10 Things I’ve Learned in 2 Years of Pandemic Parenting

As we’ve recently passed the 2-year mark of a global pandemic, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how this incredible period in history has affected families. There’s no question that these unprecedented times have impacted the already challenging job parents have. But rather than harp on the negatives of these past two years, I decided to look at all the things the Covid era has taught me and how these lessons have, hopefully, informed my experience as a parent going forward.

10. Nature is healing. In two years of spending so much time at home, there’s no denying that screens often saved us. But being cooped up inside with kids was emotionally and physically challenging for both them and us. Parents like me were reminded of the value of being outside. The healing feeling of the sun hitting your face, the tranquil sounds of birds singing, the stillness of formidable trees before us — it was all so calming… and an important reminder that when modern parenting gets overwhelming, take it outside.

9. The strength of children is incomparable. While adults were whining and arguing “like children” about masks, quarantines, and vaccines, actual children were rolling with the punches with truly admirable grace. As a parent, I’ve felt so sad watching kids like my own being forced to upend their routines and miss out on so many formative experiences of childhood. But for two long years, kids have proven their incredible resilience and strength by adjusting to our ever-changing circumstances with true class. We adults could learn a lot about being adaptive and putting things in perspective from these young role models.

8. We may all do things differently, but we all want what’s best for our kids. Remote vs. homeschooling. Organic vs. McDonald’s. Sports vs. tablet time. If there’s one thing I hope all mamas learned in the past two years it’s that comparison is futile, since we are all just trying our best. Sometimes our best looks like a farm-to-table four course dinner, while sometimes it looks like a Happy Meal. And that’s okay. When we were first thrown into the fire two years ago, what mattered most was the fact that we survived — not how. As long as I see my fellow mothers trying to do right for their children, I have learned not to judge them for how they do so.

7. My upcoming book: ”Wash your damn hands, and other basic hygeine Momisms.” To me, two years of a global pandemic proved to me just how lax most people were about basic hygiene — and how game-changing simple ”mom rules” could be in preventing serious illness and protecting our fellow humans. Remember those early-Covid tutorials on how to properly wash your hands — geared toward adults?! Moms have had it right all along, and it took universal germaphobia to wake up the rest of humankind. So kids, the morale of this two-year story is that we will all be a lot healthier if we simply wash before eating and stop spraying our sneezes around like rotating sprinklers. You know, don’t be an animal.

6. No kidding, she’s your mom. Ask any snooty small fry: I’m a cool mom. But as entertaining as my big-kid playfulness may be, I’m still not an honest-to-goodness kid. Seeing my son yearn for peer interaction was hard, and taught me that while I can provide him with a lot of things, I cannot replace the significance of his being around children the same age. Seeing the happiness kids feel as they’ve been able to reconnect with each other has been a beautiful, humbling lesson about the value of human connection.

5. Patience is paramount. Not losing our patience in stressful times is perhaps the most challenging aspect of parenthood. And if ever there was a parent patience test, it was Covid! I’ve tried and failed at staying patient during these two years just as often as the rest of us, but realizing how significant our patience is in helping our kids through stress was a truly humbling experience.

4. Know your needs. You know what two years of pandemic parenting can cause? Insanity. Each and every one of us has felt the stress of parenting in the most extreme circumstances, but what’s important is that we’ve learned about ourselves in the process. I’ve learned my limits and taken note of my impatience triggers. I’ve realized that I’m at my worst when I’m hangry, under-rested, and lacking adult interaction. I’m at my best when I consciously schedule brief moments of self-care (read: breakfast or quick grownup phone chats.) I’ve learned that when we are the best version of ourselves, we are able to give our best to our children. What have you learned about your needs?

3. Trust your instincts. The total uncertainty of a global pandemic that brought countless and constantly changing rules proved the power of common sense in uncharted territory. Through every wave and every new set of research and guidelines, I learned that parents’ instincts prevail over fear. Rather than panicking about how to keep my child healthy and whether I was making the best decisions for him, I learned that in uncertain times a parent’s instincts are far more reliable than constantly fluctuating opinions. While I listened to the guidance of experts, I learned that even experts don’t have all the answers, and not to underestimate the power of my instinctive common sense parenting.

2. Mothers can — and should — have it all. One of the few good things to come out of this pandemic was the global realization that a healthier work-life balance is indeed possible. Employees — and working mothers in particular — proved that they can support their colleagues while also supporting their family. That they can put out professional fires with one hand and wipe snotty little noses with the other. That they can show up without literally showing up! Businesses were forced to make non-traditional work situations work, and in doing so our society has finally learned through experience that women should be welcomed to work while respecting family needs.

1. Motherhood is the mother of invention. When necessity struck — and boy did it strike — parents everywhere did what we had to do to make life continue. We figured out how to work, educate, and parent 24/7. We managed to make ends meet in a horrible economic climate. We found ways to find the scarce food that needed to be put on the table. No obstacle is stronger than a parent’s motivation to care for his or her children. And perhaps remembering that we’ve made it this far is the most inspiring lesson we can take from the past two years of pandemic parenting.

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