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I went to the supermarket last night to get some groceries we simply needed to refill, but also to stock up on extra stuff—just in case. The "just in case" gray area of this whole Coronavirus, or COVID-19 pandemic is what's causing familiar worries and fears to bubble up.

Just in case of what, exactly?

Getting it ourselves? Passing it to someone else? The kid's schools closing? My grandfather—who lives in a nursing home—getting it? Being trapped inside for two weeks… or longer?

The gray area is a trigger for my anxiety, I've realized.

So yesterday, I spent my whole hour-long therapy session talking about it. There are so many gray areas of life—in raising our children to be who they are not who we expect them to be, in eliminating boxes we feel we are "supposed" to live in, in not knowing what the future holds. If we don't get comfortable with—or at least okay with—the gray area, we will live in a constant state of heightened anxiety.

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We want control, and the gray area doesn't give us control. Instead, it asks us to surrender control.

Is that what I have to do now, with the Coronavirus entering our lives?

Today, I'm thinking—yes and no.

I understand we don't have to spend our life savings on groceries, toilet paper and cleaning products, but I did take the FEMA recommendation seriously and stocked up on a 2-week supply (probably a bit more) of food and our basic necessities. I refilled things like kid and adult Motrin and Tylenol as well as made sure we had plenty of Gatorade, Pedialyte, bottled water, saltines, soup, elderberry syrup and probiotics.

My thought process here is, I have kids. We can make room in our budget to do this. I need to take their recommendations seriously, even if I felt a bit silly in the packed-to-the-brim-store last night with everyone else. The best-case scenario is that we don't need to tap into this reserve, but we have it in case we do. We could share with our neighbors if they needed help. And plus, it's all stuff we will use eventually—it will not go to waste.

If nothing else, buying extra inventory for our household gave me a familiar feeling of control within the gray area of this situation, which made me feel better. Even if I can't actually control what's going on in the world, I can control (to a certain degree) the preparedness in my own home.

Which then made me realize there are many people who can't spend money on buying extra groceries and supplies. Children who will miss meals if there are school closures. I saw on author and poet Cleo Wade's Instagram account that donating money, not necessarily cans of food, to your local food bank will be tremendously helpful for these members of our communities. (You can find your local food bank here.)

We've been going over proper hand-washing constantly (and have the dry hands to prove it!) and alternate between singing the ABCs and Happy Birthday. Yesterday, I praised my middle kiddo so hardcore for washing their hands while singing loudly and beautifully, you would have thought they won an Olympic gold medal. (They were a bit confused but quite happy with the enthusiasm.)

Though again, we can't even really control their hand-washing, but we can strongly encourage them to be thorough. We can continue to go over why they need to be so thorough—because we don't want to spread our germs to each other, now or ever, and especially not to our immunocompromised friends or family members.

So instead of Facetiming my sister immediately when I hear something new about Coronavirus or continuously refreshing the news, I can remember to take a break from the media and constant discussion of the topic. I can remember to meditate and get extra rest to be sure I'm taking care of myself. Laughing while watching Veep with my husband last night helped, too.

Our kids are going to remember the feeling in their safe zone, their home, from the time "Coronavirus started spreading," and I don't want them to feel anxiety or panic. I want them to remain calm, knowing their parents are doing all they can to protect them.

My anxiety has been present in times of emergency before, like when we lived through the Merrimack Valley gas explosions a year and a half ago, and what I learned then that I carry with me today is that—sometimes I need to put on a brave face for my kiddos no matter what my anxiety is doing inside. And that, as long as I'm with my babies, we are okay.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

If you feel cash-strapped right now, you're not alone. Many of us are under financial stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic—but there are several things you can do to maintain your cash flow.

Here's how you can access expanded financial resources and practice tried-and-true budgeting methods to help you and your family weather the storm.

1. Review your budget + cut what you don't need.

With the stress of a global pandemic and social distancing—not to mention the financial worries that come with both—budgeting can feel overwhelming. But making a plan now can actually help you feel a sense of control. This crisis will not last forever, but the money choices you make now may have a long-term impact on your financial health.

