Parenting during the coronavirus is a completely new level of burnout

I am being consumed, not only by pandemic fatigue, but also by decision fatigue with no end in sight.

parenting during coronavirus burnout

Earlier this week, I shared with my partner how tired I have been feeling recently, despite getting adequate sleep most nights and the slow down in our routine with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

I have been convinced that this fatigue must either be the coronavirus itself, or some other underlying disease that causes debilitating exhaustion. I wake up tired, and by the end of the night, my brain and my body are mush.

It didn't occur to me until recently, after reading an article on burnout, that the constant need to make decisions right now and the worry about whether or not those decisions are the right ones is causing a level of mental exhaustion I never knew existed.

I have never felt so tired trying to make decisions that I am not equipped to make. I am being consumed, not only by pandemic fatigue, but also by decision fatigue with no end in sight—and it is just too much.

Every day I find myself questioning every move I make.

Is it safe to go to the park? Are they wiping down the equipment? Do we wear masks if we are the only ones there? Will the bathrooms be open? Would we even use them anyway?

Long gone are the days that you could unload the kids and let them run around while you enjoy your coffee alone or possibly even send a text to a friend uninterrupted. I am now watching them like a hawk to ensure they don't touch their eyes after going down the slide or put their hands in their mouth, which let's be honest, is pretty much inevitable. Scratch the park.

What about play dates, are those okay? If the kids stay with the same group of kids, surely that eliminates the risk, right? But then how do I know if those kids are being exposed, do I ask their parents? Do they stay 6 feet apart during the play date? Do we have a set of rules that all the parents agree on for the play date?

And how will we know when it is safe to put the kids back in sports? Will they even have sports this year? Which sports are safe? How exactly does a mom of a 10-year-old boy with ADHD survive a summer without sports?

I miss the days when I worried about whether or not the 45 minutes of screen time I gave my toddler was educational enough, or if I packed the snack my son asked for before sending him off to camp.

As parents, we are still making the thousands of decisions we were already making before, but we have now been given the impossible task of having to carefully calculate each one of those decisions with little guidance (and conflicting information) as to how to do that.

And it's not just decisions that are causing cognitive overload. No longer can we run a quick errand, like a visit to the grocery store for coffee creamer or the one ingredient we are missing for dinner. A once simple task now requires a step-by-step plan of mask prepping and childcare coordinating to ensure we are limiting our family's risk of exposure.

And it seems each day we are given a new set of decisions to think about. The latest one that is hanging over me like a dark cloud is what we will do if our kids don't go back to school.

Will we still be able to work? Will our nanny still come? Will our kids fall behind? Will we actually survive another season of Zoom meetings and distance learning?

And then my husband and I get to play the fun game of whose career is more important and who is deemed the homeschooling parent.

Parenting during the age of the coronavirus is a completely new level of burnout and it is not only causing monumental levels of stress, it is also causing many of us to completely shut down. Because I don't know about you, but I don't want to make one more decision.

Experts say that we make approximately 35,000 decisions per day and that is on a "normal" day. Our daily lives now are far from normal so I can only imagine what that number is as a parent in the middle of a pandemic. And as a mom of six, with four kids under 10, I am accustomed to making tough decisions from their education choices to their sleepover requests; but what we are being tasked with now just isn't sustainable.

But we also know that the coronavirus isn't going away anytime soon, so how do we overcome decision fatigue?

One of the strategies that specialists recommend is eliminating some of the basic decisions you make throughout the day, such as your outfit and your food choices. By wearing the same clothes and preparing the same meals each day, it provides more brain power for more complicated decisions that need to be made. So go ahead and wear those yoga pants for the sixth day in a row without any guilt, mama.

Experts also recommend doing your best to make the good-enough decision or the "safe" decision when you just don't know what to do. Unfortunately, most decisions we have to make right now aren't going to be 100% risk-free, so rather than constantly going back and forth trying to weigh the risks, it might save you a lot of stress by simply deciding to stay home or taking the path of least resistance.

Decision fatigue is real and we are all experiencing it right now in this unprecedented time. Allow yourself to have your moments, mama. Take breaks throughout the day to check in on your mental health and remember that just showing up and doing your very best right now is more than enough.

In This Article

    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    Cameron Diaz on having a baby at 47: 'You really have to work hard for it'

    "The only pressure for me now is I have to live to be, like, 107, you know? No pressure!"

    This is the decade that saw the face of first-time motherhood change. The number of first-time mamas under 30 is shrinking, while more and more women are becoming moms after 40.

    Cameron Diaz is one of them. The actress and businesswoman, now 48, became a mom in January at the age of 47. In a new episode of Naomi Campbell's YouTube series, No Filter, Diaz opens up about what it's like to become a mom in your fourth decade.

    "A lot of people do it the other way around ... they get married [and] have a family in their youth," says Diaz."I'm kind of doing it in the second half of my life."

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