The past year and a half has been rough on all of us. Those uniquely affected are parents who have been tossed into an unprecedented event (can’t wait to never hear that word again!), a global pandemic. The mental load on all of us has been a juggle, suddenly becoming work at home parents or isolated working in the home parents or any variety of circumstances. Needless to say, never has there been a better time for us all to take a look at our own mental health. Everyone needs time to recharge—self care that helps us rebuild our sense of self through comforting activities or simply existing.
While thrust into this pandemic, we all immediately went into crisis mode and the first thing that goes out the window as parents, is our self care. Many people had so many different fears: e-learning and the difficulties that came with it, lack of social interaction, polarizing political views, racial justice issues, job loss, loved ones passing away, and essentially a loss of our “village” with stay at home orders and social distancing.
Looking at my own experience, I suddenly went from someone who worked in person as a mental health therapist to a virtual therapist in what seemed like overnight. Not only did I have to adjust to that change, collectively we all were making this change—adapting to work from home in whatever version that was. For me there was also e-learning, my two young children learning to navigate this and my husband who had mostly been traveling every week, regularly. With the pandemic, an abrupt stop to normalcy— it was a halt on it all. The fast paced, go-go life suddenly became confined to our home and boredom. That mixed with discovering whichever Zoom log in password was going to work that day.
I think it takes many different teams to make up our village. Being confined to our homes and fearing what the future held, became a new normal (two other words I’d never like to hear again). Zoom calls and FaceTime and other social media outlets were our only ways of connecting with loved ones. Often times, I felt I was able to connect with my friends and family more virtually than I had in a while. Everything was moving slower; of course a global pandemic going on but more than that—connecting more deeply with those around us. Discovering the people we missed and who would truly be there for us in the difficult times. I know my best friends from high school, my group of area mom friends, other moms with kids (shout out—Naperville Moms and Plainfield Moms-The Branch) and family. Our zoom calls became true bonding experiences that got us all through some really tough times. Even if it meant playing cheesy games through that HouseParty app or those funny TikTok videos or memes (I’m definitely a lover of a good meme).
Yet, here we all are. If you are reading this, you have survived immense trauma and are coming out on the other side. We all have seen frontline workers work tirelessly to care for our loved ones or those in our village. We have seen all different types of people come together and through that I think we can see what truly being kind can do for us all, even when we do not know what the future may hold.
Now, it’s important that we take a look at what we can do for self care. Is it reading a book for ten minutes in the morning before the kids wake up? Is it a morning walk to get moving your body again? Is it setting goals for other aspects of your life? These and so much more are what create the resiliency it takes to manage the heavy mental load of being a parent at this time. Even when it is not convenient or easy, even spending a bit of time refocusing and collecting our thoughts, can help us build resiliency. The other influence of the pandemic I have seen is adaptability in our kiddos. They adjusted to wearing masks, e-learning, showing us just how strong our little (and not so little ones) can be.
All this has given us the chance to take on a new perspective, remain close to those who have been your support team. Do not take each day for granted. Try to wake up and be grateful for the noisiness our lives are slowly returning to. Let’s savor what this time has taught us about ourselves. How resilient we are, what are bodies can do, being patient with ourselves, having a good cry or a great laugh at a cheesy meme or TikTok. Lastly, do not forget to take time for yourself. We cannot pour from an empty pitcher so make sure we are refilling it daily.
Sarah Prendergast is a local mom and Clinical Professional Counselor. She is the founder of Recharge Counseling.