I'm driven by routines and structure to maximize my days. When I took the Clifton Strengths Finder assessment years ago, my top strength was "discipline," which describes people whose worlds are defined by the order they create. Spot on, Mr. Clifton. That mean when my family's schedules were thrown into upheaval during quarantine, I immediately got to work organizing my daughters' maze of online school schedules and modifying my own schedule to keep as much order as possible in our lives. While it's certainly taken some adjusting (and a hefty spreadsheet to keep track of all the Zoom calls), I'm happy to report our family is still growing and thriving. Now nine weeks into quarantine, here are five vital lessons I've learned:
1. Use Pockets Of Consistency To Maintain Stability And Sanity
Human beings need the security of consistency in life to grow, explore, and find their place in the world. In his book Simplicity Parenting, author Kim John Payne explains that "Children depend on the rhythmic structure of the day — on its predictability, its regularity, its pulse" to not only "find security in the patterns of daily life," but to also "find themselves." He goes on to say that it's in the day's most regular rhythms, from meals and school times to bath times and bedtimes, that "young children begin to see their place in the comings and goings, in the great song of family."
Human beings need the security of consistency in life to grow, explore, and find their place in the world.
As a foster parent for over a decade, I've seen first hand how pockets of consistency during periods of dramatic shifts in a child's life can work wonders to bring emotional calm and security. What was the number one thing foster children said they would miss most when it was time to leave our home? The holiday traditions, the dinner time meals, the bedtime stories — in essence, the safety and security in structure. Consciously maintaining areas of structure in our children's schedules has helped them better navigate the emotional stress of this quarantine, and the same applies to us as adults. I've found that keeping to my morning and work routines as best as I can has helped me feel like I'm moving forward each day in the areas I can control, despite the setbacks I can't control.
2. Give Yourself Grace
Before I've stoked the stability train too far, I think it's important to give ourselves grace. Pre-COVID-19, I relentlessly followed my morning and afternoon routines that tied closely to school drop off and pick up times. Much of my personal fulfillment each day was determined by my productivity within those routines. With schedules quite literally thrown out the window, I've recognized that I also need to allow myself the grace to go more with the flow. Rather than focusing on maximized work hours and a perfect exercise schedule, I've accepted the opportunity I now have to catch up on photo books and gardening, and also connect more with family. In many ways, this home-bound time has helped me feel more balanced, and the time I now have to rejuvenate outdoors has given me the freedom of spontaneity that has helped get more of my creative juices flowing.
3. Split Up Family Responsibilities
Because our business has been deemed an essential category during this quarantine, we've been fortunate to keep our in-office preschool available on a limited basis for our youngest two daughters along with one other toddler whose father manages our shipping department. With five daughters home from school and a growing business to maintain, my husband and I decided to split up childcare responsibilities throughout the week so that one parent takes the younger girls to our office preschool and is able to have focused work time while the other stays home with the older three. Sharing both the work and childcare load between parents has been instrumental in both our career and personal success, and honestly this more equitable approach within family units is my greatest hope for the working parents of our world.
Before I've stoked the stability train too far, I think it's important to give ourselves grace.
How are the kids helping? I'm so glad you asked! When you have a household of seven sharing the same kitchen, the dishes and cleanup never seem to end. For me, technology came to the rescue. After a lot of research, I found an app called Chore Pad to split up house chores and motivate my girls to follow through on daily learning activities. In just a few hours of time, I set up each child's school and house responsibilities they earn points for each day, along with optional chores they can do to earn extra points. Once they've completed their daily list, they can turn in points for oh-so-popular screen time, or fun payouts like bike rides, family board games, or ordering take out to support our favorite restaurants. That means that when I'm collaborating on a work project with my team, my girls no longer need to ask permission to do whatever they'd like to do. If they completed their chores, they've earned the freedom of autonomy that I can simply monitor on my phone through the app. Hallelujah! Yes, it feels that good.
4. Find The Silver Lining
As an entrepreneur, you learn early on to become tolerant of risk and uncertainty. Economic downturns, product recalls, staff changes, production setbacks — it's all just part of the job. I've found that dealing with uncertainty on a regular basis has conditioned me to find the silver lining and opportunity in every situation, which extends to my personal life as well. For example, at the cusp of the stay-at-home order here in Idaho, I thought, "How can I make the most of this unprecedented upheaval in our schedules?" Never before had my family experienced a time when everything — from expos and pitches to piano and dance recitals — were put on hold. What could we do to maximize that new free time? So I called up my sister who lives in a neighboring state and invited her and her family to quarantine with us. Her four young children combined with my five daughters under one roof translated to nearly four weeks of absolute chaos, but beautiful chaos. The late-night conversations, living room dance parties, new recipe experiments, and family time spent in the great Idaho outdoors created memories we'll cherish for a lifetime.
5. Do Something For You
Early into the quarantine, I wrote out a list of all those back-burner adventures I've been wanting to do close to home, and made a plan to make them happen!
In many ways, this home-bound time has helped me feel more balanced, and the time I now have to rejuvenate outdoors has given me freedom of spontaneity that has helped get more of my creative juices flowing.
For years, my husband and I have wanted to discover a secluded waterfall only 20 minutes away from our home but never seemed to find the time to get to. Finally in April, we celebrated our 17-year anniversary by hiking the 9 miles over the Boise foothills to find the waterfall, and it may have been our best anniversary yet. We only have one short life to live. Carpe diem!
ADDITIONAL Q&A FROM CHERIE:
What's the hardest part of quarantine?
Bedtime! It stays light until 9:30 PM here in Idaho this time of year, so getting kids to bed at a reasonable hour is so hard when it's so bright and inviting outside! The kids are jumping on the trampoline until 10 PM!
How has this quarantine affected your relationship with your daughters?
Much more time with them which has led to outside campouts and teaching them backflips on the trampoline
When is bedtime?
My bedtime has stayed consistently at 11 PM now that school hours are not quite so early.
What do you do for you?
More time to cook, dance, and read!
WRITTEN BYCherie Hoeger