Lesson No. 1: Stop apologizing for your kids during Zoom calls.
Parents across the country have learned a lot about living and working at home all the time during the pandemic. According to California Association of Realtors WomanUP! panelists and mothers Katie Lance, Sara Sutachan, Chelsea Peitz and Mimi Nartey, one of the biggest takeaways has been to stop apologizing for your kids just trying to be kids.
“This was an ‘aha’ moment day,” Sutachan said. “They’re just doing their thing. And by the way, what message does that send my child when I tell people I’m sorry for them? That’s what they’re supposed to be doing — they’re kids!”
Sutachan, who is vice president for the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.), moderated the panel discussion between these women titled, “Parenting During a Pandemic,” at C.A.R.’s WomanUP! virtual event on Thursday.
Despite being smart, successful businesswomen who often have to juggle multiple roles, the speakers owned up to the common experience of being completely upended by the pandemic.
“I think it’s funny because we all think in our minds we have it all together. We can make it through anything,” said Peitz, the national director of social sales for Fidelity National Financial. “And we can — but it was really different when [we were] going through it … I was yelling all the time at my son because I was uncertain. I was scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Peitz said it got to the point where her 7-year-old son even posited to her the possibility that their family might have the virus, but that instead of making them sick, it was causing them to fight with each other more often.
Eventually, Peitz recognized that she needed to call on someone for outside help.
“One of the best things I did during these last five months is I went to a therapist because I realized I was beginning to unravel,” she said.
Nartey, a stay-at-home mom and entrepreneur, hoped that being confronted with the reality of just how many roles women take on in daily life would make the world understand how challenging it can be to be a woman.
“We are in a circumstance where everybody is forced to accept and understand the multiple roles that we’re in right now, and I’m wondering if there’s a way we can push and lean into it and extend it,” Nartey said. “I want to actually lean into this moment and exploit it and push it further as a society.”
Learning to embrace saying “no” has also been a key takeaway from the pandemic.
“It’s OK to not be available just because we’re working at home,” said Lance, owner of Katie Lance Consulting. “I can really relate to everyone just feeling all the feels when it comes to managing your kids.”
Sutachan noted how her working hours gradually started extending after stay-at-home orders went into place, until one day she realized that she had been working upward of 10 hours without any breaks.
“And there was no commute, no transition,” Sutachan added.
Eventually, she implemented a policy of saying no to meetings before 9 a.m., and reserved that time for being with her kids or exercising.
“It is something that is nonnegotiable, and I have had to be creative and adamant about taking that time for myself,” Nartey added. “You have to be more creative, insistent and made bigger compromises to take care of yourself.”
All of the speakers agreed that having designated spaces for everyone to do their school work or business work made a huge difference in terms of productivity, keeping the peace and compartmentalizing work and home life.
To break up the monotony and keep happiness in their daily routines, Lance, Peintz and Nartey have found different ways of connecting with their kids, like playing video games or reading together.
“I am a Just Dance queen, so we have really lit up our Just Dance on the [Nintendo] Wii as a family, that’s been fun, which has been great because it’s helped us move,” Nartey said.
When the going gets tough, as it has over the past few months, Lance reminded everyone the importance of not becoming too self-critical.
“One thing that’s helped us is letting go of some of the ‘rules’ we’ve had,” Lance said. “I don’t know if I’ve given up, but let go of some of that a little bit … and not be so hard on ourselves.”
“We all kind of need our ‘vegging out’ time, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”