My husband I recently went out for dinner with some friends. The common question arose, “So, how are things going?” Without skipping a beat my best friend responded, “Ohh, you know. Mother, teacher, taxi driver. The new norm.” It stopped me in my tracks. A year ago, those words would have never come out of our mouths.
We tend to associate the word occupation with a specific job that gives us a paycheck. As that is not wrong, we sometimes tend to forget that our occupation also encompasses our roles in life. Father. Mother. Sister. Grandparent. Friend. Most recently, for parents, our new occupation is teacher.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many things have changed. This is one of them. We have been literally forced into this new occupation of being a teacher. Not only are we not familiar with it, but frankly, for a lot of us, it is above our “pay grade.” I have read the concerns on social media. I work with and talk to patients daily and some of my best friends are teachers. This new occupation for parents is confusing, frustrating, and honestly, exhausting. I get it, and I feel the same way. I did not go to school to be a teacher. So now what? How am I supposed to balance my life?
Being an Occupational Therapist, I was reminded of the goals that we set for all our patients: Helping them live their life to the fullest. Our job is to return you to your job of living, your occupation! So, I put together some thoughts that I would like to share with you to help you get back to this.
- You are not alone. I dare say almost every parent of a school-aged child is struggling. What day is it? Do we send our kids to school today? Who is going to babysit my kids when school is remote for two weeks? What is my job going to say, can I take that time off? What are the phases of the moon, the parts of a cell, and who was the general of the south during the Civil War? What assignments are due and when? We are all trying to balance our new life and stay level-headed at the same time. I get it. It is a lot. But you are not alone.
- Take is easy on your kids. It is important for us to remember that if this a lot for our adult brains to take in, imagine a 10-year child trying to do it. They are not as socially or emotionally mature as we are. Try not to focus so hard on academics and consider their social-emotional wellbeing first. Remember your child’s occupational as well. To learn and to play; but learning does not just mean academically.
- Remember who you were before the pandemic. Do not lose yourself. Make a priority list. Literally. Write it down. Write down the different role/occupations you have and put them in order. Put the most important occupation on the top. For example, first you are a wife, then a mother, then a nurse, then a teacher. Whatever your order is, list it, remember it and stick to it. Do not put so much stress on yourself to be all of them at the same time.
- Don’t panic. You can only do the best you can do. Remember, some things are above our “pay grade”. I consider myself a well-educated woman. I hope you feel the same about yourself. Despite this, trying to remember how to complete higher level math equations and specific events that occurred during the Revolutionary War are well packed in the back of our brains where the cobwebs are. Reach out for help from other parents, older students, or their teachers.
- Teachers are struggling, too. We must remember that this is all new for our beloved teachers and staff as well. They ARE trained in how to teach, but they must re-invent their way of teaching, adjust their classrooms, and learn new protocols and programs, on top of trying to help us, the parents.
- Just breathe. Take a deep breath. Inhale, exhale. One day at a time, one occupation at a time, one thing at a time. You’ve got this.
I hope that this blog will help you rest assured that you are not alone. We are all struggling. Remember who you are. Grab hold of your true occupation and keep being the best “Spouse-parent-worker-teacher” you can be.
Amy Livengood, OTR/L, CEAS II