Start by determining the minimum monthly amount you need to cover your bills and lifestyle spending during the next few months. Make a list of every monthly expense you pay, including fixed bills like your rent and phone bill, and variable expenses like groceries and household items.

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Cut or pause payments on any non-essentials—for example, many gyms are offering the option to pause memberships, since social distancing practices prevent people from going. Other service providers like your cell phone company, credit card company, car insurance agent and internet provider may have options that will reduce your bills, or smaller packages that match your needs at a lower cost.

2. Make a plan.

Once you know your minimum monthly spend, you can make a plan. Compare what you need against any regular monthly income, as well as other income you can receive from things like unemployment, the stimulus credit, and your 2019 tax refund. If you haven't yet, file your taxes early so that you'll get your refund quicker.

If you have an emergency fund, now may be the time you dip into it if you need. Be mindful about how much you take out of this fund and start by taking as little from your emergency fund as possible. This amount will vary person to person, and family to family, but the idea is to allow yourself to use the cash to help cover immediate costs and alleviate stress and anxiety about paying your bills.

3. Access expanded government programs designed to help meet basic needs.

Government measures have been put in place to help families struggling to make important monthly payments. For example, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently enacted a 60-day foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single-family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages. If this moratorium doesn't apply to you, or if you're a renter, try contacting your mortgage lender or landlord (in writing) to let them know you're going to have trouble paying. You may be able to work out an arrangement directly with them.

Dealing with an unresponsive or difficult landlord? Many states and cities have temporarily stopped evictions—check online to see if your state or city has, and make sure your landlord is aware of these laws. This can give you some additional breathing room on your rent payment.

ChildCare.gov is a great resource for families who are struggling during this time. The website has information on how to access helpful programs, like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help families with their energy bills, WIC and SNAP which provide food assistance, and child nutrition programs, including any local schools that are providing lunches despite school closures.

For parents who need help with buying basic supplies, such as diapers, the National Diaper Bank Network can help you access free diapers via a local diaper bank.

4. Talk to credit card companies and other lenders to help you create a plan for your debt.

The FDIC is encouraging banks and lenders to work with any customers impacted by the pandemic. Visit the American Bank Association's website for an online list of banks that are helping those in need with mortgage loans, car loans, credit card payments.

If you're worried about paying your federal student loans, you can now pause payments for up to six months—the federal government has also temporarily paused interest charges. But make sure you don't just stop paying. Set your future self up for success and contact your lender to request an administrative forbearance.

Making a proactive call to your lender is also a good practice for any other loans or credit card accounts—don't just ignore the situation and let an account go into default. Many credit card companies are offering to waive late payment fees or increase credit limits for those in need, but make sure to confirm with your bank or creditor before missing a payment or going over your limit.

This crisis is forcing many of us to make difficult choices and deal with new financial and personal challenges—remember you're not in this alone, and there are many resources available to help you.

Work + Money

There is a blog post going viral from author Jaime Ragsdale's blog, Altogether Mostly, that's reframing our perspectives on how our children are learning right now, at home, with us. With some states already making the call of closing schools for the year, and many parents in other states mentally preparing for that same call—we're all left wondering, How are we going to make sure they're getting what they need? How are we going to make sure they're prepared for next year?

We're questioning whether we're doing enough or not, we're wracking our brains trying to figure out how to incorporate lessons into our day while the kids run around and we run behind on our workload. We're staying up at night worrying if all of this means that our children are going to fall behind—with friends, with school, with life.

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But then I read these words, and it felt like a breath of fresh air.

Because it asks us to pause in the madness and think about things differently for a minute.

It says:

"What if instead of 'behind' this group of kids is advanced because of this? Let's talk about helping our kids during social distancing.

"Hear me out.

"What if they have more empathy, they enjoy family connection, they can be more creative and entertain themselves, they love to read, they love to express themselves in writing.

