As May of 2021 was approaching, the feeling of doom started to fly over the house. Having three kids under 15 locked up at home during pandemic lockdown is no fun. Adding no-nanny, masking, vaccinations, and two full-time jobs made it crazy challenging. The post is about how our family survived and thrived this summer and three lessons we learned from the experience.
Digital entertainment is not all evil
My husband and I were both born in the pre-Facebook era, when playing outside, chasing each other on a playground, hugging, and spending hours with our friends outdoors was what we expected. Times have changed, and today, my kids connect via cell phone apps, gadgets, online gaming, and other digital avenues. Modern kids talk to friends, learn, and grow via digital connections.
Being born in the 1970ies, this is quite strange to me, and yes, at times, I feel like a terrible mom when I watch my kids play video games, watch TV, or play on their phones for hours on end. The truth is, the summer of 2021 did not offer many options for kids’ fun, and we had to negotiate our standards to stay employed and keep our sanity.
How we did it:
- We set up limited internet hours (max 4 hours a day) on kids devices
- We pre-selected content on TV and monitored gadgets
- We made peace with the reality of needing to work while kids self-entertained
- We took them to parks, nature hikes, and outdoor pools as often as we could
Summer jobs are cool
When I realized we needed summer care (early May) and started reaching out to summer camp providers, it became apparent that getting kids into camps would be impossible.
There are three primary challenges: the unliftable cost of summer camps, the second was transportation challenges, and the third was availability. To make it brief, paying $200-500 per kid per week was out of reach and very financially difficult for us; driving 45-60 min one way to drop them and pick them up to the camp each day was a huge commitment. Lastly, there was simply no availability for summer camps unless you signed up in Feb 2021.
Likely, we were able to find a local farmer to take our kids into their paid Internship Program, which ran Friday-Sunday each week, from May- October. The farm needed help, our kids wanted to make money, and I was beyond happy to see them outdoors, learning, moving, and earning some cash.
How we did it:
- I reached out to a local farmer and negotiated the engagement
- We drove them to a from the farm, three times a week
- Kids enjoyed the outdoors, made money, and we loved to see them happy
Solo time to keep you going
Five people in the same household, while it sounds very cozy, did get overbearing at times. Trying to run 5-8 conference calls while my six years old son would ask for snacks, make noises, and need attention was hard. At times it was more than one could bear.
I must admit, while faced with the same WFH routine challenges, it seems he did not struggle as much. It seems my husband’s resilience to distraction and ability to focus was amplified by the new challenges of being surrounded by 4 other people at all times. Lucky dog. No me. I will be honest here. I struggled with focusing, getting things completed, and simply keeping up with assignments at work. It sucked.
How we did it:
- I downloaded the All Trails Pro app and learned how to use it
- Each Friday, I would select 1-3 trails within 1-hour drive from home that looks exciting
- At least once per week, I would venture out to an 8-12 miles “sanity hike.”
- The time along helped me to quiet my mind, rest, reflect, and embrace the good in my life
- My spouse appreciated the time alone, older kids worked, and I got my sanity back
The summer of 2021 was not faint-hearted, and yes, it was challenging to keep our heads about the water at times. With the help of digital entertainment, kids working on weekends, and some “me” time, we did it. We grew stronger and learned a few things about ourselves. I am proud we did it!