimer: the following suggestions are no substitute for advice from your health care practitioner and are not meant to treat any disease. Check with your general practitioner or primary health care physician before you begin any lifestyle-related change in your diet or exercise.)
I get it. It seems like there’s no time for self-care. But you must. Must. Must. Self. Care.
Remember when flying was a thing? The flight attendant would tell you that, in the event of cabin pressure failure, to put your mask on before you put your child’s mask on.
That’s because, you’re the carer. If you don’t serve yourself first, you’re not going to be available for your children. Your body will fail you, and they are, at present, unable to care for you.
It’s the same now. Bodymind atrophy and breakdown doesn’t wait for you to “make time” for it. It happens, and then one day, your body cannot do it anymore.
A Little Goes A Long Way
As far as taking care of yourself, a little movement is better than no movement, and can go a long way to bringing your body and mind into a more peaceful, healthy place.
While in that space, set your timer every 20-30 minutes for you to stretch and move in some manner. Get up and wiggle. Breathe deeply. Give yourself a nice hug. I’ll be posting little quick videos to show you what you can do.
My YouTube Channel
Family YouTube Exercise
Remember that part of schooling is exercise and free time. YouTube has a plethora of free exercises and games that have built up over the years, if you cannot get outside. Take the time that the kids are exercising to join them or do your own thing while they’re doing “free time.”
One of my favourites is Yoga with Adriene. She has about 6 years of thoughtful yoga instruction online. This is saving my body for work when I get back. I suggest it to you too.
Yoga with Adriene
In the very early morning; during the day, at points when you feel like you’re about to lose it; and/or in the evening; or even in the middle of the night if you’re having trouble sleeping; put on some headphones and wind your mind and body down with some guided meditation.
There’s many; one is being built by my friend and yogi in Amsterdam, Emily Mulder. They’re quick 10-20-minute offerings to get you reset. Things won’t feel so panicky afterward, and you might be able to tap into your own answers (and she’s a home-schooling parent, so she gets it!).
I also found this little gem, if you or your children are into Martial Arts. It will teach the basic disciplines and give them (and you) a good guided workout until you can get back to the dojo. Check with your instructor that this is all right for you to do.
NOTE: For the experts out there: you know that everything you do is built on the basics. This is key for you to keep your skills sharp.
Global Martial Arts University
This is a free guided, weekly offering that is offered by Philip Carr-Gomm, a druid from the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. You don’t have to be a druid or shaman to benefit from these. They’re completely free, lovely, effortless, and healing.
The Garden of Retreat in Flowing Happiness
The following may be possible: even as you may be feeling that you’re a “failure,” because you’re being a bit hard on yourself; it is very easy to unconsciously transmit those feelings and expectations to those around you in the home and workplace.
It is just as easy to not see that your co-workers and family wants to support you but don’t know how. Chances are they may be feeling helpless and inadequate, too, because they have not received guidance on how to help you.
Check in with your workmates and directors, your partner and your kids and be real with them.
Keep it cool and non-accusatory; instead of saying, “I feel that you don’t do this or don’t appreciate what I do…” say, “I feel overwhelmed.” Listen to them and where they’re at and remind them to keep it non-accusatory as well.
Offer suggestions and let them offer suggestions. “Here’s where I need help. Here’s what you can do to help.” “What do you think?” “Is there a way you can help me?” Delegate chores and responsibilities when you can, and at their ability level, of course. Let them do the same.
Collectively find a way to lessen expectations for yourself and them and check in regularly to see how it is going. Keep if fluid, and ever-changing. We all need space to breathe until we figure out how to do this. You may all feel closer together (perhaps after a good family cry and hug, if you’re able to safely do so).
I hope this helps.
I love you. I believe in us.