Yesterday, my partner and I took a walk around our local college campus whose grounds offer wide spaces for comfortable social distancing. We were delighted to see some friendly faces along the way; among them my friend Alexis and her family, and my loyal yoga student, Will. Knowing that I am attempting to balance home-schooling my daughters while teaching remotely, they asked, “How are you doing?”
Truthfully, the answer to that question depends on the moment. Sometimes I am great; so far we are all healthy, not commuting or carting the kids to their activities has given me hours in my day to write and play. But there are other times when it hits me; this is really scary. I worry about my mom who is in quarantine alone and my grandfather who is isolated in his nursing home. I wonder how this time will impact my students' academic gains and more importantly, their well-being? And last night while indulging in an episode of Schitt’s Creek, I found myself longing to sit down at a restaurant table and hold a menu in my hands. It is a roller coaster. And I realized: that’s okay. What we need more than ever right now is to give ourselves grace.
Let Go of Mom Guilt
I am definitely struggling with this one. When this all started, I had visions of teaching my 2nd and 5th grade daughters meaningful reading and writing lessons daily but soon my mornings filled up with virtual reading conferences and book clubs with my students. I found myself saying to my daughters, “Okay girls, we are going to start home-school at 10:00. Wait now it’s 11:00, noon, right after lunch…” The mom guilt weighed on me but then I realized that as long as we spend time engaging in joyful learning each day; we are doing just fine. So if you are trying to home-school your children while teaching remotely, know that you are doing enough!
Set and Maintain Boundries
This is a big one. When we first transitioned to teaching from home, I found myself glued to my laptop. I’d think, “Let me make one more resource or I need to get back to this parent right away or this teacher has a question I need to address” and then hours would pass, the sun would go down and I found that I was still working. Inspirational speaker and author Mel Robbins speaks about the importance of committing to an end time. She cites research that it actually makes us more productive. So decide on your end time and close your laptop, step away and do something you enjoy. It will ultimately make your working hours more productive and tend to your wellbeing.
Take Time for You
This is critical! Sitting and working from home can take its toll on your body, mind and spirit. As teachers, we are not used to sitting! Additionally, I worry about developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome due to hours on the computer. It is so important to take breaks that provide a mental respite and physical movement. Here are a few I enjoy:
- Yoga - Engage in your own at home practice or check out one of the many free virtual classes out there. My local studio here in Saratoga Springs, NY, Yoga Mandali, is generously offering free Facebook live classes taught by their amazing teachers.
- Take a walk. Visit with your neighbors from across the street.
- Go for a drive while blasting music you love! The other day when I went to pick up my groceries curbside, I decided against listening to the news or a podcast and instead clicked on a music playlist which somehow ended up on shuffle. I swear Spotify knew what I needed as the Grateful Dead serenaded me with “A Box of Rain” and the Indigo Girls with “Closer to Fine.” I sang my heart out and mercifully for my family, I was alone! It felt great!
- Stop and ask yourself: What do I FEEL like doing right now? And then do it.
Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling
Finally, giving yourself grace means allowing yourself to feel what you are feeling without judgement. Last night I had to call the airline to cancel my spring break trip. The judgement part of me said, “It’s just a trip; there will be others. Be grateful that you and your family are healthy.” But then I realized that while all of that is true, I am allowed to feel disappointed. Pushing those feelings down will hurt me in the long run. So I allow myself to feel them and process them and then I can let them go.
We have never been challenged in quite this way before and the fact is, we are missing out on plans to which we looked forward. We are missing our students, our predictable days, our structure. This is an incredibly challenging time in our lives. What we need more than ever is to stay connected, carry people who are ill and suffering in our hearts and take care of ourselves. Together we can bring grace to these uncertain times.