We have it better than most. I remind myself of this constantly. We have our jobs, our health, and a happy family. I feel guilt for struggling despite this. The truth is, we’ve been without any breaks, any kind of help since mid-March of last year. We have no grandparents nearby to help; we have no pod. It’s just us. Every day, from the moment our kids wake up until they go to sleep, it’s us.
In October we quarantined and got covid tests and went to Maine. While we were there my parents watched the kids for Nav and I to go on our first date since Coco was born the previous December. We sat outside at a restaurant for two hours. We’ve had no dates since; no time apart from our children.
I’ll be honest, it’s been hard. I love my children but I never intended to spend this much time with them without any breaks. Ben was in preschool. After my maternity leave was up we were going to hire a babysitter a few days a week so I could work more. I’ve worked less this year as we haven’t had childcare and have to just trade off who is watching the kids throughout the day to accommodate work and meetings.
I’m grateful too though. Nav and I enjoy each other’s company and don’t really get sick of each other. We’ve been able to spend so much time together. He’s gotten to spend time thousands more hours with Coco during her first year of life than he would have if he’d have been in the office. He’s so present with our children and I like to think that maybe having both parents around all the time is kind of making up for the lack of other social interaction.
I’ve had moments of joy. I’ve cried in my pantry. I’ve handled a tough parenting moment well. I’ve yelled at my kids. I’ve been a present, involved parent. I’ve looked at my phone too much. I’ve read them 20 books in a day. I’ve let Ben watch hours of tv.
So for the sake of remembering what these days looked like for us, I’m recording it here. I thought about just writing it down somewhere and saving to to look back on in my old age but then I remembered – oh yeah, I share my feelings on the internet! I have a place for that!
So let’s start with the things that’ll happen no matter what. Sprinkle these in throughout the day. The fun thing is you never know when they’re going to happen, they just do!
- Toddler meltdown
- Screaming contest between a one year old and a three year old (but like, a happy one)
- Potty training issues
- Ben taking the toy that Coco’s playing with and Coco screaming at the top of her lungs
- Running in actual circles through the first floor of the house
- Toddler asking for a highly specific episode of a show and you spend ten minutes trying to figure it out wtf he’s talking about because it’s not in the damn preview picture
- Me saying “Dad is on a work call!” or “No headbutting” multiple times
4:15am Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.
4:30am Get up. Pour cup of coffee (Nav sets it up for me on an automatic timer). Get all cozy in my brown chair in my living room with my feet up, blanket over legs, computer in lap. Drink said coffee while I work until the kids wake up.
5:45-6:45am Ben wakes up. I clock out. Sometimes I try to convince him to go back to sleep. Sometimes it’s obvious that’s not happening and I just call it and get him out of his crib. Yes, crib. He’s 3 and he’s never tried to climb out so we’re sticking with it as long as possible. I really love the days he sleeps until 6:45am because usually means I’ve gotten two hours of work done before the kids wake up and that feels so good. Some days he’s in a chill mood and I keep working even if he’s awake.
6:45am Coco wakes up. I feed her a bottle. The three of us hang out, play, or watch a show while they wake up a bit. My kids are not the instantly awake types. Ben eats “green snacks”. They are not green and I don’t remember why he started calling them that. They are Kashi Kids Superfood bites. They’re the only processed food he really eats and they’re decent nutritionally so I buy them and he enjoys them.
7:30am Wake Nav up. I go upstairs and go back to work until 9-9:30am (depends on his meeting schedules). Nav feeds the kids breakfast. We basically go all out for every meal these days and he’s pretty into making pancakes.
9-10am I quickly get ready and then take over kid duty. We generally play for a bit. I listen to the first 10-15 minutes of The Daily before one of my children inevitably starts talking/yelling/crying and I pause it and forget to restart it. I make something for breakfast myself. Usually this is a green smoothie.
10:30am Kaylin calls me. We talk on the phone for 20 or so minutes while I let my children do whatever they want because talking to my best friend helps me maintain my sanity.
11am Attempt to get Ben to go outside. Fail sometimes. Sometimes we spend an hour in the backyard. The blocks, magnatiles, and train sets are all over the floor of the playroom. This seems to be entertaining them but also is giving me anxiety because whyyyy is everything on the floor. I honestly don’t know what happens between 11-12:30. I try to do an art project some days. Sometimes we go on a walk in the double stroller. Usually some books are read. Sometimes tv is watched. Sometimes we do a big outing and walk into town to the library or drive to the state park.
11:30am-12pm Coco has a bottle and then falls asleep. Could be in the stroller. Could be in her crib. If she’s in the crib, she might sleep until 1-2pm. She’s a one nap girl these days. She might sleep for 45 minutes and then wake up. If this happens she’ll need another nap around 3:30pm which she will sometimes object to and will then fall asleep at the dinner table later.
12:30pm Lunch time. We all sit down together for our meals, although for me it’s a lot of sitting down and getting up to get things for other people (“more ketchup” “i want a fork instead of a spoon” etc.). Ben loves PB&J. Coco loves peas and cheese. If she’s sleeping she’ll eat when she wakes up.
1pm Try to reduce the volume and energy level of the house in anticipation of nap time. This does not always work. Again, unclear what happens during this time. Sometimes we run outside. Sometimes there’s more TV time. Sometimes we go hang out in the basement which is a disaster of toys but the kids love it.
