One mental hurdle I have been working on over the last week, while solo parenting in quarantine (Mr. Magpie is fully isolated from us, while our children and have tested negative twice and are quarantining separately), is accommodating interruptions and things-half-done. I noticed that the first day or two that I was frequently driven to the point of utter frustration (and at one point snuck into the bathroom to shed a private tear) when I was attempting to clear the breakfast plates, unload the dishwasher, fold the laundry, prepare a meal, etc, because there were two pairs of hands tugging at my skirt hem begging for this, that, and the other thing, and I just wanted to finish a three minute chore. This is not a new sensation as a parent, but the frequency and intensity of their whining the seeming minute I would start on a task, and the fact that Mr. Magpie was not around to intervene or redirect, unnerved me. When I reflected on myself as a mother after bedtime on night two, I realized that they need more of me right now not only because we are missing our Main Man but because the world has changed–seemingly overnight–and there are new rules to observe, and new routines to follow, and little to no interaction with anyone else. My son asks after our nanny frequently, and mini asks multiple times a day whether she has school tomorrow and where Daddy is (even though she knows — it’s nearly automatic, I think, her little brain spiraling around this strange new reality and seemingly needing the verbal reassurance from yours truly), and why we mustn’t run anywhere close to neighbors when playing in the front yard. “YOU CAN’T COME CLOSE TO US!” mini yelled, pulling on her mask, when a neighbor walked to her car about seventy five feet away from us. And so I determined I was not satisfied with myself in those moments where I was trying to maintain some level of household normalcy in the face of needy little palms, and that I would need to make some concessions. I am normally a do-things-to-completion kind of gal, but I immediately thought of the advice of two girlfriends who had texted me variations on the theme: “Set expectations low and give yourself some grace.” When they’d texted me, I’d appreciated the sentiment but wasn’t sure how I would implement the advice. What did it mean to “set expectations low” while caring for two children indoors on my own? Fewer baths? PJs all day? No Pinterest projects? But it came to me then: one small, tangible way to apply their counsel was to let go of my need to get everything done when I wanted it to be done. To resist my preference for order and routine. That has meant leaving a pile of plates in the sink until a convenient time rather than immediately after breakfast concludes, as I normally do. Having dinner thirty minutes later than normal because everything takes much longer when I am pausing dinner preparations to referee fights, remove blocks micro is throwing at the window, find mini’s beloved Foxy, pour a cup of water, pull out a new activity to occupy the children until dinner is served, etc. That has meant sometimes I fold half of the laundry in the morning and finish it in the afternoon. Sometimes craft materials have been strewn about the coffee table for a good hour after we’ve finished working on it. I still find myself glancing over and grimacing as my kitchen slowly disappears beneath piles of clutter, dirty plates, craft projects, micro’s socks, mini’s hair bow, snack wrappers, etc, but then I remind myself “Lower expectations and move with grace.” And I know that I will get to it when I get to it. And so what normally happens in tidy swoops of effort now transpires in splintering little micro-sessions. Hair bow and toothbrushes put away, and then — someone needs a bandaid. Half of dishwasher emptied and then — I need to pause and set up a new activity. And that’s OK.
I am going to try to exercise this mentality more often in the future. It takes work for me to clip into and stick with, as I must be mindful about batting away the urge to tackle all the chores at once, but it yields a much calmer, more graceful version of myself.
Sharing out in case anyone needs a mnemonic for lowering the intensity at the moment…
+More musings on handling interruptions.
+On creating a buffer between work Jen and mom Jen.
+On remaining present.
+Quiet thoughts on parenting.
+Practical thoughts on welcoming a second child.
+Because I am always aware that there are many moms out there that need to hear it: weaning is really, really hard. Go easy on yourself.
+More on lowering expectations.
+This sculpted sweater reminds me of something by Khaite! Love that it comes in two metallic hues — perfect low-key holiday piece.
+Kind of loving the idea of layering a black tissue turtleneck beneath this knit mini.
+A grab bag of (non-personalized, multi-occasion) gift tags to have on hand.
+Love the “gauge” of this inexpensive chunky knit — comes in multiple chic colors, too.
+These taper candle holders remind me SO MUCH of the ones I have from CB2 that I alternate with my mercury glass ones.
+Ayr is offering 30% off some of their items, including their much-loved French Fry striped shirt in a great blue color. I wish I’d tried these jeans on previously because they look FAB in color and cut and are also included in the sale!
+Found this chic feathered top on sale for 25% off! Sooo good!
+Perfect glider for a nursery.
+This is one of my son’s favorite books at the moment. It’s enormous — probably two inches thick — but there are elements/cut-outs to feel and the illustrations and colors are so engaging. I was just thinking last night this would be a fun gift that feels super substantial for the price.
+Cute initial hat for a little.
+These trousers are so fun. Imagining myself on a winter getaway somewhere tropical wearing these while sipping a cocktail within earshot of the waves…
+Just discovered a new children’s brand that has loads of cute everyday outfits for little ones — I love sending mini to school in little pima peter pan collar dresses like this. The shop also has some really good basics, like a plain white peter pan collar top appropriate for a boy or girl where the collar isn’t garishly oversized — shockingly difficult to find!