"What if they enjoy the simple things, like their own backyard and sitting near a window in the quiet.

"What if they notice the birds and the dates the different flowers emerge, and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower?

"What if this generation is the ones to learn to cook, organize their space, do their laundry, and keep a well-run home?

"What if they learn to stretch a dollar and to live with less? What if they learn to plan shopping trips and meals at home.

"What if they learn the value of eating together as a family and finding the good to share in the small delights of the everyday?

"What if they are the ones to place great value on our teachers and educational professionals, librarians, public servants and the previously invisible essential support workers like truck drivers, grocers, cashiers, custodians, logistics, and health care workers and their supporting staff, just to name a few of the millions taking care of us right now while we are sheltered in place?

"What if among these children, a great leader emerges who had the benefit of a slower pace and a simpler life. What is he or she truly learn what really matters in this life?

"What if they are ahead?"

—Jaime Ragsdale

This post, written so beautifully from the heart, asks us to reconsider life at home right now. To push through the fog and get to the clear skies in order to see—our kids are doing okay. And they're going to be okay. In fact, they're going to be great.

Because if you look past the worksheets that you can't seem to get your kiddo to finish and the billions of (wonderful but also a little overwhelming) teaching resources available to us due to COVID-19 school closures, the simple lessons being learned at home right now might just be the most important ones, too.

This generation of children we're raising is doubling down on empathy, family bonding time, resourcefulness and resilience whether they can see and understand that or not. And those are the big things—the things we probably needed to double down on anyway.

Thanks to this post, and our mindset shift, we can see and understand that now ourselves—even if our kids can't quite yet. We know they one day will.

Life

Family life is more complicated than ever right now, which can make chores a challenge. Kids might be likely to whine and complain about doing the dishes or folding laundry, but stay strong, mama—these tasks are not only teaching them life skills they will want to know one day, you can turn these jobs into a valuable lesson, like personal finance.

The key is to treat your kids' chores as if they are a real job. You can still make it fun, but chores are supposed to teach responsibility, accountability, time management and honesty.

One way to make chores feel like a real job is to open your wallet on a weekly basis and pay an allowance. Handling their own allowance could be the only money management practice your children will ever receive, since most schools don't teach the subject. Identify a dollar amount you think is fair for your child to earn per week and then create a list of chores that must be completed to earn that money.

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You can also make it simple by using apps to help keep track of who is responsible for what chores and when the payments are due. Bonus: Kids can learn to save, invest and donate directly through the app as well.

Here are age-appropriate chores for kids of all ages:

Chores for 2-year-olds

1. Pick up toys

This helps teach kids at a young age to pick up after themselves and is an easy first chore to start with. Designate a basket in the area that your child plays in and model the act of picking up a toy and placing it in there for them to follow.

2. Wash produce

Have kids help wash produce as part of meal prep. This chore can get their feet wet in the kitchen while teaching them an important step in preparing their own meals or snacks.

3. Be an extra pair of hands

At this age, kids like to touch and hold things—have children help separate laundry into colors, darks and lights, for example, or let them help unravel the vacuum cleaner cord before you plug it in.

Chores for 3 + 4-year-olds

1. Wipe it down

Give kids a dust cloth and have them wipe down the areas that can be hard for you to reach including baseboards and lower shelves.

2. Grocery sorting

As you unpack grocery items at home, have kids identify the correct place each item goes. This will get them prepared to unpack the groceries themselves in a few years.

3. Make the bed + tidy their room

At this age, kids can start trying to make their own bed in the morning. If your child doesn't sleep in a crib any longer, have them straighten the pillows and stuffed animals and pull the covers up. You can also ask them to make sure all of their toys are picked up put away.

Chores for 5 + 6-year-olds

1. Take care of pets

Have kids scoop their pet's food in the morning before they eat breakfast and at night before dinner. Ask them to monitor the water bowl and fill it if they are able to or alert a parent when it needs to be refilled. These chores help teach responsibility as well as getting kids used to a schedule of doing chores at a specific time.

