Guest post by Allison Pettit is a mom of 3 under 3, including 8-month-old twins.
Week three of self- isolation with kids is starting to make me go loco!
In the grand scheme of things, we are all very lucky to “have to” stay at home with our kids and families during this pandemic because things could be much worse but damn, this sh!t is not easy. I may sound like a bit of a whiner but these past few weeks of social distancing, self-isolating or quarantine (whatever you want to call it) have definitely gotten to me … on more than one occasion.
I’m a bit of an extrovert by nature so being told that I can’t see any other humans other than the ones in my household was the first punch to the gut. I knew I was a “people person” but never fully understood just how much this was true until I had to give up physical face-to-face socialization with friends and acquaintances. I am very close with my family and we haven’t seen them much unless it has been from 6 feet away, which is hard when you have young kids who just want to hug Grandma and Grandad or play with their cousins.
In our regular life (pre quarantine on maternity leave), I have the twins home with me but for the past few weeks with daycares being closed, I have also had our two-year old at home with me. I really don’t think I’m wired to handle all day everyday with three little ones at home. Obviously, like all of you, this is magnified tenfold these days as we can’t do our usual outings like going to the park, swimming, going out for lunch or visiting friends, which makes things very difficult both mentally and emotionally. It also makes it way more fun when I do take the kids on a walk and the toddler walks ahead to go to the park because she knows where they are. That strikes up a super awesome conversation/argument about how we can’t go to the park because it’s closed. I swear she thinks I’m lying to her like when I tell her the TV is broken or that the Barbie show is broken or that the toy store is closed … she’s onto me.
I’m usually a very happy and positive person who doesn’t have a ton of bad days, generally. Maybe I’m lucky or maybe I don’t let things get to me very easily, who knows … but I find myself having more bad days than I’m used to. Some days, I feel like I’m totally crushing life when I manage to do crafts or bake cupcakes with the toddler. I have patience and can easily sit around playing random games with her while painting and watching the mess unfold in my living room. Other days, I have a super short fuse with all of the kids, can’t handle any sort of noise (especially a baby whining or screaming or a toddler complaining about god knows what), and just end up yelling at everyone. Or, I somehow manage to barely hold it together all day until my husband gets home from work and then hand him the kids and slowly walk away and disappear to my quiet bedroom for an hour or so. What do I do in there for my whole hour? I am in no way joking when I say that I usually stare at the wall. Or if I’m feeling really crazy, I may attempt a quick nap depending on what time it is.
Not only are we isolated with three kids under three, my toddler has also decided that now is the time that she will only take naps on a few certain days of the week. SO FUN RIGHT? The twins are also all over the map with their schedules, which means they aren’t always sleeping at the same time every day… meaning no breaks for mom. They’re also getting more teeth so there has been a lot of screaming happening over here… and Tylenol… and wine to help mom. W-I-N-E… what does it spell? COPING!
All of these things add up to mom guilt at the end of the day. I’m guilty for not doing enough with the kids some days, guilty for yelling on other days, guilty for having the toddler watch TV for most of the day, guilty for only being able to handle one round of painting, guilty for not wanting to be home with the kids all day every day, guilty for feeling guilty about not wanting to be with them all day. THE MOM GUILT IS AT AN ALL TIME HIGH and I finally figured it out… I think.
If you have bad days, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. If you have more bad days than good days, that also doesn’t make you a bad mom. It means you’re real and you’re normal. You are going through the same emotions that most other moms are these days. We may yell and get frustrated just like toddlers do and that’s ok. If you’re mad at yourself for not always “talking it out” calmly with your toddler like some of those parenting books or mom forums talk about, it’s really going to be ok. I for one will admit that I have lost my patience on several occasions these past few weeks. I’ve walked away at other times and on those days where I sent myself to my bedroom, I’ve stayed in there for up to 2 hours at a time on some evenings because I hit the point of exhaustion and became a complete shell of a human. Big shout out to my husband for jumping in and allowing me to have my space in those moments. I have never in my entire life ever felt like I needed to be alone and have “space” but here I am… learning about a new me on the regular! Who knew? It only took a full-blown pandemic to discover this side of me.
I should add here that all of you parents who are now working from home full-time while also parenting full-time, that sh!t is no joke. You are doing two full-time jobs and I can only imagine how you feel at the end of each day. Exhaustion must be at an all-time high. Hang in there, you’re doing a great job!
If I have learnt anything from all of this, it’s that no matter who you are, you can’t do it all. And if you think you can, it’s definitely not sustainable and you will eventually crash and burn. How’s that for positivity?
I just mean that we shouldn’t put more pressure on ourselves than what is actually needed these days. We are all in survival mode and if you aren’t following the daily “schedule” you made for yourself that week, it doesn’t matter because you are only letting yourself down, not your child. Your child doesn’t know that you had all these plans in your head that you were going to do with him (unless you already told him about these things that were 100% happening… then that’s maybe a learning experience for you). He will remember that he had a blast painting for those 10 whole minutes with mom or that he got to make a mess and paint all over his fingers. He will be excited that he got to watch those 3 hours of TV and won’t think you’re a bad parent because of it. He’ll probably think you’re amazing for letting him watch so many shows! Set yourself up for success, however that looks and don’t add more stress that in the end will just create more guilt.
If I have a plan to do one thing per day with the toddler, that is enough. Usually, we end up doing more than one “activity” but I don’t plan it out beforehand because I know it won’t work as one of the twins will go off their schedule and everything will crash and burn from then on. The other day, I wanted to make rice crispy squares so that’s what we did together. It ended up being a fun 20-minute activity, and I put the TV on for her after we finished and didn’t feel bad for even a second because we accomplished one activity together without interruptions and she had fun. The next day, we did an outdoor water activity, and she lasted a full hour while I was cleaning, feeding twins and helping her here and there with the water. I took that as a win-win. Other days, we take a walk or do some painting or crafting. Some days, we get nothing done other than a bit of colouring and TV time and don’t even leave the house or go outside, but I realized that it’s me who feels guilty on those days and not her being bored and needing more. I set myself up to feel that way and as soon as I changed this, things became way easier. My frustration levels relaxed a bit. I definitely still get frustrated but not at the same intensity as before. I stopped setting the bar too high for myself. God, I should write a book about “being average” … I’m really nailing those positive quotes over here.
If you have lost your sh!t these past few weeks, cried in front of your kids or had a complete mental breakdown in the bathroom, yelled or have become frustrated with your children, that is OK! Don’t blame yourself for any of it and just realize that you are not alone. These are very weird and confusing times in the world. We are all in the same boat. It’s a boat that doesn’t always stay afloat. Sometimes it lets in water or wobbles a bit but usually, it rights itself and floats how it once did.
Allison Pettit is a mom of 3 under 3, including 8-month-old twins. Her blog aims to normalize stigmas around motherhood and parenting. She keeps it real, raw and blunt and hopes to provide support, comfort and validation to others struggling with the emotions and struggles of motherhood. Allison is on maternity leave but is looking forward to being back at work in the fall, while learning how to navigate the new working mom of three life.