Exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness. - Merriam Webster
It's how I feel and so many people in my province of Ontario feel with a third lockdown. Or is it the fourth lockdown? I can't even keep track anymore. This past year and a bit has felt blurry and super long.
As I try to turn my gaze to heaven, count my blessings each day and look for things that bring me joy, I take great comfort knowing I'm not alone. God doesn't abandon. He doesn't grow weary (Isaiah 40:28). And one of the ways he provides encouragement is through people.
My friend Becca is one of the most honest friends I have. She won't sugarcoat things and I love that! She wears her heart on her sleeve and I had no doubt that if I ever interviewed her for my blog I would get realness mixed with optimism. I'm drawn to people like her. She's also loyal, caring, and fun (she is the one that introduced me to Taylor Swift in university as she drove us around in her cool jeep). What she treasures most are her roles as devoted wife and mother of three little ones. Even though I'm not a mother myself I have had so much compassion for parents during this pandemic, especially ones with young children. When I thought about interviewing a parent regarding what it's been like to parent over this past year Becca G is the person that popped into my head. She's also a teacher so she brings a rich perspective to the table. Please welcome one of my oldest and dearest friends Becca.
Photo by Chris Montgomery
As a parent what has been the most challenging part of having your kids do online learning?
Honestly, I found it challenging to do anything when they were doing remote learning, for example, baking, cooking, cleaning, vacuuming, or any of my favourite hobbies or activities. Once we got used to the scheduling, I would try to do the things I wanted to get done in their break time so that I wasn’t making noise in my child’s meeting. It was a constant challenge. I didn’t really feel like I could get into too much without being called by one of my three. I did see some independence from them overtime and they were engaged more with their teachers but many times they needed hands-on assistance. After all, online learning was new to all of us and sometimes I didn’t mind overhearing what needed to get done so they wouldn’t miss something.
How have you discussed what’s going in the world with your children this past year?
We have told them there is a virus (or sickness) so to not get sick, we need to wear a mask, keep our distance from friends and why we haven’t been able to see family. I feel like they’ve really had to adapt to doing school at home to wearing masks and then to online learning. It’s also affected them with not having play dates or not being able to see their grandparents.
This past year kids have been at home many more hours than they have in past decades. What have you done to keep your sanity as a parent?
I have tried to keep working as much as I can to help us financially but to also give me something that I want to do for me. During the second lockdown, I committed to doing a one day workout. It’s not much but it helped me feel energized, especially after sitting so much from helping my kids with their online learning. I am also in a weekly Bible study so that has helped me feel connected with some ladies from my church. Day to day though, my husband and I have kept our evenings for “us time” as much as possible after 8 or 9pm. It gives us time to talk and share about our day or how we’re feeling or just to curl up to our new favourite T.V. show.
What have been some of your favourite memories made at home with your children as a family over this last year?
During the first lockdown, we finally got the chance to explore all the walking trails in our neighbourhood. We had no idea how beautiful they were. We also explored the forest behind my kids’ school. Since then, we have kept up with our walks and it has become a fun family bonding time. We also introduced our kids to video games during the lockdown which was very exciting for them. Playing Super Mario has also become a family bonding time as we will sometimes play together. Another family bonding activity is weekend movie nights together with our homemade popcorn machine.
You also happen to be a teacher. How has that helped you when your kids have had to do school at home?
With being a teacher, I am able to understand what their expectations are. I know they need to see how the child is progressing, for example, through uploading their work on the classroom website and seeing them participate in classroom meetings. I can have high expectations on my kids but it’s just because I want them to be successful. I struggled with school when I was a kid and I needed my parents’ support. Thankfully I had their assistance and because I am a teacher, I see so many kids who don’t have that, so I want to make sure I am giving my kids that support when they need it.
Photo by Juliane Liebermann - @julie_42
Is there a new routine you have acquired with your children during the pandemic that you would like to continue to do going forward even when things start to get back to a new normal?
As I already mentioned, I do want to keep up with our family walks since it has been a special bonding time for us. Other than that though, I feel like our life is so dependent on how things are at the time. For instance, my kids have just started back to in-person learning and now our routine is completely different to what it was when they were doing school remotely. We wake up earlier opposed to starting school remotely at 9am. It’s not that one routine is better than the other, it’s just different. However, the most important things about our day remain the same. We still gather around the dinner table together and talk about our day, read stories at bedtime, say our prayers and tell each other “I love you”. I think our routines can change but as long as we keep “showing up” and communicating with each other we’ll be okay.
What advice would you give to parents who are really struggling with having their kids home a lot more than usual? Parents who love their kids but are feeling overwhelmed. How would you encourage them?
I would encourage them to set up a daily routine. I feel like things work best with timetables and routines for the kids and for us too. The kids can look forward to certain times in the day, such as iPad time or bedtime stories and you can also look forward to your “me time” at 8pm when your kids go to bed. For example, we have stools that my kids love to sit on for meals and for some reason they would always argue over a certain stool. Finally, I decided to create a schedule for each meal time. Now, there’s no arguing! It is amazing when you find what works for your kids. It’s also nice to find things you can all enjoy. We have scheduled weekend family movie nights, walks, board games, and even trips to Starbucks for a treat! Lastly, I know it’s hard in a lockdown but I would encourage others’ support as much as possible. We have been blessed to have family support for me to work but even doing a FaceTime call with family can lift all of our spirits.
Overall, I want to remind parents that the years are short even though the days feel long. Nothing lasts forever and this is only a season. As a child grows, there are so many changes that occur from year to year. My kids are 7, 5, and 3 and I slowly see them gain more independence. When I feel frustrated or overwhelmed, I try to remember how much I’ll miss them when they grow up and move out one day. So I try to stay present and remind myself how far we have come since they were a newborn. I thank God for everyday that I do have with them and for carrying us through these years together.
Photo by Sigmund - @sigmund
Please note: Although, I am posting this interview in April 2021, I conducted it via email, in February 2021. At the time, kids were returning back to school. As of this past week, the province of Ontario has mandated another lockdown.
*My friends Sueann & Josh wrote a thoughtful, relatable and powerful poem about COVID-19. I highly recommend that you read it here . Stay strong friends. We're in this together. xo Raquel