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This week we’ve been thinking about pandemic parenting and wanted to bring you an update from the frontlines, because, yeah… the last 10 months have been…hard. They have been confusing, frightening and sad. They have delivered unexpected moments of joy, fun and near normalcy. Equally, they’ve handed down some really, really tough digs. Sometimes, the hardest. Parenting through it all has been an exhausting journey. As we approach the end of this year, we’ve been thinking about where we all stand in this parenting odyssey. What have we learned? What’s the next big hurdle to overcome? How do we find the energy to keep going? Who do we rely on? How have our relationships to our children, our partners, our friends and other parents been transformed? What follows are some of the interesting, sobering, funny and thought-provoking articles we discovered on the topic – admittedly, sometimes loosely on the topic…!

Not to be a Debbie downer, but it’s bleak out there. Can’t lie. Parenting while working, home-schooling, zooming with grandparents and just getting the freaking laundry done (and folded and put away – anyone else leave it in the basket for a week at least?) is taking a serious toll on American families. Especially mothers. A record 850,000 of them dropped out of the workforce in September alone. This overview of where parents stand nearly a year into this awful pandemic is not pretty. There are a few bright spots – namely the incredible opportunity this experience has given us to reimagine and recreate both how we educate children and the support this country provides for the childcare industry – but mostly it’s just been really, really tough. There’s just no sugar coating it.

As an antidote to the deluge of bad news, check out this piece from mindbodygreen. It suggests a fresh perspective on ways the coronavirus pandemic has freed parents from some of the competitiveness and isolation that defined so much of raising children before a historic global crisis occurred. The article explores the ways many parents have tried to manage these unprecedented circumstances and how important it’s become for us all to lean on and support one another, even though we have all been forced to remain physically apart. Whether it’s through covid pods or bubbles with other families or just a re-evaluation of priorities, turns out there may be some upsides to having your world turned inside out.

Also turns out that there actually are some effective ways to make this all a little bit easier…OK maybe just a very little bit, but we’ll take what we can get. According to a piece in Fast Company by an executive coach and stress management expert, these three strategies are key:

1. Make a plan. This is a way to “deal directly with the demands we face and focus on what we are actually going to do about it.” This might entail writing in your calendar the days and times you are going to work (vs. take care of the kids) or meal planning for the upcoming week.

2. Avoid bad habits. Those might include drinking too much alcohol, eating too much / eating unhealthy foods, over-using social media, etc. Instead, focus on self-care and social connections. These are “positive and adaptive methods that restore our emotional energy.”

3. Practice gratitude. Because “mindset plays a crucial role in our ability to resist stress.” Spend just a few minutes, every day, early in the day, thinking about what you’re grateful for, or writing it down in a list.

All that said, what’s a parent to do about this year’s Covid Christmas (and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa)? Without a doubt, a holiday season during which we’ll be separated from the ones we love the most, is going to be decidely muted. And, as hard as it is for adults, children are struggling with their emotions about all that’s different and missing this year, too. But don’t despair. There are ways to manage our children’s feelings about the holidays, and creative approaches to making them special even under the circumstances, like brainstorming cool new traditions and focusing on things other than gifts. But one expert interviewed in this Washington Post piece offered what may be the most important advice of all: Parents should “just do what feels manageable and not stretch themselves too thin,” she says, “because I think we are already stretching a lot as parents.” In short: give yourself a break. Now repeat that out loud three times while clicking your heels. Well done.

By the way – and, yes, maybe slightly off topic, but roll with us – one thing we were kind of excited about for a pandemic holiday was not being tempted by all the rich and delicious treats passed around at holiday parties. Well… then our friends started calling, wanting to have a cookie exchange. And how could we say no? Because we really, truly do need some cookies right now. Like the idea, too? Cool. And by the way, it is safe to do because coronavirus is not a food-born illness, so you can give away your baked treats without panicking. Just be sure the exchange itself is outside, or contactless, ideally. Here are a few ideas of how to go about it. YUM.

Now for some humor because, to be honest, we need that as much as the cookies. When you and your partner’s parenting styles don’t jive…roll the laugh track…especially if you’re comedian Michelle Buteau. She wrote an essay for the New York Times about how differently she and her husband approach raising their tiny twin humans. To her husband, Buteau is not just a helicopter mom. “I’m a drone-on-top-of-a-snowplow mom,” she says. “To me, my husband is too casual and relaxed. Toddler time is not a Jimmy Buffett concert!” Like so many aspects of parenting, Buteau doesn’t really come to any particular conclusion about how to resolve her parenting differences with her husband. Instead she says, it’s more about the journey, anyway; it’s about “how to get through this thing called life.”

To end, we want to share a great resource on all things pandemic. It’s a website called Dear Pandemic and it was started by an all-female group of researchers and clinicians in the nursing, mental health, demography, health policy / economics and epidemiology fields. Their mission is to “educate and empower individuals to successfully navigate the COVID-19 information overwhelm. We provide credible, curated, and timely information about the pandemic.” Otherwise known as “facts.”mGo ahead and browse. It just might help you and your family get through the rest of this awful mess. We sure hope it does.

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