The global pandemic and the potential resurgence of the COVID-19 virus is getting constant media attention. Alongside the debates about statistics, the “C” word had gotten a lot of attention regarding the impact it’s had on families all around the world. The quarantine orders put into place across the majority of the nation last March was unexpected and unprecedented. The fear of the virus reaching our nation was of immediate concern once it was identified in the media. But nobody quite knew what was about to happen when schools began closing shortly before spring break. As I look back on the last 6 months, I realize that our family has been transformed like so many others. Although I could talk at length about the financial struggles and the time-management struggles that many are facing, or have faced, I think it’s so important to also take this opportunity to talk about what it has done from a positive perspective. I think that many families have experienced a reset. I know that ours has.
Sometimes You Just Need a Reset!
When our kids are cranky, over-stimulated, tired or just struggling with a phase in life, I regularly use the phrase – “hit your reset button.” Our mood and our energy is constantly shifting. And whatever we focus energy on, tends to grow. So if we are in a negative place, it’s easiest to focus on the negative at hand. To ruminate about it, complain about it, and dwell there. But that only feeds the negative and it doesn’t serve us.
When our family acknowledges that we need a reset – it’s usually just as simple as recognizing that we are in that negative place. We recognize that hey – we may be tired – but allowing our exhaustion to dominate us and keep us in a negative place isn’t going to help us. Yes, we may be tired but we are ultimately in control of every move we make each day. That mindset (that we are in control) is an empowering mental space. It allows us to dig deeper and focus on gratitude, joy and positive energy. It allows us to leave the negative space and enjoy the life we have.
So many of the things that put us in a negative space are only temporary – our current financial position, the amount of free time we have to relax in a given day, the amount of sleep we had within the last 24 hours, and so forth. Those are all day-to-day realities that we are not stuck with. Even big life changes like a career change, are made one day at a time. Losing weight is a series of millions of small decisions and choices. Finding financial freedom is a series of millions of good decisions about spending, saving, and earning an income.
So when all else fails – recognize that a reset can redirect all of the small choices we make each day. Not only to bring joy to us i the present, but to lead us to the future life we want.
COVID Forced Our Entire Family to Reset.
In the moment that the school closures and statewide quarantines were announced, our family was in the thick of life. With five active children between the ages of 2 and 12, we had a school calendar, a work calendar, a sports calendar, a chore calendar, a family commitment calendar, a physical fitness calendar (for mom and dad), and a list of weekly errands to run. On top of all that, we had a list of desires to squeeze in a few family activities like visiting a local zoo, hitting up a park or a beach, spring cleaning/reorganization, and planning summer travels.
Our reality was that the list of things “we needed to do” was exhausting – heck I am exhausted just typing it out. I mean seriously – that’s a lot to tackle. And that list wasn’t just a short season of hustle, it had been building and growing over the years with no end in sight.
In all honesty – I wasn’t unhappy in that moment of my life. At least I didn’t think I was. But I was tired. I was struggling to keep things straight. Sure I focused on the joy and I tried to be consciously grateful throughout each day. But I was running a rat race. The only thing I could focus on was my obligations in the next hour, day and week. There was no time to consider major life choices. There was no time to dream and plot and plan for our future. And there was very little time for my own self-care.
Until that public service announcement came through. Whether we saw it on the news, on the radio or on Facebook, there it was. The Governor had declared that all schools close as soon as practicable. It was a Friday night. I remember because we were at my parent’s house for dinner. And it hit me – oh my goodness how would we manage. Five kids at home and our jobs weren’t going to be put on pause!
Initially, our minds were reeling with anxiety and fear. How would we keep up. What would their distance learning look like? Would it interfere with our obligations through work? Would my husband have to continue at the office so that the majority of the duties fell on my shoulders alone?
So I did the only thing I knew how to do – I hit my reset button.
The Reset Wasn’t Immediate.
I wish I could say the reset happened instantaneously. But it didn’t. At first, we merely reacted. Each day we had a mini family meeting to assess what our day would look like. There was so much uncertainty because just like our family had to reset how we were living our daily lives – the teachers and administrators at schools had to do the same. So there wasn’t a clear, definite plan about how everything would roll out.
The gradual changes that occurred over the following two months required constant change. But no matter how many new obstacles were presented with those changes, I quickly realized something a lot of families did – time had slowed. We were no longer running from one obligation to another.
Our days used to start with a series of deadlines if you will – we had to wake up by a certain time, then the kids awake by a certain time, morning prep had to be completed by a certain time in order to get the kids on the bus before it arrived, then we had a work deadline to ensure we were done when the kids were done, followed by dinner deadlines, then sports practice deadlines, homework deadlines and bath deadlines to ensure that bedtimes were met. It was a rat race.
The new normal consisted of making sure that basic necessities were taken care of. Obviously we as parents had to keep to a certain “normal” of waking and getting ready on time for work. But soon, my husband was sent to work from home. Then with the kids not having to be on the bus at a certain time, we had less prep to do. Which meant we all got a little bit more sleep.
The Reset Was Helpful.
We soon realized that the same thing seemed to happen within the school day. A lot of time spent waiting for the classroom of children to get on the same page disappeared. As long as the boys completed their worksheets, reading and writing assignments, they were done for the day. So they had time to be children. They had more time to play. And thank goodness – they got more sleep.
