Life as a Mom in Isolation
Updated: May 8, 2020
My mother once told me that, “Moms have to wear many hats”. The truth behind her words is exceptionally felt during these abnormal times when families are locked in during the pandemic. The tasks at home have somewhat piled up and so do the hats that a Mom wears.
Being a single mom of two boys in isolation, I have become a programme director, a teacher, a chef, an artist, a coach, a cleaning lady, a storyteller, a psychologist, a friend, sometimes a physician on top of my day job as a Content Creator. That can be quite a lot to take in for anyone. The children too are testing me with their behaviour, the house looks like the scene from the Cat in the Hat; in utter pandemonium (most of the time despite hours of cleaning) and I find myself constantly cooking, cleaning and searching for activities to entertain my energetic bunnies.
After more than a month in, I finally found a way to cope with my new norm.
Plan Your Day
Planning my day helps me get into my new routine and I get my children to plan their day too.
Every morning, after breakfast we will plan our day as a family. I will pin up my activity cards on my daily routine chart and they will do the same, affixing activities of their choice along with the MUST DO on their velcro daily routine chart. The MUST DO are general routines like study time, mealtime, bath time and chores like watering plants and washing dishes.
My boys will plan activities together and will get my A-OK on them. If I am having a busy day and unable to do one of the selected activities together with them, then the activity will automatically go to the "Let’s Take A Rain Check" section to be taken on over the weekends. It's a smart system that we came up with and it works for us!
Planning their day has trained my boys to be more timely, organised and independent. I no longer have to rush them with their work as they know that they need to finish their homework or chores on time for them to do the fun stuff that they planned to do. Plus, this way they are aware of my activities too so I won’t be disturbed during my working time unless it's SUPER DUPER important.
I always schedule breaks from work to do stuff with my boys. As a writer, my hours are flexible so that gives me more allowance to dedicate my hours towards teaching my children and doing fun stuff with them.
If you decide to do a daily routine chart for your kids, there are plenty of printable activity cards and chart designs to choose from on the web. You can also do a reward system; a STAR or a WELL DONE! sticker at the end of the day once they have ticked off all the activities in their daily routine chart just to give them that extra boost of motivation.
Prepping meals over the weekends saves me tonnes of hours in the kitchen, I kid you not.
I will do my grocery shopping based on the healthy meals that I have planned taking into account my children's likes and dislikes, the hours that go into prepping a single meal and that the meals stay fresh and delicious week long.
Here are some of the rules that I have set in place when I meal prep:
1. Don’t grocery shop and meal prep on the same day
Simply because it is just too tiring to get everything done in a day. If I do my grocery shopping on a Friday then I will do meal prepping on Saturday and if shop on Saturday then Sunday morning is meal prepping for me.
2. Plan a flexible menu
I will plan a flexible menu by selecting ingredients that allow me to make different recipes. Let’s say I am planning to make roasted sweet potatoes. I also cut them raw to boil as an evening snack for my kids. This helps me to save money, decrease food waste and my small family won’t get bored eating the same meal for two days.
3. Store dishes in air-tight containers separately in the refrigerator
Storing them separately helps seals in the freshness longer.
4. Reheat dishes on the stovetop and not in the microwave
While this adds a few extra minutes, I find that even if the food is a few days old, it tastes a lot fresher when heated in a pan on the stovetop.
5. Bring in the little helpers to aid with meal prepping
I don’t consider it as a rule but I do it just so I could bond with my boys and teach them important living skills like cooking and cleaning up right after. My boys love helping me in the kitchen. They are fascinated by the various ways of cooking and will ask me the science that goes behind it. When that happens I will quickly lookup for the answers (thank heavens for Google, right?). Now, meal prepping has become a fun thing that my boys look forward to every weekend.
Learning at Home
Homeschooling your children is not as easy as it sounds. It took me quite a while to adjust to the role of a teacher. It can be challenging to teach children from two different age groups when both demand your fullest attention. Not to mention, the kids are also adjusting to learning in a new environment absent from the physical presence of their class teachers and friends, when suddenly everything is virtual.
The Parent-Teacher WhatsApp group has become very active ever since the commencement of online learning. Teachers will send in lesson plans, printable worksheets or links to online quizzes to do at the end of each lesson and other times reminders to get parents to prepare materials needed for the class.
It has become my routine before bedtime to prep the children’s lessons for the following day. I am always ready to jot down reminders or instructions given by the teacher in my notebook as I go about my work throughout the day but come evening, once the children are soundly asleep I will print out the worksheets or gather materials needed for their art or science lesson.
