Arguments, disagreements and hostility are all around us these days. Masks vs. no-masks. Biden vs. Trump. Social distancing vs. well, not so much. Everywhere we turn we find opposing opinions. One thing we can all agree on, however, is this: Parenting, even under normal circumstances, is hard enough. Parenting during a pandemic is preposterous.
Even though we’re doing the best we can, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, tired of our new “normal,” and just plain sad. During this chaotic time, when there’s so much that we can’t control, what if I told you that we have more control than we think we do to create more joy in our lives right now, quickly and easily? Well, we do … and here’s how:
First, acknowledge that sometimes good enough really is good enough.
If you’re the sort of mom who strives for perfection in everything you do, recognize that this is no time to aim for that level of excellence. It’s just not realistic, and you’re going to burn out if you try. Face it, friends, we’re in survival mode right now — just doing the best that we can. If you accept nothing short of 100% with everything you do right now, you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.
For me, is everything getting done the way I would like during this difficult time? Heck no. Are we eating cereal for dinner at least once a week? Yep. Are my kids spending a lot more time on their devices than they used to? They sure are. Did I forget to pick up my kid from school one afternoon last week because I mixed up her hybrid schedule and forgot she was there? Unfortunately, yes. Are the dirty breakfast dishes still sitting in the sink? You betcha. And you know what? It’s all okay. It’s not the end of the world. During these unusual times I have to focus my energy and resources on the things that matter, which is getting my family and me through this challenging time as mentally and physically healthy as possible. Everything else is secondary; have a little grace with yourself and keep everything in perspective.
Second, reduce the “Dread Factor.”
We all have a ton of stuff on our daily to-do lists that we are not excited about doing, yet they have to get done. Ask yourself if there is a way to make those dreadful tasks less dreadful, and perhaps even create a little bit of joy while you do them. A friend of mine demonstrated this strategy perfectly recently – she had to move her kid’s stuff out of a storage unit and into her new apartment. She was dreading it, so to make it a little less miserable she rented a cherry-red Mustang convertible to do it. Yes, it took her longer (she had to go back and forth between the unit and apartment more times since the car could only hold a fraction of what a U-Haul truck could hold) and was slightly more expensive, but it turned this dreadful task into an enjoyable experience. She actually had a great day, driving with the wind in her hair and the tunes cranked up high.
Consider the possibility that there may be tiny tweaks you can make to create more joy in otherwise miserable tasks. For example, hate grocery shopping? Plan to listen to the latest episode of your favorite podcast in your earbuds while doing it. It’ll give you something fun to look forward to while doing something that you have to get done.
Finally, start each day off right.
Typically, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when your alarm goes off each morning? If you’re like me, it may be an obscenity or two because you can’t believe it’s morning already and you’re still so dang tired, but it may also be that laundry list of tasks you have to get done that day (and, of course, laundry is likely at the top of it!) Our brains automatically go there first thing in the morning, which is a very depressing way to start the day! Instead, force yourself to think of at least one thing you’re looking forward to that day – no matter how small it is. Perhaps you’re going to watch the final episode of Ozark that you’ve been saving. Or maybe you’re going to enjoy another chapter of that book that’s been unopened on your nightstand for three weeks. Or maybe you’re ordering pizza for dinner from that delicious pizza place on the corner.
Whatever it is, before your feet hit the floor, focus on that little bit of joy that will be coming your way. Can’t think of anything? All the more reason to come up with something, right then and there! It’ll put you in a positive mindset and get your day started on the right foot!
As we continue through these difficult times, there’s a lot we can’t control, but the one thing we can control is intentionally creating more joy for ourselves each day. We deserve that. Now go get some.