The hubby and I re-entered homeschool hell this week.
It was as exhausting as we anticipated. But thanks to experience from last Spring and to T’s organized and supportive teacher and child and youth worker, it felt less painful this time.
As any parent, special needs or not, will say: taking time to recharge is important. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
The two weeks I had taken off end of December for vacation were anything but restful after an unexpected family emergency.
Thankfully, Ma is stable and on the long road to recovery at rehab.
Nonetheless, I entered this last week of simultaneous work, homeschooling, parenting, and keeping an eye on Ma with a deficit of rest and a surplus of stress.
Everyone has different ways to manage stress.
I believe in doing what works best for you – so long as you deal with it.
My strategy is to compartmentalize – to deal with each stressor one at a time, rather than trying to deal with everything all at once.
I visualize each challenge as a box. I take one box out at a time and deal with its content and then put it away before I take the next box out.
In contrast, multi-tasking is like trying to juggle several balls or to keep multiple plates spinning on sticks. At some point, you’re gonna drop balls or plates are gonna fall and break.
When I was in the emergency ward doing the overnight shift while Ma was sleeping, I reminded myself this is a marathon and not a sprint. I have to pace myself across 2021 and leave space and time for balance and rest.
I had a total of 1 day to myself during my two-week vacation.
On that day, I put Ma in a box in my head and stored it away. I had full trust that she was in excellent care.
I tuned out and did not respond to text, email and social media.
T was at daycare and the hubby was working. So I spent that glorious morning on the couch binging a fantastic Korean series called Sweet Home. I worked out, went for a walk and took a long nap.
Similarly, for this week’s return to homeschool hell, I took a compartmentalization approach to face what felt like an overwhelming week.
I had boxes for work, homeschooling T, parenting, checking in on Ma, house work, and self care.
The hubby – who is the best tag team partner anyone can ask for – and I divided up the 5 online learning sessions.
When I was online with T, I put work out of my mind – and vice versa.
I scheduled time each day to check on Ma, reminding myself to trust the care that she’s in.
Although the hubby and I worked longer days, to compensate for homeschooling, we made time each day to have fun with T, like taking him outside or to just be silly at home.
Mind you, this all sounds neat and tidy in writing. But it was anything but orderly or chaos free.
T’s meltdowns and resistance to sitting down for virtual learning and requiring a lot of hand-holding made it a trying and tiring week.
But the week flew by thanks to us doing our best to take a one-task-at-a-time approach.
It’s important to take the time to unpack and deal with your stress.
Critics of compartmentalization will say it’s just a way of avoidance and denial.
I’m not a psychologist and can only speak from my experience.
It’s about creating space and time to take out each box in a timely manner to deal with its content.
For me, I visualize it as making sure each box in your life doesn’t gather too much dust.
It’s more challenging for me to do that these days, because time is at such a premium.
But I make time for it in a few key ways, including check-ins with our child psychologist – a wonderful service we’ve been able to tap into thanks to T’s prognosis.
Processing my thoughts through this blog is also helpful.
Taking walks, exercising and getting 8-9 hours of sleep (I do not compromise on sleep!) go such a long way for me too.
I try to take a pragmatic positive thinking approach rather than toxic positivity, which to me is genuine avoidance and denial.
Lastly, I try to be honest about the fact that my boxes only have so much space. So if I have a say in things, I refuse to put content in my boxes that I don’t have the time or need for.
At the end of the week, our province announced online learning is extended for two more weeks.
When I read the news, I thought to myself I’m going to need bigger boxes or perhaps suitcases or even shipping containers!
But I took a breath and put the next two weeks away inside a box in my head and set it aside.
Instead, on Friday night, I dropped off a care package for Ma at rehab and did groceries. This meant I had the full weekend free!
So I focused on one priority for the weekend: to spend quality family time with the hubby and T, recharging my batteries, and tuning out all noise from email, text and social media.
Saturday morning was cold but sunny.
After a video chat with Ma, T and I went for a long walk. The hills in the park had turned to ice.
T slowly crawled up on all fours. When he got to the top, he laid on his tummy and went sliding down the icy hill face first, squealing like an overjoyed little penguin.
I watched him as he did this over and over again for a half an hour. His joyful laughter was heartwarming.
In the afternoon, the hubby and T worked together to pack away Christmas stuff. I love how engaged and helpful T was. So I went for a long walk in the rejuvenating sun and then napped.
At night, I picked up Taiwanese takeout because I was craving braised soy sauce egg, mapo tofu and fried eggplant. It was so yummy!
It’s going to be another gauntlet two weeks ahead but if it’s anything the past month has taught me, just take it one step and one box at a time.