When the news came that they were closing the schools due to the coronavirus pandemic, I knew it was the right decision — but I was already struggling with everything on my plate. I’m a mom of three boys that works from home, and I struggle daily with a chronic illness. Throwing homeschooling into the mix felt overwhelming to put it mildly, so I made a self-care decision that has made all the difference for my mental and physical health during this time of social distancing; I decided to turn my bedroom into a kid-free sanctuary.
Kids have a special way of infiltrating every nook and cranny of a living space. I find little plastic superheroes in my shower, dinosaurs in our pantry, and have had the misfortune of stepping on misplaced Legos on far too many occasions. Mostly, this doesn’t bother me. I resigned myself to the fact that our house is a kid’s house a long time ago, but with all of us in isolation, I began to feel claustrophobic. I knew that if I was going to make it through this, I needed to have one space in our home that was not cluttered with kid paraphernalia. One place where I could take a bath, read, exercise, or write, and have a few moments for myself so I could be there for my family the way that I wanted to be.
I started by doing a deep clean of the master bedroom and bathroom. I removed any loose toys and bought some calming candles and bath items. Clutter makes me feel anxious, and I was already experiencing a lot of anxiety due to the fact that I have been on immunosuppressants in the past and am therefore more vulnerable to this virus. Immediately, I felt better and more in control (which is important during a time of great uncertainty).
The real trick, of course, has been finding time for self-care without being constantly interrupted by my three sons. My kids are getting older, however, and at 12, 9, and 5, they are beginning to understand that when mom shuts her door, she needs a minute. Most of my self-care takes place when my husband gets homes from work (he is an essential worker) or after they go to bed, but there are times during a chaotic day of trying to homeschool, work, make meals, and keep the house from going into complete disarray where I sneak off to my room to take some deep breaths or even cry. I know that I am privileged to have a home to isolate in, and that my husband and I are still able to work, but it’s still challenging (as it is for everyone), and having a quiet, peaceful place to go has been critical for my sanity.
It’s also taught me to extend this grace to my children as well. Sometimes, they need some space, too. I do what I can to give them a quiet place to concentrate on their schoolwork (or other projects) and not be interrupted by their siblings. My middle child has discovered that he quite likes the fact that he can do his homework while lying on top of his bed, and my oldest son likes to stay up late reading to get some peace. We make an effort to eat meals together and go for a walk at least once a day, but it’s healthy to have some time for ourselves as well.
This extra time spent with my kids during social distancing has been both rewarding and taxing. Turning my room into a sanctuary has helped me to manage my anxiety and be there for my children as we all navigate these unfamiliar waters and look forward to the future.