It's OK If You Do Nothing “Extra” With This Time at Home With Your Kids

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When we first got wind that we’d likely be spending weeks homebound with our kids, I did what my type A, perfectionist brain always does. I started thinking of all the things I’d do to make the most of this time.

And, so it seems, did thousands of other parents who spent this past weekend setting up makeshift “homeschools” in their living rooms, rushing to the grocery store to pick up provisions for new baking recipes, and pinning age-appropriate craft projects and science experiments. Our collective to-do lists include reorganizing playrooms and dusting off our alphabet flashcards and signing up for dozens of educational apps.

Related: 6 Tips to Help You Survive Working From Home With Your Partner and Kids

Some of us go-getters even looked beyond what we can do with all this “extra” time with our kids and ventured into our brain’s self-care aisle for more Instagram-worthy things to pile on to our plates. In addition to ordering new board games and a pack of 100 fresh washable markers, I bought myself a 1,000-piece puzzle and a beginner’s Calligraphy Made Easy book, perhaps forgetting that – unlike the DINCs on my social feeds – I still had two kids to manage. Some legitimate thoughts I had in the days leading up to our self-isolation:

  • Maybe now I can finally commit to a seven-step nightly skincare regimen
  • Where should I set up my at-home workout space?
  • Oooh! I can finally edit the thousands of photos on my computer that are making it run so slow!
  • What book should I read first?
  • This is the perfect time to really focus on training the dog to stop barking at our buzzer

There’s truly nothing wrong with this line of thinking. I’m a goal-oriented person, and I do better with structure and boundaries and little boxes to be ticked off one by one over the course of a week. But, after the first day of working from home with our two young children underfoot, I felt like I’d failed. I didn’t get anything done. I did nothing extra with my time. Worse, I felt like I did nothing, period. And worse still, I came to the realization that this little vision I had for turning these coming homebound weeks into a high-intensity New Year’s resolution bootcamp was futile.

Not that you need me to tell you, but I’m going to anyway: you too have permission to just get through the day. To survive it by the skin of your teeth. To not do, but be.

So, I have decided to give myself permission to just survive this time. To measure my success not in how many hours I can spend with my preschooler on her letter sounds or the quality of food we serve at dinner time or the amount of emails I’m able to clear out of my inbox.

Instead, I’m going to try to see my worth in much simpler terms. Are my kids safe? Are they loved? (I was close to adding, “are they happy?” but I’m not even going to set that expectation after being called a “boring mommy” for not letting my 3-year-old get out the acrylic paint while I was trying to finish a deadline.)

Not that you need me to tell you, but I’m going to anyway: you too have permission to just get through the day. To survive it by the skin of your teeth. To not do, but be.

If cleaning out your toddler’s closet is how you want to cope, great, but if falling asleep seven minutes after you turn the lights out in your baby’s nursery is all you can muster, that’s just fine.

Because if, at the end of this anxiety-inducing time, all you have to show for yourself is a family that was kept safe and loved, then you did everything right.

And maybe when we all go back to normal, God willing, we’ll remember that. Maybe when we return to our lives of shuttling kids to soccer practice and piano lessons and debating whether to hand-stitch their Halloween costumes and feeling guilty for not buying the organic strawberries or refusing to read a second bedtime story, we’ll remember this time, when all that we truly needed to do was close to nothing at all.

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