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Parenting Through the Pandemic – Our Personal Rumble with Vulnerability

A little-known fact for most not within my family circle, I am quite the history nerd. I find history almost as fascinating as I do people. In fact, for me, history is often where I believe people often demonstrate their true selves – in hindsight that’s much easier to assess of course.

When history writes of this time, I’m hard pressed to decide if the pandemic which I’m speaking of now will be considered the COVID-19 pandemic, racism (institutional, structural and systemic) or the vacuum of leadership we’ve seen from local, state and national leaders. The cynic in me believes this current crisis is one of many; the optimist hopes that it is not.

One of the things I also am is a parent. Let me perfectly clear – NOT a parenting expert, whatever that is. “Just” a parent trying to co-parent and raise two of my own children and support my partner in co-parenting his own two. Our family circus currently ranges in ages from 6 to 18, three boys and one girl. There are no rule books for any of the monkeys in our circus and they all are very different individuals.

For us, much of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic began the week of spring break. Trips were cancelled and what was originally thought to be a return to the classroom became e-learning or homeschooling, or perhaps more accurately crisis learning from home while e-learning. Those last 3 months of school were HARD. We had 2 working parents leading virtual meetings and trainings, 4 kids at varying schedules with varying levels of workloads and 3 animals which often made cameo appearances during all of it. Add to it the difficulty of split custody with other parents, complicated is putting it mildly.

We’ve just made the difficult decision as a family to choose e-learning – Option B as our school district is calling it – for the foreseeable future of the upcoming school year for our littles. This was not something we chose lightly, nor is it something that every parent can afford or choose to do – and it will undoubtedly be challenging. But with numbers in Florida testing positive increasing each day, we didn’t feel comfortable having our small children attend in-person given the unknowns.

The more I text/DM/Zoom with my friends & colleagues who are parenting through all of this, the more I’m finding we are all knee-deep in what Dr. Brené Brown calls the Rumble. None of us knows for certain that we’re making the right decision, and all of us are all trying to do the best we possibly can given what we know right now. Which seems to change daily.

Below is a list of compiled tips of support the Connect For More team has been offering one another over the past few months (and I imagine) we’ll be providing one another as we all grapple with the next right decision. Though none of us are experts many of us are parents or caregivers… all of us humans, in this together come what may. We collectively hope these encouragements will help you and your circle as we all continue forward into this year.

Practice Non-Judgement

On a good day, it’s easy for many parents to judge others for their parenting decisions about all sorts of things (tech use, sports teams, TV shows, make-up, etc.). It’s also even easier in challenging times to move more quickly to judgment as a way of deflecting that we’re all just making it up as we go along ourselves. The decisions we’re all making about masks, schooling, and distancing are beyond personal – and they’re tough decisions that can make us call into question our own abilities as a parent.

When do you most find yourself slipping into judgement of others? What can you focus on instead to help you stay grounded in the confidence of your own parenting ability? When you slip into judgement, what can you focus on instead to bring you back to your practice? Who do you have that can serve as a sounding board for your fears & foibles as a parent?

Set & stick with your boundaries… but be flexible

In short, identifying your boundaries is essentially about determining “what IS okay and what is NOT okay.” Personally, I have had to define and redefine my boundaries quite a bit this year. Boundaries for my kids including tech and TV time, my own access to news and social media, for our friends & family about seeing one another in-person or virtually. This is ever-evolving for our families as it is with many and it will continue to change as the year goes on.

What are 2-3 boundaries for you, your family and your work that you’ve established during this time? Which of these might you keep post-pandemic? What process do you use to establish boundaries that work for your family and your work life?

Model vulnerability

Vulnerability is my least favorite thing in the world. It’s the 4-letter word to my “I’ve got this” mentality. BUT it’s become a necessity with my children, family, colleagues, friends and at times, with clients. At times of crises I’ve learned I’m better off sharing that I am struggling too, that I don’t have this all figured out and asking for help. Not because I’m seeking sympathy but because the appearance that someone else has it all figured out creates loneliness and disconnection.

Complete this sentence… for me, vulnerability is _______. What beliefs, feelings or experiences contributed to this definition for you? How might your own opinion of vulnerability impact your family, your work, and your life?

Put your d**n mask on

Self-care matters. Self-care matters a LOT. Self-care is NOT a luxury in times like these – especially if you’re a parent, an educator or a nonprofit business leader. I’ve spoken before of the air mask theory – the principle that you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Many of us live in the mode of martyritis – a concept first introduced by Kishana Palmer, keynote & fundraising extraordinaire. Unfortunately, we often don’t realize we’re dying by it too, burning out one long day after another.

What are the activities that bring you the most joy? How can you incorporate these into your daily or weekly routine? Who might you have in your life that can serve as an accountability partner to help keep you focused on taking care of yourself and your own needs in addition to others?  

Grace. Empathy. Levity. REPEAT

My favorite things seen in any time of crises – especially this one – is this trifecta. The concept of grace in action for me has been the forgiveness of one another for the humanity that is on display in full force. For missing deadlines, being frustrated with kids, forgetting the details. Empathy, for me, is the avoidance of getting into comparative suffering, (i.e. my struggle is worse than yours) and holding space for others to struggle, even when it makes you uncomfortable. But, levity – that’s my lifeline. I affectionately refer to myself as the Chandler of many of my tribes, trying to crack jokes and lighten the mood when things get tough or uncomfortable. Whether or not that’s an acquired taste, coping mechanism or useful work skill (jury’s still out!), I find that laughter – even a fake smile can lighten our day and be the “snap out of it” we need to focus on something other than the rabbit hole of our worries.

In what ways can you offer more grace to your co-workers, community and family? How do you “lean in” to empathy and show up to hold space for others? What moments of joy or laughter can you bring into your work and family life?

On behalf of all of us at Connect For More, we hope that these words will bring encouragement when you need it. Stay healthy, stay safe, and let’s stay connected!

Looking for resources on parenting throughout the pandemic?

Check out our Connect For More social media channels under #ParentingResources or visit other sites we love: Parenting with Love & Logic & Positive Parenting. Both feature Facebook groups for sharing resources & asking questions. 

How can you put lessons & practices you’re learning during this time of crises into future practice? What would you like to start/stop/keep doing? Are you interested in creating your own self-care plan and practices?

If you’re not sure where to start or want an accountability partner, we’d love to help! Contact Liz’s accountability partner at laura@connectformore.com to set up a FREE 30-minute consultation.

Interested in learning more about the work of Brene Brown?

Join me for our upcoming virtual workshop series based on her inspiring book on courageous leadership, Dare to Lead™ For more information, contact us at info@connectformore.com.

Liz Wooten-Reschke

About the Author: Liz Wooten-Reschke is President/CEO of Connect For More. CFM engages leaders and empowers philanthropists to help them accomplish their mission. As the lead consultant Liz focuses her efforts on providing ongoing support & coaching for chief executives and volunteers of nonprofits, workshop & retreat facilitation, and customized engagements to enhance board governance, agency strategy and leadership experience with her clients. Liz is a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator and BoardSource Certified Governance Trainer. She is a proud member of the University of South Florida Alumni Association Board, a fourth generation Floridian and Key West Conch. She lives in Tampa, Florida, with her partner, four children, two dogs, and one cat. For more information about Liz or her work, please visit her company website, follow her on Twitter, or visit her Amazon author page.

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