+I can’t speak to the quality (yet) of that brand, but I did buy a couple of these similar cotton sets for mini from Lila and Hayes and have to say I enjoy the ease of getting her dressed in them.
+Dreamy shearling vest.
+I know I’ve shared these before, but I simply love these scalloped woven chairs!
+This is a print/replica, but love the way it’s framed — would love to buy a few of these for a wall in a little boy’s room! Get the vintage/antique vibe without worrying about it being drawn on by a little hand with a mischievous marker.
+You all have been loving this Stoney Clover-inspired sherpa pouch.
+This popular pajama style was just restocked. Perfect for nursing!
+Oh my goodness — these mini trunk bags (also come in black and a fab avocado color) are so chic! These remind me of Mark Cross!
+A versatile basic black sweater with a twist.
+30% off this cute Marmot puffer for kids!
+OK, mini would flip over these personalized sunglasses.
+Embroidered personalized sweatshirt.
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10 thoughts on “A Small Relinquishing.”
God bless you! (And all the single parents).
Life can be so hard, yet somehow we find that inner strength to percervier! Where that comes from i do not know, but I can share that when my life becomes just TOO MUCH, I pray!
Just MY two cents!
Take it one minute at a time.
Thank you!! Yes, we will make it!!
You are so gentle and kind to yourself (and your children) as you take time to reflect on yourself as a mother and how you’re navigating this hard time. I always love your reflections and hope that the calm, gentle voice I hear as I read is what you experience in yourself in these day to day moments.
I often wrestle with self-inflicted pressure to start and complete a task in one fell swoop. But the more I allow myself to take breaks, to pause when I need to, the better I feel. I’ve also noticed recently that my reaction to unfolded laundry or cluttered counters or dirty dishes piled everywhere is actually a reflection of my internal state. Sometimes I pass by those things without notice and other times I get frustrated or stressed about it. But it’s not the outer things that is the stressor. It’s the inner stress I feel being projected onto the outer thing. It’s an indicator light of sorts saying “oh, Joanna, something is on your heart. You have a need that is not being met.” Now I’m recognizing that and can offer myself whatever balm I need – a moment, a pause, a deep breath. And then, when I’m filled up, the mail on the counter magically, and effortlessly gets sorted and recycled.
Sending love and grace, Jen!
Hi Joanna! Such a great insight. It is definitely true for me, too. The frustration over the small things is usually an indicator that there is more going on beneath the surface and I need to pause and think through what’s giving me angst. I can be hard on myself, but I have grown a lot more conscious of the way I speak to myself in the last year. I wrote a little bit about this learning process here:
When I am being hard on myself, I try to step back and evaluate. Sometimes it’s merited, when I really have made a big misstep, but sometimes it’s unfounded. I try also to think whether I would speak to my mom or sister the way I’m speaking to myself — the answer is almost always no and I reframe. Anyway, work in progress, and more than you asked, but there it is!
Oh bless your heart! Unexpected solo parenting is SO hard and you’re wise to release some expectations of “normalcy” (sidenote: do we even know what that is anymore??). As cliche as it sounds, one minute, one hour, one day at a time. In the big picture, you’re doing awesome!! And I hope there’s a spa day in your future, post-quarantine. 🙂 Praying for all of you… xo H
Thank you so much!! Appreciate the reminder. When I focus on what’s right in front of me, it becomes easier to keep moving!
I am impressed and amazed that you are managing to write thoughtful and thorough blog posts during this time!! Hoping for negative tests and a family reunion for you very soon!
Thank you so much, Leah! This blog is such a major stress relief and almost therapy for me, especially when I’m writing about what I’m going through! So lucky to have other people to share these thoughts with and get feedback/encouragement. Thank you for reading! xx
YES. I think I feel this to an extent every day, since I’m the solo caregiver during the day. It’s gotten to the point where I recognize that I need to let go of some of the tasks on my list and lower expectations, but I still haven’t figured out how to not notice (and be bothered by) the tasks/chores that didn’t get completed. So…how to cut oneself that mental slack as well? And it always seems like it takes more energy/motivation to pick up a half-finished chore and complete it than it does to just do a thing to completion, if that makes sense. All that to say…I’m right there with you!! Hoping your quarantine is almost over.
Solidarity, my friend! I agree that half-done chores almost require more effort to muscle through! It can be overwhelming to look around and see 50 half-done things versus making steady progress on items, one after another, throughout the day! I don’t have a great answer. One tactic that I’m sure you already have is creating little “dumping zones” for the stuff that needs to get done so at least some of the counter area / play space remains tidy. I even have baskets for this that I’ve introduced in the last week, i.e., I have a basket of little things that are broken, need to be returned upstairs, mail that was misdelivered, etc. Just all the little things that need to be tended to at some point but I can’t stand seeing them splayed all over the kitchen counter for a week. Then I have a basket with elements of the craft projects and activities we’ve been doing at home, i.e., the artificial snow and little sensory play toys, ornaments we made and the materials we used to make them, glue and scissors, etc. I know we’ll be needing these again and so I am keeping them handy but in one place. I keep all dirty dishes in the sink so out of sight. Anyway, this is all probably SO obvious to you but it’s been helpful to create these little drop zones to at least contain the mess temporarily until I can get to them.