When we think about learning big life lessons and growing as individuals, we usually would assume it is from being out in the world, experiencing things. I’ve always thought that in order to learn and grow, I needed to be putting myself in challenging and uncomfortable situations. These new experiences would help me to evolve as a person.
For the last five months, the opposite of going out and doing things has been happening. And even though I’ve spent more time than ever at home, I’ve still learned some big life lessons and have grown as a person and as a mother.
Before the pandemic, I was a big traveler and had lived in a bunch of different cities (including living abroad) and would probably point to all of that travel as something that shaped me, challenged me, and opened my eyes to a lot of things. But staying home has had a similar effect. While the lessons I’m learning by staying home are certainly different than the ones I learned while living in a foreign country, they are still important lessons.
Here are six life lessons I’ve learned while staying home.
1. Being on a Schedule Is Nice, but Not as Nice as Going Out and Living Your Life
In the early months of motherhood, I would often talk to fellow new moms about how it seemed impossible to get our babies on a good nap schedule and also be able to go out and do things. At the time, this felt like a big deal. I wanted to meet new moms, have my daughter play with other babies, and attend a baby and me yoga class. Inevitably, these activities clashed with her nap time. I skipped a lot of activities in favor of a nap, hoping to get my daughter into a perfect routine. And other times, I risked it and skipped her nap and went out. This did throw off her schedule, but in hindsight, was that really such a big deal?
Now, during all of our time at home with no activities to rush out to, my daughter’s naps have been like clockwork. I can see the flip side of my previous dilemma. If you don’t go out and do things, you can indeed get your child on a picture perfect schedule. But I’ve learned that a perfect schedule isn’t so important. Sure, her sleep has been great, but I’d much prefer to miss some of her naps and be out doing things, exposing her (and me!) to new activities and people.
2. Being Near Family Is Really Important
I’ve lived far from my family for the past four years, and it hasn’t been so bad. Of course, I miss my family, but since we could easily fly, it never seemed like such a big deal. Now with travel being a risk, we had to cancel all of our trips and don’t know when we will again see family. It has made me realize that being near family is more important than I previously thought.
I’m jealous of my friends that can see their parents (even if they are spending time together six feet apart), and I know my parents are really missing this time with their granddaughter. I’ve seen my priorities shift during these past few months. While I like where we live because the weather is great, it’s affordable, and it’s a livable city, I’d trade in many of those elements to be closer to the people I love.
3. When Being Near Family and Friends Isn’t Possible, Staying Connected Digitally Helps
I may be experiencing Zoom-fatigue at this point, but I’m still thankful that technology allows us to stay connected to friends and family that we can’t see in person. I’ve always been good about texting with my girlfriends and occasionally FaceTiming with my parents, but during this time of self-isolation, we’ve stepped up our game. We do daily mealtime chats with my mom and monthly happy hour catch ups with my best friends from college. My friends and family are scattered across the U.S., so even if we end up moving, I still won’t live close to many people that I care about. It’s good to know that we can make an effort and virtually stay close.
4. Travel and Trips Can Be Stressful, but It’s Worth It
We had a very involved vacation planned for April that included two weeks away from home, two weddings, three different states, and multiple flights and long car rides. Everything had to be cancelled, and I’ll admit I felt a twinge of relief. The thought of all that travel with an 10-month-old was stressful to even think about. Even though I’m sure it would have been a bit stressful, it also would have been amazing to see so many friends and family, to celebrate big events, and to get out. Whenever I feel iffy about planning a future trip, I’ll remember this feeling and know it’s worth the stress, money, and disrupted schedules.
5. With Effort, We Can Be Less Wasteful
In the early weeks and months of the pandemic, there was the fear of running out of groceries while limiting trips to the store as much as possible. This made me so much more conscious of my consumption and even more so of my waste. I love grocery shopping, so I’d sometimes go overboard, loading up on excessive amounts produce, more than could possibly be eaten before they went bad. I’ve since become more aware of what I’m buying, taking inventory of my refrigerator and pantry on a regular basis, and am more strategic with my meal planning. I now rarely throw out or waste food and realize that with proper planning, it’s easy to become less wasteful.
6. Self-Care Is Important, Even If It Is Just for You
Since I rarely leave the house and I barely see anyone, you could say my beauty routine has taken a turn for the worse. Like many other people, I could use a haircut and a facial like nobody’s business. I’m not typically a high-maintenance person when it comes to my beauty and self-care regimen, but this situation has taught me that I want to feel good, even if it’s just for me.
It doesn’t matter that no one is seeing my hair—when it is done, it makes me feel good. And that’s important. I used to only do my hair if I was going to see someone, and since that used to happen, you know, pretty much every day, it was my routine. Without the routine of going to an office or meeting up with friends for social events, I’ve learned it’s still important to set aside some time to do things that make me feel good.
While things may not be ideal in our world right now, I’m thankful to be taking away some valuable lessons during all of this time spent at home.