2pm Attempt to get Ben to nap. If it works, YAY. If it doesn’t, I spend an hour trying to get it to work (reading him 10 books in a row) before eventually getting him out of his crib. I accomplish nothing during this time. If he does sleep and Coco is awake, I hang with her and give her some personal attention. Sometimes I put my feet up and try to watch a show (this is rare). If she is sleeping and by some great miracle, they’re both asleep at the same time, then I clock in and get more work done.
4pm It is now getting dark out and if Ben’s asleep, I consider waking him up. I always wake him up by 4:30 or so or if it’s been 2.5 hours. If I don’t, bedtime will be like 9pm. At this point we’re just riding out the day until Nav gets off work and comes downstairs. We might watch more TV. We are often in the playroom doing who knows what (making a ramp out of a box, painting, reading, pouring dried pasta or rice between cups).
5pm Nav comes downstairs and I am “off” for a few. We chat about work. I choose what I’m going to make for dinner. I put the gate up so the kids can’t come in the kitchen, put headphones in, and either watch a show on the laptop balanced precariously on a bowl on my counter or I listen to a podcast or audiobook while I cook. I don’t enjoy cooking but I do enjoy being alone and the headphones help me tune out and have quiet time in the midst of a not quiet house.
6pm We all eat dinner together at the table. I don’t generally cook separate food for the kids. They get what we’re having and sometimes bonus sides, like I’ll make Coco some peas or Ben some broccoli if our veggies have too much seasoning or are spicy. We’ve done Hello Fresh recently (thanks to their black friday deal) and we all seem to really like these.
6:30pm Running in circles around the house. Every day after dinner Ben gets his last burst of energy and wants everyone to run. Nav and I take turns running in circles chasing him or being a t-rex or banging two items together like a loud parade. Once he’s fully out of energy, Ben tries to negotiate “one episode of Elmo”. He is very cute and it is very convincing. If it’s early enough and he did nap, we might say yes. If it’s later or he didn’t nap, it’s a no. This may cause a meltdown. The meltdown is the cue for immediate bedtime. We do baths every other night. Our kids both have dry skin and this seems to work to keep them from having eczema breakouts.
7pm Start bedtime. Get Coco dressed in her PJs. It’s an experience because she is a ninja at crawling away as you’re trying to zip her or change her. She’s super strong for such a teeny girl. We each decide which of us is going to put which kid down. This is usually determined by Ben’s request for one or the other.
7:30pm Make a bottle for Coco and take her upstairs to feed her and put her down. We hold Coco until she falls asleep and no, I don’t care if that’s not how you’re “supposed” to do it. The person on Ben duty gets to spend 10 minutes convincing him to go potty, puts on his PJs and then reads him 3-12 books (not an exaggeration) in his crib while he drinks milk out of a sippy cup. This is a bad habit (the sippy cup, not the books) but we let it happen. I think the theme of 2020 for our household/parenting is “we knew it wasn’t the best idea but we let it happen because there is a pandemic and we’re exhausted and this is maintaining our sanity and we’re just doing our best”.
8pm Could be spent rocking Coco in the rocker while I read my kindle and she tries to fall asleep. Could be spent laying on Ben’s floor next to him, listening to a Calm app sleep story together while he holds you hostage until he falls asleep. If Ben didn’t nap, everyone might be asleep by 7:30. We’re so bad at bedtime that it’s laughable. That said, I don’t worry too much about this because there will be a day when Coco no longer wants to be held or Ben wants me to get out of his room so these feel like the moments that I’ll long for later in life so I just try to be present. Again, these aren’t the best habits but we’re okay with that.
8:30pm How is it 8:30pm? WTF happened between 6:30 and now? Nav and I ponder this while in a daze, we each lay out what we’re doing tonight. Nav has a little more work to do. I put on workout clothes and go run on the treadmill in the basement while I watch Outlander for probably the 5th time.
9:15pm I shower and get ready for Bed.
9:30pm Time I say I’m going to get in bed.
10pm Time I actually get in bed. Read my kindle. Fall asleep.
11:30pm Nav does Coco’s night feeding (yes, still) and then gets in bed. He usually works until around this time.
At then end of the night I get to play a game called Choose Two, where I have four things that probably need to happen but there’s just no possible way to actually do them all.
- Me time
- Time with Nav
It feels like I’m constantly dropping the ball somewhere. I have no solution to this.
We do have small routines that we look forward to. Saturdays and Sundays are my sleep in days. Nav gets up with the kids and I sleep until whenever. It’s heaven. On Friday and Saturday nights we stay up later (11-12) and have “date night” and play a board game at the kitchen table. Sometimes we drink wine or Nav makes himself a cocktail. Sometimes I make us chocolate mug cookies (I tested many many recipes when I was pregnant and this is the best one). We hang out (mostly) electronics free and enjoy each others company. This has kind of made up for having exactly one date in over a year.
In summary, quarantine with small children is hard, made harder by other people obviously making the pandemic worse by doing tons of unnecessary things during a worldwide pandemic that has killed over two million people. I will stay in my home as much as possible, wear a mask (sometimes two) when I can’t, wash my hands, thank our frontline workers, and get the vaccine as soon as it’s my turn. And I’ll spend the rest of my life knowing I did the right thing. Oof, got a little preachy there at the end, didn’t I? If you feel defensive it’s probably because I was talking about you. Remember when I said I’m trying to get over caring too much what other people think of me? Yeah, that’s still a work in progress. p.s. God I look so young in that picture in that post and it makes me really miss the beforetimes.