It's okay to say that it's really hard right now

This coronavirus quarantine life may be our "new normal"—but it definitely doesn't feel "normal."

mom working with kids

I think it just hit me—for real—yesterday, that this coronavirus quarantine life is the new reality for a while.

I think it just hit me hard because the adrenaline of preparing and protecting my family has waned.

I think it just hit me that I already miss my family.

I cried watching my mother-in-law read books to my kiddos over FaceTime. I cried after we had a group Zoom call with my four siblings and our parents to celebrate St. Patrick's Day together. I cried while making dinner, baking Irish soda bread, editing an essay, washing dishes and making a waffle for my child (just to make them stop asking for the waffle—even though I was cooking dinner).


(To be fair though, I am in the crying stage of my cycle.)

Because I won't be going to the place that's been helping me so much lately—to my favorite workout studio.

I won't be "running out to the store" when my husband gets home, so I can have a quick break.

I won't be listening to a podcast on the way to drop my kindergartener off at school.

I won't be meeting my girlfriend for a movie or going out to dinner for date night with my husband.

I won't be taking my kids to the good jungle gym in town as the weather perks up around us.

I won't be taking the time to write in solace, by myself, at my local coffee shop on Sundays.

Parties have been canceled, big and small. For all different types of celebrations. I cry for those postponing their weddings, or the seniors in high school realizing prom and graduation might not happen. I couldn't imagine not getting to return to my friends in college after spring break our last year together.

I didn't have many "big" plans coming up pre-social distancing—no book tour canceled, no concerts canceled, no flights or cruises or events, really. But yesterday it sank in, deep. This isn't pretend. This isn't a snow day from school. This is a new normal.

I won't be getting a break. I won't have many choices of places to escape to in our 1,200-foot home. I won't be able to leave (except for walks or a drive, maybe). It's only been a few days and I'm already feeling—I hate to say it, but—a little trapped. Everyone needs me. Everyone is touching me. There is nowhere to hide.

I was okay with the staying home mandate at first—I'm an introvert who really enjoys staying home, after all!—but now that I'm told to stay home, I am regressing into toddlerhood, I guess, and feel like I'd like to go out.

What is this life right now?

Yesterday was basically—work, chug coffee, answer emails, answer questions from children, make them breakfast, get those books to read to them, set up circle time, do work while they do yoga, do circle time, say "no" to candy requests, do work, get them outside, do work, back inside, eat something so I don't pass out, curb the fighting, say "no" to candy requests, put dinner in the crockpot, school work, say "yes" to the candy requests, do work, stop the whining, set up the coloring, answer questions, do work…

...find the link to the free virtual thing, FaceTime family, think about working out but don't, back to work, lunch, more coffee, cut the crust—you forgot, math work (?), do work, tidy up, get outside, breathe, back inside, clean up, make dinner, break up fights, marvel at their drawings, "no candy, almost dinner," do work, eat dinner, clean up, bath, wrangling, books, songs, prayers, go-to-sleep begging, lay down with them and pass out, wake up confused, anxiety, food, tea, food, bed.

My mental load was already heavy pre-quarantine, but now I feel like I'm being tested.

How much weight can you hold, mama?

Well, I already know I cannot hold the 'homeschool perfectly, get all my work done immediately, exercise at home constantly, eat clean all day, meltdown-free (while at home with four other people 24-7)' lifestyle.

Because like I realized earlier—this is a new normal. It's new! It's brand new! We can't expect to be used to it immediately. It's going to take time. And, right now, we have plenty of it, it seems.

This is a reminder to me just as much as it is to you—be patient with yourself. Be patient with your family. Be patient with each other. Be patient with the process.

And do what you need to do to stay okay. To make sure you're family is okay. And to try your best to have some fun while doing it. We're right here with you, mama.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

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

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