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The Solid Ground You Need

Simplifying family life in uncertain times helps provide solid ground to stand on

Lonely tree in a field
Photography by Joshua Gimben

We’ve never been here before. All across the world, humanity is wobbling, unsure of itself, and grappling for some solid ground to stand on.

Some of us have never faced such uncertainty before, and the accompanying anxiety is new. What you need, what ​we​, a collective humanity need, is some solid ground to rest on.

When New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, announced that our country would be going into an unprecedented ‘lockdown’ for a minimum of four weeks, I spiraled into an acute anxiety attack that lasted 48 hours.

The solid ground I’d been standing on was crumbling beneath me. Schools were shutting. Shops would shut, playgrounds would be off-limits and our financial future was uncertain.

No more visits to my local coffee haunt. No more boot camp classes. And no more babysitters. The routine’s that I had built and clung to were about to be dismantled

After a couple of days, I managed to clamber up onto some solid ground. I found the relief and safety of simplification. Simplifying everything, even further than I already had, is what I need in times of great uncertainty.

Simpler Still

As an adult, you and I likely make, on average, 35,000 decisions every day. And yes, it’s as exhausting as it sounds. More than exhausting though, decision making can be an anxious task that leaves some of us paralysed.

I watched that paralysis play out in excruciating slow motion this week, as I waited in line at our local supermarket. A customer’s trolley, full to the brim of unpacked groceries, tipped over in front of our silent line.

A good 5–6 seconds passed, none of us moving. Should we help her? Are we putting ourselves more at risk? It was incredibly uncomfortable, but in the end several of us broke the government imposed social distancing rules to pick up the food and put it in back in her cart.

We are collectively exhausted by the fear, anxiety and grief we are facing. Even small decisions require more effort that usual.

In that very bizarre moment, I realised that the more I can simplify my life during this time, the better I will be able to cope with this shakey ground. And make timely decisions about things that matter.

A Simpler Routine

All across the world, families and individuals are making new routines to try and create some structure and semblance of normality to their days.

And there is no shortage of examples of ‘daily routines’. Many people are sharing online what their lives look like. After seeing a couple of these posts I decided I wouldn’t be sharing ours.

I don’t want anyone comparing their routine to mine and feeling like they are failing. The last thing anyone needs right now is to feel like they need to keep up with the pandemic Jones’s.

So, instead of sharing my routine, I’ll share four key things we aim to include in each day during this time.

Humor

Whatever happens during our day, keeping up our sense of humor is vital. There are no shortage of hilarious pandemic memes circulating the internet, but humor that has nothing to do with the current situation is good too (queue Tiger King).

I’m encouraging laughter with my kids. I want them to be silly right now. To spread chocolate cupcake batter all over their cheeks and tip buckets of warm water over their heads. Why? Why not? Life just feels better when you laugh.

Learning

My kids don’t need me to homeschool them during this time. What they do need is for me to provide space for them to learn. How and what they learn is entirely up to us.

Curious about how mummies became mummies in Egypt? Cool, we’ll watch an age appropriate documentary. They’ll get their maths lessons from helping me cook. And they can practice writing by sending cards to their friends who they can’t see right now.

Our country moved our national school holiday’s forward so their teachers aren’t sending any school work right now. And when they do, we might do a little a day. Or we might not. If it’s sunny outside, and my kids are willing, we’ll let nature teach us instead of sitting in front of a screen.

Nature

Spending time outdoors is crucial for us right now. Nature is unwavering. Always there, always available for us. It provides some certainty in a time of uncertainty. It does what it’s always done. I find this incredibly comforting.

So we walk, bike, and explore our yard. We miss venturing further afield, but perhaps we’ll feel more grateful for those opportunities when this is all over.

Flexibility

I can’t stress this one enough. Although my kids and I thrive better with some sort of routine or structure, this is NOT the time to stress when routines aren’t adhered to.

As a highly sensitive person, I struggle greatly with changes to the normal, but I know that everything is changing at the moment. Change is our new normal.

So I try and go with the flow. We try to adapt our plans according to the vibes and mood in the household.
Each day brings new challenges, but if we try and incorporate a little of each of these things everyday it helps.

It gives us a little island of solid ground to rest on.

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