I used to think being a working mom was hard. And then a global pandemic hit. Schools shut down. Childcare centers closed. Families sheltered in place without any help from babysitters or nannies or extended family. All of a sudden, working motherhood went from hard to impossible.
And it seems to be staying that way.
In the midst of all of this chaos and disarray, there are two things that have remained constant: both the fact that my kids need things to do and the pressure put on moms to “win” the pandemic has not ceased.
I’ll be honest: in the beginning, I tried to fill the days with Pinterest-worthy art and science activities, inevitably squeezed in between the kids’ remote learning requirements and my still-constant workload. It didn’t last long. Trying to do it all never worked before, why did I think it would work now?
These days, our days are much looser—basically, just lots of free, independent play both indoors and out while I supervise and interact as best as I can while still working. As an educator, I know the immense benefits of unstructured and independent play. But the mom guilt does creep in often: shouldn’t I be doing more with them?
As mothers, we often feel pressured to come up with new activities for our kids day after day in the name of learning and fun and entertained. But here’s what no one really tells you: kids don’t really notice.
And therein lies my greatest parenting hack: you don’t need to do new things every single day.
What works for me is setting a routine or schedule around our daily activities. Our regular rotation includes things like painting, sidewalk chalk, baking a treat, a quick science activity (that only requires accessible household materials), a nature walk, movie day, or an outdoor outing (like a new park, forest preserve, or trip to the lake). We do one thing per day and then rotate through the cycle.
Here’s why this works. Say we do a painting project on Tuesday. By the time next Tuesday rolls around, the activity is basically brand new again. And I’m not driving myself crazy trying to come up with something fresh, new, and exciting day after day—it’s all fresh, new, and exciting.
Sometimes the simplest solutions are right in front of us, right?