When you ran out and bought arts and crafts kits, you thought you purchased enough to supply a large day camp for an entire summer, but in less than 5 days, you’ve depleted your entire stash.
Making sure the children attend their on-line classrooms makes you feel like a grumpy truant officer. You’re playing referee when your kids quarrel, but they don’t respond to you the way athletes respond to the blow of the whistle and all you want to do is sit on the sidelines in your own time-out.
You don’t have a minute to yourself, and you miss that daily 15-minute car ride to and from work which offered you some peaceful solitude. You’re organizing activities for children of different ages and are doing what you can to make sure each one feels they have your full attention and care.
You feel the pressure of your own job responsibilities and wonder when you will ever have the time, let alone the energy, to do the work your boss expects you to.
While all this is going on at home, you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself to be perfect and get things right all the time. You understand that the tone you set is the music that gets live streamed into your home and you’re trying to keep it relaxed and positive. You’re keeping up with the demands of running the house like laundry, grocery shopping, paying the bills, and cleaning the kitchen but when are you going to make Pesach?!
Even under normal circumstances, the weeks before Pesach are the most demanding of the year. Today, you’re facing a greater challenge. You’re rallying your inner resources to do what’s never been done before while remaining in the confines of your own home with everyone else at home with you!
You’re physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted and your optimism is fading along with your energy. It’s being replaced with gloom and self-doubt and your inner critic has free reign of your mind. Your inner critic hovers over you and comments on everything you do, “You know that Shaul doesn’t respond well when you raise your voice, you know he responds beautifully to eye contact, why can’t you remember that? Of course the twins are fighting, you should have sat down with them at the doll house before cleaning up breakfast.”
It’s time to do a reality check. Even the most organized, attuned, and devoted mother who adroitly manages her typical, yet complicated daily schedule is not Superwoman, although sometimes it feels like that’s what’s being asked of her.
It’s time to evict the inner critic who has gotten you to believe that you have to be perfect. Your inner critic chides you, reminding you that a good mother doesn’t get tired, never loses her patience, knows how to handle every squabble peacefully and effectively, provides balanced meals, exudes good cheer despite being under enormous stress, makes Pesach even with little more than 2 weeks’ notice, and maintains structure and routine without fail.
Here are some examples of how to reframe your thoughts and give yourself the validation you deserve.
Of course the kids are fighting. I’m busy cleaning up from breakfast instead of giving them something productive to do!
Cleaning up from breakfast is necessary for our functioning. It’s too bad the kids are fighting, but we will survive it.
It’s my fault there is so much tension in this house. I can’t stop snapping at the kids and it’s stressing everyone out
This is so hard for me. I am really struggling to be patient with the kids. Please Hashem, help me hold it together
There must be something I should be doing for Pesach right now. I’m probably way behind of where I should be.
Later, I will take time to make a Pesach game plan. Right now, I’m doing a great job just keeping my head above the water
This is not the time to succumb to your inner critic. Fortify yourself. Recognize what a wonderful job you’re doing. Show yourself some kindness. Step away from self-criticism and move towards self-compassion. You are doing the best you can, and your best is nothing short of wonderful.
While taking care of your family don’t overlook one important family member – yourself. Taking care of yourself is not just a fad – it’s essential, especially at a time like this.
What, exactly, is self-care? Self-care means taking care of your own needs. Although it may feel counterintuitive but taking care of yourself will help you take better care of those you love. It prevents exhaustion, burn out and resentment. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or consume a large amount of time.
It’s a personal choice, that’s why the word self precedes the word care. Everyone has their own needs and ways of maintaining their vitality, but here are a few ideas to consider:
Mental self-care: Challenge your mind (once your children are asleep or while they are occupying themselves) e.g. do a crossword puzzle or sudoku, read a book, listen to a shiur, podcast or audio book, learn a new skill, tune out distractions by wearing noise canceling headphones
Physical self-care: Exercise, spend time in nature, take a walk, use a weighted hula hoop or treadmill, lift weights,( If you can’t manage alone time for this, have the family join you – it’s good for them too). Practice muscle relaxation techniques and/or mindfulness, eat only when it’s mealtime or a snack time, not to fill another type of hunger
Emotional self-care: Set firm limits around social media; limit your exposure to 15 minutes a day after all your children are sleeping, check whatsapp at a predetermined time of day only while your children are not with you, listen to music in the shower and give yourself an extra 5 minutes, dance, keep a journal, lie on the grass and stare at the clouds or stars, watch funny video clips, learn to say no, nourish your soul, accept that it’s okay not to feel okay these days, create a mandala, sing karaoke, go for a drive, create a list of personal victories before you go to bed each night adding to it daily, create a list of 5 affirmations and repeat them to yourself every single day, learn and use self-soothing techniques, send a card or email to a friend, help someone else, talk about your feelings
The Pandemic is going to pass. Right now, it’s not about what you can’t do, it’s about what you can do. You can get through this. You can adapt. Your family can grow stronger. You can control your thoughts. Accept that you’re doing the best you can and that’s more than good enough.
Michelle Halle, LCSW is a psychotherapist with a practice in Lakewood. You can read more of her blogs on her website michellehalle.com