I took three mini vacations over the past few weeks, and they were just amazing. I was chauffeur-driven to my destination, the same one all three times, and took great pleasure in sighting seeing on the way there.
When I arrived, the security officer opened the doors and ushered me into the building. I went directly to the washroom and washed my hands for 20 seconds, or it could have been longer because the water was so warm and there was no 11-year-old calling out that he needed something “now!” I went to a familiar desk and opened a drawer that contained sanitising supplies, which I used to clean the desktop, computer and phone. Then I sat down and automatically began to do what seemed like helping to put a newspaper together. The people who were vacationing there on those days seemed nice, and they too did their part in what seemed like putting a paper together. The people in charge of the establishment, not the same one every time, were just a tad bossy, but I guess that was part of their role in what seemed like putting a paper together.
After a few hours of not having to cook, clean, wash dishes, home school, shout, or feeling like the walls were closing in on me, we, the vacationers, seemed to have put the paper together and the chauffeur came to pick me up to take me home. I was glad to return to the comforts and discomforts of my home, but I was already looking forward to my next mini vacation.
These little breaks, clinical psychologist Kajita Khan said, are as critical for parents as they are for children as we continue to try to adjust to the stay at home initiative implemented by government in an attempt to prevent the spread of covid19.
“This is an especially challenging time for women who now have added responsibilities of increased child care, household tasks and home-schooling. Independent free time is critical not just for children but for parents to provide some relief from parenting demands.”
She advises that in households with more than one adult, adults can take turns getting a break.
“In single parent households, this may be more challenging. If alone time is not possible with younger children, try to incorporate more fun and easy-going activities and take family breaks as needed.”
In instances where parents are struggling to cope with everything, including school work, she suggests dropping everything and taking a break. “Especially if tensions are building and you realise you or your children are struggling to cope, forget the routine, the housework and school work for a few hours. Take a mental health ‘time out’ and do something relaxing and fun. You can resume the routine after. Children will not suffer from missing out on some aspects of school work during this time. What is more important is that they have a safe, healthy and happy home environment including a calm mummy who can help them be resilient and cope with stress. This resilience is what will help them bounce back when school eventually resumes.”
She encourages parents to reach out to other parents to see how they are coping, and share strategies that may be working. And because some days are sure to be better than others, she said, “Try to have a sense of humour about the days that do not go well. Note that, especially younger children may not fully understand what events are unfolding during the pandemic, but they will appreciate the tone and climate in the household so we need to be conscious of what is said and done in their presence.”
And although the children are looking to us for coping guidance we should not place additional burdens on ourselves by trying to make everything appear perfect.
“Children also learn though modelling and imitating behaviour and they will look to their parents to learn how to deal with stress and uncertainty. So, if you don’t have it all together, remember to be kind and forgiving to yourself. Our children need to see that from us so they can apply it to themselves too.
“I really want to emphasise to women and parents: children don’t need to see nor do they expect perfection; instead, let’s model resilience and healthy coping for them.”
Nobody knows when these restrictions are going to be relaxed, let alone end. I am just grateful that from time to time my “essential” documents allow me to get these little much-needed breaks from the at-home monotony. Who knows, maybe next time I will take a more scenic route.