1. The Kids Chores Became More Meaningful.
I soon realized that I was missing an opportunity by letting them laze around. I realized I was still doing all my normal stuff – getting ready, working, cooking, cleaning & laundry. And the kids were on vacation. So I quickly realized – wait a minute – these kids need to chip in.
After assessing the list of chores my husband and I could pass onto the kids, we created new chore charts. The kids were shown the benefits of contributing. If they helped out – it meant we had time to go on more family walks, to plan our family garden, to watch a movie, and to play more board games.
As the kids were expected to help more, they began to take more ownership in the status of our home. The kids began to take ownership in making less messes. Because less mess meant less work when their turn to clean up. They also realized it was better to do it right because keeping things organized meant that cleanup was easier.
One of the problems with being so busy before our reset was that we lacked the time to train our kids to do skilled chores. I wasn’t comfortable just throwing my oldest in front of a lawn mower. I wanted to first show him the dangers of being irresponsible with the mower and teach him how to do it right.
2. Clutter Became Less of a Problem.
The more the kids additional chores stacked up, the less regular clutter we had around the house. Let me tell you that clutter is something that stresses us out – not only as parents but as human beings. It is an innate quality that we want things to be tidy and clean. The problem isn’t a desire to get it – it’s lacking the time to make it happen. And suddenly, with the kids chipping in more, I felt like we were in control of our life again. I no longer stressed about my chores because less of them fell on my hubby and my shoulders.
In fact, we found time to tackle some projects. We reorganized our garage. We built a new compost bin that was bigger, looked nicer, and fit our family better. We even built the kids a new bunk bed to give them more space in their bedroom.
Throughout the small, simple changes we were making each day, the cumulative impact was real and meaningful. Everyone started to feel happier.
3. Everyone Shared More Quality Time.
This next benefit of our slow-down is probably my favorite. As everyone settled into a new, quieter normal, the calm and the happiness everyone felt by slowing down allowed us all to bond again. Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve always been a close family. We have always fought our busy schedule and persevered to spend time together. As a family, we stay active together. And we travel as much as we can. But those are all busy activities. Spending quality time, on a slow-down level changed our interactions and gave us more time together.
Our boys who were always stimulated slowed down and in that slow-down, they became closer. They began to fight less. I was shocked to see that by spending more time together, they became closer friends.
At first, it was a struggle. Because in the beginning they weren’t used to it. But like it or not – they were all they had. Because the quarantine meant no friends to hang out with. So they were literally all they had for entertainment. Now it may not seem like the best reason or the best way to make this discovery – but when they spent more time together, they realized something. They had fun together and they liked each other. I know – shocking right?
Against all odds, we watched our boys become the best of buds. We watched as they chose to spend time together. They spent time planning what they’d do together. They organized a backyard baseball game where they helped teach the younger ones to play. And I even overheard one conversation where our two oldest boys were plotting their College years – talking about how they would be roommates with each other in the dorms. It truly warmed my heart.
4. We Had an Opportunity to Teach More Life Skills.
In addition to the kids chipping in more with chores, we had other opportunities to teach the kids more life skills. Every day was “bring your kid to work” day. And that meant that our kids got to see what life beyond childhood is like. Our older two boys quickly realized that they wanted to be little entrepreneurs someday when they grow up. They saw dad’s struggles of working for a corporation – punching a clock, answering to policies, criticisms from other co-workers, etc. They saw dad less happy then they were used to. And they started asking questions about what kinds of opportunities they would have after high school.
In comparison, they saw mom working on her terms. If I needed to take a break to run and grab vegetables from our co-op, I could squeeze it in between scheduled meetings. But they also saw the realities of how that meant mom had to work a little later that evening. But they saw the freedoms of being in control of your own schedule as a small business owner.
With those observations and alongside the kids expressing an interest in my entrepreneurial world – it offered an opportunity to have serious conversations about work ethic. After all, the kids can’t deny that they see me work really hard. Every entrepreneurial person does. It’s how a person succeeds in running their own business. Because when you’re the boss, you’re the only person who can push you. And even kids can understand that success doesn’t fall from the sky.
And then of course there were many other life skills – we showed the boys how to build the bunk beds and let them sand and stain the finished product. We also taught the boys to cook more and empowered them to help out making lunches each day. Last but not least, the boys began to observe more of what we do as parents to keep the household running- balancing checkbooks, grabbing groceries, cleaning up throughout each day and meal planning. And their appreciation for our parenting grew. Praise Jesus!
Our COVID Reset Brought A Calm to Our Storm
Although I genuinely believed we were happy before our COVID Reset, if I’m honest with myself, there were things that needed to change. We needed a time out on life. Some time to reassess our priorities. If nothing else, empowering the kids to learn beyond the classroom and getting our house collected again and reorganized took a big project off our plate as parents. And if I’m honest with myself, we tackled projects we probably never would have had time for without the reset.
I also think that the break we all got was healthy for the kids. Our society is so much more fast-paced than many other cultures throughout the world. One of the draw-backs to such a fast-paced life is the anxiety and general strain it can put on our mental health.
Although our kids have always loved the sports they have played – the sports life took up 90% of their free time outside of school. And this time during the reset has given them a chance to just be kids again. To wake up for several months and their only worry was what to eat and what to play (aside from those chores we made them do).
And the reset reminded us all that we always have a choice. We don’t have to do all the things. And we can find so much joy in a slow-down. After all – that’s what vacation is premised on – slowing down and relaxing. Maybe we all could use a bit more of that in our day-to-day life.