Before Mateo was born, we made the decision as a family that I would take the year off to be a stay-at-home mom for my emerging bilinguals. Going from working full time to being home full time was a huge adjustment, but a decision I made consciously. And I quickly learned being a stay-at-home mom is harder than teaching middle school!
But I realize the majority of our nation right now is not choosing to stay home, but instead being forced into captivity due to mandatory social distance quarantine. So here is what I’ve learned after one week of being sequestered.
Rule #1. Let it go. No, really! This is coming from the most schedule-oriented, type-A personality you could ever encounter. Before the quarantine, our life was perfectly regimented and it felt GOOD! But being cooped up inside has wrecked havoc on our nap times and feeding times and everything is completely helter-skelter. We made a schedule. We made a to-do list. And we do our darnest to stick to it, but it’s hard to go from an excessive amount of socialization to zero in 24 hours. So there has to be a learning curve. The sooner you throw your hands up and let things go, the better.
Rule #2. Don’t expect to be a replacement for school. And that’s ok. This is coming from a teacher with 10 years of experience teaching in classrooms from kindergarten to college. There are soooo many things you teach your children on a daily basis, and it’s far more than arithmetic and phonics. Yes, you want to keep your kids occupied, their minds fresh, and prevent an academic slide. But don’t worry about replicating the content they would otherwise be receiving in the classroom. Instead, use this time as academic enrichment. Read together (or set a timer and have your child read aloud to him or herself.) Have them play academic games on the computer. Give them blank 100s charts or multiplication charts to fill in to practice their math fact fluency. Play the game 24. Bake or cook together. Do science projects or art projects. Have an academic conversation about a favorite book, movie, TV show, current events, anything! There’s so much learning that can take place at home that can ONLY take place at home. Try to keep that in mind.
Rule #3. Let them watch too much TV or movies. Just make sure the subtitles are on! I’ve seen a meme going around about this on social media, but as a language acquisition expert, I’ll tell you it’s more than just a joke. We have the closed captioning on our TV, tables, and phones at all times, because hearing the dialogue and reading it at the same time is so beneficial for vocabulary development, spelling, and reading comprehension. This is also a great time to practice your bilingual skills, Try setting the language and subtitles to your second language, and watch some of your familiar favorites.
Rule #4. If you want to use this time do a ton of sit-ups and lose 15 pounds, cool. If you want to pick up a new hobby, cool. If you want to teach yourself a new skill, also cool. If any of these above statements makes you feel overwhelmed, you’re not alone! If you have the patience, dedication and energy to make this time transformative in your personal development, I applaud and encourage you. However, if you’re just trying to survive and make it through quarantine without sacrificing your sanity, I’m with you! Eat the ice cream. Binge-watch the guilty pleasure show on Netflix. Wear pjs all day. Drink that glass of wine. These are the little things things that are going to get us through. This doesn’t have to be a time of self-vitalization. If you’re in survival mode, that’s okay, because I am, too.
Rule #5. Reach out, but don’t go out. I feel redundant even writing this, but I would be remiss to not say, staying at home means staying at home. Everything is canceled for a reason, and it is not an extended break or a coronacation. For those of you trying to work from home, you know this is not a vacation. So although there is no school, or church, or activities, it is imperative that we actually adhere to the social distance quarantine, because science shows that is the only successful way of flattening the curve, and eventually ending this sequestered lifestyle. This means no play dates, no BBQs, no family outings to Home Depot.
However, we do have so many ways to stay connected at our fingertips, and the best way to keep the depression and loneliness at bay is to connect with others and constantly check in with each other. Never before have there been so many ways to communicate—let’s utilize them! Text, email, zoom, FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, messenger, insta, Twitter... the list goes on and on. Call your loved ones, reconnect with old friends, post incessantly on social media. Not only do you need the tele-socialization, I’m sure the other person on the other end of the line does, too.
We are embarking upon an unprecedented time in our lifetimes. It’s okay to be figuring out the new normal as we go along. When you’re forced into isolation like this, even if you are surrounded by your children who won’t give you a moment’s peace, it can still feel incredibly lonely. Just remember, you’re not alone in this situation. There’s about 43.5 millions moms in the US who are in the same boat. We’ll get through this, separated, but together.