by Shannon Talbot
First off, how are you all doing? I mean really doing? I'm not talking about the culturally acceptable answer of "I'm fine thanks, how bout you"? I'm talking real. Answers like I'm tired. I'm burnt out. I'm anxious. I'm just SO DONE with COVID. I miss people. I was not meant to be a teacher. Everything Sucks. All of the above.
This past week was really hard and at times pretty overwhelming for me. I lost my temper way more times than I can count and alternatively I found myself close to tears on numerous occasions. On the other hand, I also had some pretty special moments with my boys and hosted my very first coaching workshop which I absolutely loved.
When it came to writing today's post, I was at a bit of a loss. I have a lot of posts started but none of them stood out for what I wanted to share today. What I wanted to share today was my experience of how hard life is right now for all of us and especially for those of us who have kids at home and a full-time job and are trying to manage it all. I was reluctant to share today's post and how overwhelmed, sad and angry I have felt over the past week given part of my coaching niche is to help working professionals deal with stress, burnout and low energy; but I'm only human and I feel the more open we can be about our struggles right now, the less we will feel alone. So today's post is about the rollercoaster I was on last week and also some tips on how I tried to make the best of it, when I wasn't losing my temper or almost crying.
My week in a nutshell was this:
My husband (Chris) and I started a 14-day cleanse on January 3rd. We had planned this prior to knowing the kids would be home that week. Talk about horrible timing but we had already committed and wanted to give our bodies a reset, especially after all of the indulging we did over the holidays. For those of you who have never done a cleanse, the first 2-3 days can downright suck. While we still eat a lot of yummy foods, withdrawing from caffeine and sugar can cause headaches and increased irritability. On top of the withdrawal symptoms comes all the food prep which can be very time consuming. So in a week where Chris and I had super busy work schedules and our kids home for virtual learning, we added increased time required for meal prep, having to follow new recipes and increased irritability with withdrawals. Fun times!
Monday comes, I feel awful and we find out my eldest son's teacher (grade 2) won't be teaching virtually but will be posting assignments for our kids to do on their own. Thankfully our youngest (SK), is online all day except for breaks and lunches and is actively engaged with his teacher and class, although still needs some support and a snack about every 10 minutes it seems. Oh and on Monday I slept in until 7 due to my headache, skipping my 5am "me time" routine. So no "me time", feeling horrible, a busy work schedule which involves being on video calls for most of the day and now having to be a full-time grade 2 teacher. Lovely. I'm sure you can imagine the mood in our house that day, enough so that after Chris and I went to sleep that night, my eldest came upstairs to wake me up and apologize for "being bad" that day. Insert heartbreak and guilty moment #1. I immediately woke up and went downstairs to cuddle with him and reassure him he was doing amazing considering everything that was happening. I also shared that mommy and daddy weren't at their best due to the cleanse, to which he asked if he could make a new diet for us but that would let me still drink a cup of coffee. Heartwarming (and funny, kind of ) moment #1.
Tuesday was going to be a great day. I woke up at 5am, did my "me time" routine, set my intention to have more patience and was feeling great (day 3 of the cleanse). I prepared a ton of snacks for the boys so they could grab them whenever they wanted and got caught up on a lot of my work. During a call with our eldest's allergy doctor, we learn that he needs to get blood work done (twice) so we can try and finally find out why he keeps having reactions (we're going on year 4 of unknown allergies at this point). This means going to Sick Kids (twice) which I know my son will despise as he's terrified of needles and after already needing two COVID tests (both negative), he especially hates being poked and prodded. Insert heartbreaking moment #2. With our to do list expanded, I can feel the anxiety growing of how to fit everything in. 30 seconds later I get an email from the dentist reminding me that the boys are overdue for their check-up. Sigh. That night I cohost a virtual goal setting workshop for 16 participants and it was amazing (heartwarming moment #2). I went to bed on a high ready to make Wednesday a great day.
Wednesday, I slept in until 7am and also realized I hadn't been outside since Sunday. Oops. Chris was the one taking the boys outside to play "after school" due to my work schedule. Insert more guilt and now resentment towards my job and for being a working mom. I sat down and rearranged my schedule so I could take the boys outside after school. Also, I knew Chris was in desperate need of a break from the kids so he could get caught up on work. Off to the school playground we go where my youngest bashes his knee into a large rock during our game of tag and I have to tell my eldest that he needs blood work the next time he gets an allergic reaction (he gets reactions after falling off playground equipment). He bursts into tears and calls himself a failure, sharing that since he left Sick Kids two years ago for his appendix, he has tried so hard to stay healthy so he wouldn't need another needle (cue heartbreaking moment #3 and the tears I had to hide). I quickly pivot to his allergies being like a mystery to be solved by Scooby Doo and the Mystery Gang and my five year old jumps in to share how he had to get needles when he was 4 (heartwarming moment #3). Our outing had turned into two very sad boys so we headed home where I had to jump on a client call when all I wanted to do was sit and hug them.
Thursday I am back to my 5am routine and ready to conquer the world again. But this time for real. I sit down with my work calendar and move around meetings, blocking out time to be able to help out at lunch and after school. I continue to prep snacks and food so that it won't take up time during the day when I can be with my kids or working. Chris talks to the school who agrees to get a virtual teacher for our eldest. I take my kids out after school and actually put my phone away for a while (a big one for me in my area of work)! We play an epic game of tag at the playground and then stop at the beach on the way home to skip rocks while watching the sun, a bright ball of orange and yellow, melt into the lake off in the distance. Heartwarming moment #3. The boys even asked me to take their pictures (they hate pictures) while posing on a chair! We get home, they each take an iPad to their room, Chris makes dinner and I catch up on work. After dinner we all cuddle on the couch watching Peter Rabbit and suddenly the news of them being home for 2 more weeks isn't so terrible. After the boys are in bed, I catch up on more work and then actually get to spend time with Chris. Something that had been lacking all week.
Friday comes and things are better, then they're not. Boys are tired. We are tired. No one is listening or doing what they're supposed to and all I can do is thank god it's Friday and the week is almost over.
I know our next few weeks will continue to have ups and downs where we have moments of losing it on our kids combined with special, heartwarming moments. Through this time I'm committed to reminding myself to cherish these moments, no matter how hard they can be. And to also embrace all emotions. We are only human and were not made to balance everything so why beat ourselves up over the impossible?!
Here are some of the things that helped last week go a bit more smoothly. I'd love to hear what worked for you?
Blocking off time in my calendar so I can't be booked for meetings and sharing those unavailable times with my team.
Getting outside - fresh air is important, no matter how cold it is - a 15 minute recess break on the beach did us all a world of good last week
Trying to get some "me" time to keep my sanity and not resent my kids or my work during this time (this is the key motivator in me waking up at 5am and I actually look forward to it)
Setting a daily intention - my theme seems to be patience right now
Prepping snacks and meals ahead of time - I have numerous snacks ready in the fridge and on the counters so my boys can help themselves
Cutting everyone some slack, myself included - if my kid isn't fully participating or caught up with their work - it's OK!
Getting a good night's sleep
Lastly, don't focus on what didn't go well or what you could have done better. What were your wins? Focus on those! Did you feed your kids? Did you figure out how to sign them in online? Do you still have your job? Did you survive each day? Honestly, you deserve a standing ovation if you answered yes to these questions. Bravo parents! And if you're a teacher and a parent? Double bravo for you!
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