Photo: iStock

When this quarantine began, my family had absolutely no clue how upside-down our world was about to become. Nearly everything we used to fill our days with was off-limits or heavily discouraged and we quickly found ourselves scrambling to find things to keep us busy. I have always heard that creating and sticking to a routine is a great way to organize parenthood and the day to day goings-on. Unfortunately for me, the only lists I really like to organize are our grocery lists!

Nonetheless, I took to Pinterest to find clever ideas on how to break up the day and steer clear of the monotony that I was sure would come quickly. We ended up doing more of a loose routine-esque st‌yle thing instead of something more along the lines of a grid pinned up in the living room as a guide but here are some of the things we found that work for us.

1. No one sleeps in crazy late. Occasionally we let the kiddos stay up a bit late and have movie marathons and things like that. However, my husband and I decided to keep the structure of a relatively normal (for us) bedtime around 9 p.m. In doing so, we maintain the normalcy that doesn’t make you unsure what day it is or when you last showered.

2. Get dressed in daytime clothes every day. A few years ago, I struggled with motivation to do much most days and just dragged my feet in general. I found an article that said something along the lines of ‘if you get up and get yourself cleaned up and dressed, you are more likely to feel the motivation to actually do things and have a productive day.’ So, I tried it (begrudgingly at first…) Once I actually opened my mind to it, guess what happened! It worked! I figured if it worked for me, it could also help the kids. Every day since school shut down jammies are shed directly after breakfast and we power on into the day in our ‘daytime clothes.’

3. Mandatory outside time. This has helped us break up all the screen time they usually insist on. I’m not joking about the mandatory, and yes that word is exactly what I mean. My kids always find something to complain about or bring up as an attempt to skirt this one because they think it will land them with more time for video games or tv shows. Just yesterday, my 13-year-old whined and moaned the whole way out the door and then ended up getting tattled on for speaking in some highly disrespectful ways about our parenting once they got to the park nearby. I was actually surprised that I wasn’t more cross with him for acting so rudely. Instead, it made me laugh. I told him it was really silly that he was so mad about fresh air and a playground. The faces I made to poke fun at the lot of them didn’t succeed in making him any less irritated, though. So, that was a bummer. At least I think I’m funny.

4. We try to make every Friday something to look forward to. Recently, my husband moved to shift work at his job so we cycle back and forth between night shifts and day shifts. Before that, though, every Friday through Sunday was ours. We developed a tradition which made every Friday a movie night complete with pizza eaten in the living room, in front of the tv, of course, always accompanied by a little soda. (Only a little because let’s not make Mom too frazzled with all the hyper that comes after, ya know?) They brainstorm all day Friday on what movie they will choose this time and who sits where at the coffee table. That bit makes me giggle. Each seating option is quite literally three inches from the one next to it and all the same distance from the screen so… it’s pretty much sixes either way. The movie nights always stretch to after normal bedtime and my husband and I stay upstairs to allow them to crank the volume and provide intense commentary throughout. This particular part of the routine keeps the kids mentality leaning more towards feeling normal and excited instead of overwhelmed with cabin fever and confusion on why they can’t do all the normal things. It also keeps my morale up because uninterrupted Netflix time that isn’t filled with cartoons and kid shows is a win for me! Yay!

5. Encouraged understanding of what everyone is going through together. The last big point I want to share is something I didn’t think of myself but absolutely recommend so highly that I can’t even begin to convey its importance. Considering that our kids span from fairly young to definitely young, their comprehension as far as this virus and how the world is affected is pretty narrow. I have talked to them a bit about my understanding of it, but what really sealed the deal with helping them understand it for themselves was making them each a COVID time capsule. We included stuff like what your daily life is like during the quarantine, what are you most excited to be able to finally do once it is over, and all your general details of the moment like favorite activities or movies. I encouraged them to (under my helicopter mom supervision) to use the internet to learn more about how it has changed things beyond our little corner of the world. They learned a lot and felt empowered to grasp the facts for themselves.

Ultimately, my goal of sharing these ideas is to see all of us come out the other side of this as balanced and held together as possible. They say it takes a village to make it through raising tiny humans and right now, with all this chaos swirling around everything, I couldn’t agree more. We are all living a part of history. Someday we will look back and I, for one, hope to remember these good bits more than anything else.