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During the pandemic, we’ve been socially isolated and distant from so many things that bring us comfort, especially friends and family. It’s been hard on my family to spend birthdays and holidays without the people we love, it’s been draining on my husband and I to not have regular babysitters—which I know we are incredibly fortunate to have in the first place—but when your mental health grows dependent on the involvement of your mom and mother-in-law, it’s really taxing to lose it all suddenly.
We dealt with some hard times, but there were also some amazing opportunities for my husband and I to grow as people, as partners, as parents. Being home with our family, taking time to refocus on exactly what matters to us with very little outside influence, helped us reestablish our priorities so we can grow out of this place into better people.
I am so excited to see this light at the end of the tunnel. I know we’re not out of the woods yet, but there is hope and it’s time to start thinking about the other side of this.
In our family, we don’t want to lose the connection we made or the boundaries we established while we were in social isolation. There were some really helpful and healthy changes in our family and we want to keep them.
Because restaurants closed and I was unsure of how much we could trust interactions, I stopped take out. For us, eating out was a weekly—if not multiple times weekly—thing to do. Lunches, dinners, snacks, if we were out of the house we’d make a purchase.
Now that I’m used to planning snacks, making lunches at home, and going without restaurant-prepared food for an extended period of time, I won’t go back. I will be bringing this new habit into our post-pandemic life.
Mindful Family Time
I have three kids under five years old. Entertaining them is a 24/7 job and pre-pandemic I had a whole village of people participating. With just my husband and myself to give energy to the kids, we had to really level with them about when we could give them attention and when we needed to take time for ourselves.
Family time became more intentional. We do things like go outside and play a game rather than just let the kids run. When we watch movies, we make it a whole movie night with snacks and pillow forts, and lots of blankets. If we’re doing projects, the whole family gets involved with painting or building or whatever it is.
But when it’s quiet time, it’s quiet time. Everyone chooses a quiet activity and we do not interrupt people who are taking their quiet time. My oldest daughter has come to use this quiet time really well. She knows when she’s getting too riled up and she’ll say, “Maybe I should take this toy over to quiet time.” I love that she knows how important it is to step back and recenter, something I don’t think I would have taught her intentionally if I could have redirected her attention elsewhere.
Disconnect from Tech
Of course while isolated, I was constantly doom-scrolling and it made life feel hopeless. Reading bad things all the time makes it feel like there are only bad things happening. It makes the world feel like a really scary place. I started getting stuck in this bubble of confirmation bias where the negativity in my life cultivated more negativity in my media feeds, creating a vicious cycle.
In June of 2020, I quit Facebook. I could not handle being overwhelmed with emotion constantly so I needed to be intentional about all the ways I interacted with media. The algorithms look to respond to your state of mind, what you’re thinking about, what you talk about, and search for. It makes it impossible to develop a different train of thought because you believe all that exists is what you think and what is confirmed through your digital interactions.
My anxiety dropped by 90% after leaving Facebook. I still use some social media but I’m being more intentional about my digital interactions and daily thoughts so that my smart feeds dont overwhelm me with my own bad times.
Communicating My Needs
I’ve also learned to communicate what it is I need better because there aren’t enough people for me to spread my concerns around. Prior to the pandemic, I had my mom, my MIL, my sister, and friends. I could hide my discomfort for frustrations from my husband and unload them in a vent.
During the pandemic, this changed. I needed to communicate better with my husband because he was the only person available to physically be there for me. Discussions are great, a listening ear is great. But when you’re a parent, you need physical support too. I was not being up front about all the things I was dealing with after having a baby, I was trying to act fine. I wanted to believe I was thriving. But I really needed to unload to my husband about my post-birth body, my birth control issues, and how my hormones were all over the place. I needed his physical support so he would know, she’s nauseous or tired today I am going to jump in and do extra. My husband does so much already so asking him for more felt like too much.
Without the support of my village, I had no option but to be honest.
Now that I know what I need and how to communicate it in a way that feels open and honest (we’re reading Non-Violent Communication and WOW) I can do that with everyone in my life. I can say when I’m not up for a lunch because I’m drained, or I can’t do the phone call right now because I’m having anxiety. It’s important to be up front about what you’re feeling and what you need. This helps people consent to care.
During the Pandemic We…
Another great thing that happened is that I realized I could use this as a way to explain to people how my boundaries have shifted.
During the pandemic, we started having a family weekend. Now when we’re asked to commit to things every weekend, I am going to say, “During the pandemic, we started doing a family weekend and it’s become really important to us.” I can blame that time and people get it.
During the pandemic, we stopped having phone calls after 8 pm. So if grandparents want to call, they have to make time before then. Bedtime is important and it’s something we’re going to stick to.
What did your family start doing during the pandemic that you want to keep?