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mothering during a pandemic

Mama, right now you are not experiencing "real" stay-at-home, homeschooling mom life. No. Because whatever we're doing right now, our "new normal" is SO much harder.

As a stay-at-home mom who dabbles in homeschooling (my oldest is only four at the moment), I know what that life is like. This is not it. Yes, being a stay-at-home mother can be difficult at times. So is homeschooling. But this is not that life. This is coronavirus life. This is isolation.

For all you working moms who are now at home with your children all day—this is not real stay-at-home life.


Before the coronavirus struck, being a stay-at-home mom meant spending time at playgrounds. It meant attending and hosting playdates. It meant visiting museums and other play places. It meant engaging with other moms and their kids. It was about community.

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Hopefully you are enjoying this extra time with your family, but spending every waking minute with your partner and children is not typical of stay-at-home life. I don't think I've ever fully appreciated how much my son talks when he has no friends around. Now I'll never take those other kids for granted again.

For all those moms who are suddenly teaching their children at home—this is not real homeschooling.

Before the lockdown began, homeschooling often involved trips to the museum, library and to socialize with playgroups. No one was expected to mimic a classroom experience in our homes in our very limited free time. For a homeschooling mom, even if your own children were your only students, playdates gave children the chance to interact with their fellow classmates. And this is all before you consider the extracurricular activities in which many homeschooled children used to participate in—co-ops, gym or dance classes, sports, music, etc.

Homeschooling doesn't feel as excessively burdensome as most parents are currently finding quarantine-schooling. Most homeschooling parents actually enjoy teaching their children at home, if you can believe it.

I've seen so many posts on social media that focus on the stresses and difficulties of entertaining and educating our children during this time. I've seen mothers who have put together complex lesson plans for their kindergartners that involve freshly-baked bread, very intense art projects and science experiments purchased on Amazon.

Parents are terrified of letting their children down during this time. Afraid of failing them by failing to provide them with a proper education.

But here are a few helpful truths to keep in mind: You are doing so well, Mama. Life on lockdown is hard. We were not meant to live in isolation.

We were created to thrive in community. Our families are important, and this time together might be considered a gift when regular life often pulls us in all different directions, but we were meant to live in a larger community. Mothers were meant to bond with other mothers. Children were meant to play with other children. My kids like playing with me, but I know that they would much rather be playing with their friends.

Use this opportunity to teach your children how to be bored. Contrary to all those social media posts and YouTube videos out there, we are not responsible for entertaining our children every minute of this period of quarantine. Children are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves.

My kids have played with every toy in our house at this point and my daughter has probably "read" every book. I do spend some time playing with them, and we certainly do a lot of reading together, but I've also encouraged a lot of independent play. Babies and toddlers might need a bit of guidance in this department, but if my 4-year-old son approaches me because he's bored, I can respond by telling him to find something to play with, and usually, he will do just that.

Homeschooling should not be excessively burdensome. Yes, it will require a bit of planning, but it shouldn't be an all-consuming project. If you enjoy baking and crafts, then go for it, but don't feel like every lesson needs to be its own Pinterest board.

And don't think that you need to homeschool for eight hours every day as if your child was enrolled in their regular school. Teachers spend the better part of their day giving directions, repeating directions, trying to keep the faster students occupied and the slower students from falling too far behind and transitioning between lessons. When it's just you and your kids, you can get down to the lessons much more quickly.

You don't need to fill those extra hours with extra work. Let your kids play outside for a bit instead or go for a nature walk. Call it gym class or science class if you feel so inclined.

This quarantine is not an accurate portrayal of life as a stay-at-home mom or a mom who homeschools her children. Self-isolation, even if it's necessary for the time being, is not a natural state for any human being. We were not meant to be alone. We weren't even meant to live as an isolated nuclear family unit. We were meant to live in a community.

This coronavirus life is so much harder than life as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. It is so hard, and yet—here we all are, doing it, living it. And you know what? You're doing a fantastic job.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As a mom of three, I frequently get a question from moms and dads of two children: “Ok, so the jump to three...how bad is it?"

Personally, I found the transition to having even one kid to be the most jarring. Who is this little person who cries nonstop (mine had colic) and has no regard for when I feel like sitting/eating/resting/sleeping?

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