"During the pandemic I learned to let go a little and it worked. Imagine that!"
—Parent of three young children
How we are looking forward to getting back to normal! Now that things are beginning to open up, many of us are embracing a better normal. We have struggled to fulfill the new responsibilities created when school and work entered our home environment. When we were forced to stay home, we learned how to live a different pace of life.
With the stay-at-home order, the necessity to rush to the next scheduled event disappeared and eventually made room for family walks, games, and meals. Our lives became intertwined and relationships deepened. Previously we often lived separate existences. Dad and mom spent most days at work while the children were in school and after-school activities. Rarely was the family gathered together for a relaxed meal or outing.
It was no easy task for parents to become teachers, tech trouble-shooters and tutors. They juggled work and worried about the impact on the children's education, the family financial situation, not to mention the physical and mental health of all loved ones. But the burden was somehow easier since it was shared by all.
Some parents had grandparents read stories to their young children every morning via Facetime while they readied for a day of work and teaching. Many families gathered outside with neighbors for much-needed socializing, sometimes around a firepit with s'mores. Some family members took on new chores and children learned how a team could function.
One parent I talked with was surprised how, "We all learned new ways of interacting."
My children didn't need to be protected from some of my feelings and opinions. Since we were together 24/7, we all experienced everyone's ups and downs. Our house isn't that big, so the children could often overhear adult discussions. I found they were not harmed by learning about business challenges or our strong emotions. Sometimes when I 'lost it,' I was surprised to see the children understand and one way or another either give me space or try to soothe me. Best of all, being together so much, we all learned how we impact others and apologies became easier and more honest.
Many say they have lowered their expectations as a result of the pandemic. With relief, one mom expressed it with a smile, "No more perfect parents and no more straight-A, ivy league kids." Both generations can have the space to become who they really are, rather than fitting into external expectations.
Values have been re-evaluated during this time. What is really important? It's the basics, of course: love, freedom, health, family, education. We need enough, but don't need mansions, gourmet food, and piles of money.
An essential worker who had to depend on family and friends to care for her children has decided to move to a community that is cheaper and allows her to work less. One dad told me he has had time to "see the light" and re-set his life plan. He chose to get rid of the club memberships and high-priced cars so he could work less and do more with his family.
The pandemic has caused real hardships and extreme losses for many, and all of us want a better and brighter future for our children. We are searching for the life lessons learned from this new way of life and have found a few silver linings amid the chaos.
As ways are discovered to continue the positives of the pandemic, do personalize your new normal. This slow on-again, off-again re-opening gives each of us time to consider what works for our own family. It would be so easy to try to incorporate every good idea and chase the perfection of the past. Not everything works for everyone.
Here are a few ideas you might consider:
"From an early age children want to be independent, but in this era of continual rushing, parents thwart them by being too eager to do things for them."
—Elizabeth Hainstock, Teaching Montessori in the Home
—by Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She is a trained primary Montessori directress and also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has taught children aged 2 to 7 years in Montessori schools, Headstart, and also in a preschool for children with developmental challenges. In her counseling practice, she helps individuals, couples, and families.
—Originally Published 2021