While most parents learn to fit children’s interruptions into semi-predictable daily routines, not everything can be worked in around “business as usual.” How do you react when:
- a winter storm snows you in and shuts off the electricity (goodbye to your plans for that day, along with most second-choice activities)?
- your spouse loses—or finds—a job (goodbye to familiar work/household-chore/childcare routines)?
- your grade schooler starts a new extracurricular activity (goodbye to familiar ways of spending what’s now your chauffeuring/event attendance time)?
- your tween shows signs of puberty (goodbye to the security you felt in your baby’s being “too little” to do anything seriously crazy)?
Face it, your family is going to experience plenty of stress en route to the next “new normal.” But there are ways to work with the situation.
Be Realistic About Natural Change
There are parents who lay on the “How can you abandon me after all I’ve done for you?” guilt when their twenty-, thirty-, and even fifty-something children want to earn their own living or get married. If you’d rather not do that to your own kids a decade or two from now, accept early on that they will grow out of depending on you. Instead of fighting it, learn to take pride in their developing abilities and dreams.
Grow As Your Children Do
Reluctance to let kids live their own lives is usually due to forgetting that one’s own life has significance beyond “Mommy” identity. Don’t be like the stay-at-home mom who, once her youngest child was in kindergarten, tried to fill her home-alone hours by calling her husband “just to chat”—which eventually got him put on notice for taking personal calls at work. When your children start a new outside activity, or learn to do for themselves what you’ve been doing for them, consider the newly freed time a gift you can use to develop your own skills and interests. Take a class, rediscover an old hobby, or otherwise work on growing “non-parent” aspects of your identity. You’ll actually become a better parent by becoming a better multifaceted human being!
When Crisis Strikes, Focus Your Energy
If your “normal” is uprooted by a sudden major upheaval, the healthiest response is to conserve physical and emotional energy for what matters most. Keep basic everyday routines as intact as possible—it reduces the stress of too many changes—but if you’ve been the always-busy type, be prepared to let go of some chores, outside activities, and major projects. Accept that it’ll be a while before you have time and energy to resume your previous pace. And where the crisis itself eliminates some routines—as happened with many commutes and work hours during the 2020 pandemic shutdowns—don’t burn yourself out resenting the “unfairness,” but count it a blessing to have at least that decision off your hands. Work with what remains, and involve your whole family in making adjustments and staying grateful for all you still have. Don’t chase recovery of the old “normal”: concentrate on making the new normal an improvement on the old!
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!