During the global pandemic, so many of us have found ourselves rooted to our homes and with our child(ren) in tow. I have been working from home for nearly four years, but having a child here day in and day out is a lot different than the seclusion I was used to.
For many of us, especially if we are working all day, the mom guilt has become overwhelming. No or limited interaction with other kids, way too much screen time, exhaustion, broken routines and disorganization, are a lot on our kids, just like they’re a lot on us.
In the beginning, we were comfortably balancing some homeschool with working. Then the house got messier, the job got more demanding, the days seemed longer, and space started closing in…on everyone.
I have found myself scheduling time in my work calendar to make sure I remember to sit down and eat lunch with my child or spend 20 minutes outside in the sunshine. I have purchased lots of games and hands-on activities to do together, but then I just get wrapped up in the day and the next thing I know, it’s time to cook dinner and take a bath.
The harsh reality is that this balancing act is hard and I am failing daily.
Every day isn’t going to go perfect and for someone like me whose whole day is off track if one piece of the routine is broken, that can be really hard. After so many days of broken routine, I tend to shut down and it’s a free for all. Then at night, when I’m alone and the last to go to sleep, I think about it all and vow I’ll be a better mom tomorrow.
So, in an effort to do better, I have introduced a very simple idea to our home. It requires little preparation and is easy to initiate. It allows flexibility so that we aren’t shutting down without routine. It sits on my desk as a visible reminder and is something my daughter or I can initiate:
Enter popsicle stick activities.
The way we use these is simple. I have ~31 popsicle sticks with various activities written on them that we both enjoy doing (and all the moms who have a hard time playing Barbie with their daughters shouted hallelujah!). Every activity is different. We pick three activity sticks throughout the day and we spend 15-20 minutes doing that activity together, as that is our typical “break” time at work — because balance. Once we have used the popsicle stick, it goes in the used jar, so we can make sure that we are doing different things throughout the week, and not the same thing over and over.
While I would love to be the mom who plays with her child for hours in the day, giving her my undivided attention, that just isn’t my reality. My daughter is okay with a good chunk of independent play and FaceTiming her friends, which allows me to focus on the job that keeps food on the table and a roof over our heads. But our popsicle sticks remind us to take a break and prioritize being together for more than meal times. It eases the mom guilt at the end of the day that I am not doing enough to stimulate her during this time.
Some of our popsicle sticks activities, including some of those hands-on activities I mentioned above (not sponsored, just some things I have found that I feel really spark creativity and keep us away from the iPad), are:
- Going for a walk with outdoor bingo (Target dollar spot!)
- Memory matching game (doesn’t everyone have at least one of these?)
- Mommy/child picks the activity
- Paint a watercolor picture
- Color a PurplePatches tablecloth
- “Keepy Uppy” (keep the balloon off the ground)
- Flash cards
- Color SunniePress map
- Start a Kiwi Crate activity
- Dry erase board pictionary
- Read together
- Freeze dance
- Sidewalk chalk
- Swing set