2. Get dressed

Have kids sort their clothing and identify what items fit and are appropriate for the weather, and which ones can either be donated or put in a storage bin for next season. This teaches kids organization skills and helps keep clothing from being strewn across the room.

3. Make to-do lists

Kids tend to be learning how to write at this age to prepare them for kindergarten. Have them help make the grocery or family to-do list to help the family stay organized and not miss anything.

Chores for 7-9-year-olds

1. Help with meal prep and clean up

Have kids set the table, assist in cooking dinner and clean up afterwards including dishes. Ask them to look up recipes for dinner and make a list of the ingredients needed.

2. Yard work

Make yard work a family affair one Saturday and give everyone a task to help teach teamwork skills. At this age have them attend to simple tasks like watering the planets, pulling weeds and wiping down play equipment and lawn furniture.

3. Room cleaning

Have your children pick up their toys, put their clothes away and wipe down any furniture.. Getting kids in the habit of doing all of these tasks in their room by themselves at a young age can save a lot of hassle later in their teen years.

Chores for 10-12-year-olds

1. Basic budgeting

Teach kids about budgeting by having them make a list of necessary items for the house, looking up the prices for each and determining a minimum amount of money needed to buy essentials.

2. Wash the car

Cars seem to be a magnet for leaves, dirt and nature's other gifts. Instead of paying for a car wash or doing it all yourself have kids lend a hand with the process.

3. Set knobs and dials

Give kids more responsibility when it comes to doing the load of sweaters and jeans that need to be washed by having them set the dials to the correct setting and pressing the buttons. The same goes for the dishwasher and starting the oven.

Chores for teenagers

1. Mow the lawn and rake the leaves

Teens can mow the lawn and rake the leaves as well as offer their services to neighbors for a small price. This teaches them work ethic that will pay off later in life and helps them earn and save some extra cash.

2. Help pay bills

Since financial literacy is rarely taught in school, tech kids at home by making a list of all the bills that need to be paid and the dates they are due. Show them the process of how to pay them, whether it is online or writing a check, and how you budget for the expense.

3. Plan dinners

A few nights a week, turn over the family meal planning reins to your teenager. Have them create the menu, look up recipes, and create a grocery list as well as cook and serve the meal.

Learn + Play

A new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study looking at coronavirus in American children supports the findings of an earlier study of pediatric COVID-19 cases in China.

The research is good news: The data suggests children are way less likely to become seriously ill if they contract the virus, compared to adults (with the important caveat that babies are more vulnerable than older kids).

The CDC says that nearly three-quarters of kids who get COVID-19 develop fevers, coughs and shortness of breath, but 93% of adults develop those symptoms. Most other symptoms (including sore throats, headaches and muscle pain) are more common in adults. The only symptom that's more common in kids than adults is a runny nose.

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According to the CDC's report, "relatively few children with COVID-19 are hospitalized, and fewer children than adults experience fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Severe outcomes have been reported in children, including three deaths."

Kids who are immunocompromised are more vulnerable to severe symptoms of COVID-19, but the CDC wants parents to know that because healthy children may get a very mild version of the illness (so mild you might not notice they are sick) it's important for families to stay home during this time as kids can be spreaders of the disease and give it to older adults who can become more severely ill.

"Pediatric COVID-19 patients might not have fever or cough. Social distancing and everyday preventive behaviors remain important for all age groups because patients with less serious illness and those without symptoms likely play an important role in disease transmission," the CDC notes.

The CDC says more data is needed to understand why COVID-19 impacts kids differently, and outside experts agree. "Compared to other respiratory diseases, this is incredibly unique in the proportion of severely ill children," Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of British Columbia (who was not involved in the study) told the New York Times.

Murthy continues: "We would expect more hospitalization based on the number of kids that might get infected, and we're not seeing that at all. And we still don't know why."

Of almost 150,000 confirmed cases in the United States between February 12 and April 2, only 2,572 were people under 18 years old.

News
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