Since I have one child in Grade 2 and another in K1, I find preparing simple activities like colouring, puzzles or sticker activities helps me shift my attention from teaching my preschooler to my eldest child and then back to the younger one who learns from a learning portal.
I dedicate at least 2 hours daily to assist them with their studies in the morning and try to provide them with the same kind of structure at school by giving them snack breaks in between lessons, library time and outdoor play like sandplay or bubble play at the end of their virtual school session.
I know, it sounds tiring but after a while, I have gotten the hang of it and so will you. Don’t fret if you are still struggling with it. This is a good opportunity to get to know your children better and build a stronger relationship with them.
Teaching my children at home has taught me a lot about their learning styles. I learned that my younger one learns faster with visuals and music while the elder one learns kinetically, requiring concrete materials when learning Mathematics. Discovering their learning styles has enabled me to support them in their learning and got me better acquainted with my children too.
Self Love and Care
I heard of moms who wore the same sweatpants for three days straight, hair greasy from days of not washing or moms who guzzle down their third mug of coffee while the kids are still in their PJ’s running amok in the background.
Hey, don’t you be mom-shaming them?!
I shared that same sorry state of affair. To all the mommies out there, I feel for you.
Many struggling moms have to rearrange their life to work 15-hours a week splitting child care shifts with the dads. Staying at home to take care of little human beings, running a household besides working your usual office hours without your partner or another adult to help you around the house can also be overwhelming. You just get so tired at the end of the day that you just want to crawl into bed in the same sweatpants that you have worn the whole day.
If you are going through the same ordeal and I have just painted the exact picture of how you got into bed, please stop whatever you are doing right now. Take a long look in the mirror and tell yourself out loud these affirming words, “I deserve to be loved by ME”. Have you done that? Great! Now, go wash your hair.
Taking care of yourself is the best thing that you could do for yourself in such a crazy time such as this. Your kids will thank you for it. It took me a while to realize that whatever that I was doing wasn’t good for me or my kids. To be honest, there are days when I let them run a little wild in the house while I go sit in my room so I could have some quiet time for myself.
Treat yourself from time to time. Open that bottle of wine that you have been saving for a special occasion, light a scented candle and soak yourself for an hour in the bathtub, watch your favourite movie or a sitcom. Why not?! Be kind to yourself. You don’t have to feel so guilty neither do you need an excuse for wanting a time-out from the kids or cleaning the house. You deserve it for being a great Mom!
Taking care of your well being is very important at this time. Eat right and exercise. Get your children to join you as well. It might do them some good too. Check-in on your loved ones. Do a family video conference call once a week. It will perk your day and theirs too. Meditate or start journaling your journey throughout the isolation period. You may not know, it might spark an idea for a novel in the future.
Fun Family Time
We all could do with more fun especially at a time like this. Plan with your children fun things that you can do together with them.
My kids and I enjoy game nights. It’s a big deal for the boys. They will choose the board games that we play. The winner gets to choose the “Treat of the Night”, it’s usually popcorn or ice cream. Game night is a great way to test your children’s vocabulary, aptitude in numbers and strategy play while having heaps of fun.
Movie nights on a Saturday night is something that my family looks forward to. We take turns to choose movies. It’s a great time to introduce your children to various film genres like musicals, documentaries, science fiction and award-winning films that teach them about the history and culture of other nations.
Who doesn’t love storytime? The children enjoy reading interactive audiobooks from the Me Books Plus app. The books interactive feature got them to be creative by creating foley and recording sound effects and dialogues.
The children took storytelling to a whole new level when they came up with an idea to pre-record sound effects and narration of their favourite story and acted it out just like a play. They also created costumes and props from recycled items just to make the stories come alive. The best part was I didn’t only get to be the audience but I also got to participate in the play. I get to press the characters and lines in the story and the kids acted, miming and expressing the words. It was wonderful to watch their creative expressions.
What I love the most about the Me Books Plus app is its wide collection of audiobooks from local and international publishers. Many of their stories are narrated by well-known actors and voice actors like Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir David Jason, Rik Mayall and Adam Buxton among them. I believe that this has somewhat influenced my children's speech. They have shown improvement in their articulation and pronunciation ever since they started reading stories on the app.
Me Books are supporting children’s learning and cultivating young storytellers by giving out 3 months worth of Me Books Plus subscription for free till the end of May. Get the entire library by redeeming the FREE access code: "MBCOSAFE2020" at here!
It is uncertain to know when things could go back to normal again but till then I hope families out there seek comfort knowing that they have each other during these trying times. And to all the Moms, you are not alone in your struggles. We are all in this together in isolation.
It takes a lot of strength and courage for all of us to weather this crisis and for us, mothers, courage is innate. Be the supermom you have always been.