Becoming a parent can bring tremendous joy; at the same time, it is one of the most dramatic transitions in your life. An experience filled with challenge. When you are expecting, others explain how your whole perspective will change, your values, relationships, and you sort of roll your eyes and think ‘yeah, yeah’. Then it does. People find that becoming a parent is not what they expected; they might feel underprepared, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Not to mention sleep deprived.
Our lives have been turned even more upside down over lockdown. COVID-19 has certainly changed how I parent and even though there have been many tears and tantrums, our family has experienced post-lockdown growth (not just in my biscuit fuelled waistline). A lot of it because of changing my mindset. So, as restrictions ease what is important for us now is getting used to life with our children in a New Normal, with different rules and lot of uncertainty- but hopefully, with positivity too.
So, when Boots UK got in touch and asked us to share what has helped us as parents and a family during lockdown as part of their Parent Your Way campaign, it was perfect timing.
Read the 5 ways lockdown has taught me to be a better parent below:
Release your child from school pressure.
Like many parents I found the juggle of home schooling and working difficult, and that tension in the home that was counterproductive for learning. My son’s mental health suffered.
Even though I, like many parents worry that my child is now behind academically, seeing him getting so upset by proper nouns etc made me realise that emotional health is more important than grades. Of course, school is important, as is teaching children to work towards goals and face fears, but there must be a balance. You know your own child. Some families are even choosing not to go back to the school gate.
At half three when my son trips in the door, uniform covered in pen, I am just grateful at him being back in the classroom. If he does not get all his spellings right, well, we will try again tomorrow.
Self-care is SO important.
Avoid parental burn out and create your own quality time. However small. That could be binge watching Netflix. Reading a book. Taking a short walk. Since Norah was born, I have made sure each week I make time to have a bath. Over fill it, pour in Lavender, turn on your music and ignore the washing up.
Over lockdown I have worked on my morning routine. Got up before the children (which Is HARD at first when they wake so early). I had a quiet cup of tea, sometimes (just sometimes) I do a workout. The day starts calmer. After lockdown I put my daughter into nursery two days a week without guilt because I needed some space. Be compassionate towards yourself.
Frazzled, over-stressed parents make for frazzled and overstressed families.
Find the positives.
Over half of parents feel that their children’s behaviour got worse over lockdown. It is understandable. We have faced unusual times where all families are going through a huge, shared upheaval, full of anxiety and stress.
I know my patience levels have dropped dramatically. It happens when you are asked to provide 200 snacks during the day, don’t have a garden and can’t even go to the toilet solo. I did not realise, but I had got into a routine of reacting negatively, not shouting or overly criticising but there was a lot of ‘do not do that’s.’ If you find yourself constantly saying no, change your expectations. It will mean less frustration for both of you.
Praise accomplishments, however small, it will make children feel proud. Self-esteem is important. My son always says he is not good at things, so we were told to encourage him to say, I am not good at this YET. Choose your words carefully. It sounds like I am presenting myself as Zen mum. I am not, especially when tired. No one can push my buttons like a toddler trying to put on her own socks. But kids are surprisingly good at adapting if given support, time and space. Acknowledge you are an imperfect parent. We all are. Know your own needs, what your limitations are.
Don’t think in ‘shoulds’ – like my baby should be sleeping through. It is easy to give in unrealistic expectations of parenthood. You don’t have to know everything. If Sally next door makes homemade organic baby food, great. If you buy jars, great. Roosevelt once quoted ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. Parent your way.
Keep things simple.
Because my tween is more self-sufficient that my toddler and loves hanging upstairs on his Xbox, we tend to lose opportunities for quality time. If he is playing quietly, I get on with laundry and the hundreds of other chores that mount up. But that time should be his too.
During lockdown because we had to think of simpler ways to entertain the kids, things like movie nights and board games became a big deal, when previously they took last place behind the zoo, football lessons, trips to the beach etc. Our weekend routine has changed to preferring walks on the beach rather than soft play and expensive days out. Claim one to one with your children. Don’t feel guilty if it’s hard to fit everything in if you are a working parent. Put post it notes in their lunchbox. I sit on my sons’ bed at night, and we listen to a song together. It’s the small things.
How and what I buy for the children has changed over the past year. I buy smarter, primarily online. Minimally, but give more thought to purchases. Will it help me? Is it useful? Toys tend to be ones that last, have multi-purpose. Rotate them each fortnight. The nappy wet wipe panic purchases meant I chose to potty train early and with cloth nappies, invested in a couple of Water wipes for the change bag but for at home have a stash of 20 flannels which I use instead of wet wipes. I buy clothes a size bigger and from trusted retailers. Dry them on the line instead of a tumble dryer.
I bought Leo’s first cot from Mothercare ten years ago and Norah is still sleeping in it. Although the stores have disappeared from the high street Mothercare essentials available on the Boots website (that also supports new parents with helpful information and has a Parenting club where Advantage club holders can build up points with purchases.) Norah put items from their Baby clothing range to the test (see end of post for product list), but they also stock baby nursery essentials, baby car seats, baby pushchairs, toys etc.
Don’t overlook the importance of friends.
Parenting can be a lonely business even when we are rushed off our feet. I feel sad about all the toddler groups my daughter has missed over the past year, their social importance for her (daily interactions play a significant role in early development), but also for me.
What about those becoming first time parents in a pandemic? The chance to escape the same four walls and have a cup of tea with other parents. Childbirth is a great ice breaker. Who better to speak to than someone who is going through similar things themselves? As a parent, you have two important jobs. Looking after your baby and looking after yourself. We need someone to share to, vent, confide and celebrate with. Play phone tag with and tell it like it is. Give tips and advice. I have had daily chats via video during lockdown with my friends. Some days we do not have much to say. But that is okay.
We have all been through a tough time, are mentally exhausted. Parenting involves juggling lots of plates. Put some of them down. I now panic less about spending hours cooking dinner and have an easy sandwich night a week. I still have a good routine but have relaxed on cleaning. We got rid of loads of stuff we did not need over lockdown and that helps. We relaxed our TV rules.
Has the way you parent changed since lockdown?
#AD This post is in conjunction with Boots UK but all thoughts are my own.
Norah is wearing the following Mothercare @ Boots products in the images top to bottom.
- Llama Denim Pinny Dress And T-Shirt Set RRP £16.
- Pink Heart Sweat Top £7 and Pink Heart Joggers £7.
- Swan Frill Pyjamas 2 Pack £17 and Plush Unicorn Toy £7.50.
- Grey Triangle Joggers £7.
- Pink Knitted Cardigan £8 and Floral Frill Neck Dress £14.