Whew…2020 was a year!  2020 was a year of loss, in so many ways, and a year of gain, in other ways.  We’ve been through and are still going through a pandemic, racial violence, etc.  So many people have lost loved ones (family and/or friends).  So many people have lost their jobs, homes, and much more.  We all have experienced loss of our “normal” day to day life…whether it’s not going to in-person school or work, not being able to see family and friends, having to wear masks, etc.  It’s been a rough year!  However, despite all of the challenges of 2020, there’s also been lots of gain, as well!  Family time, creative, intimate, and less extravagant ways to celebrate occasions, and becoming entrepreneurs, to name a few.

Adulting can already be hard, not even factoring in all that 2020 brought and still bringing into 2021 (hopefully, not for most of the year, as it was in 2020)!  it can be hard to feel like you have everything balanced….that you’re giving enough time to your spouse or significant other, child, career, and of course, yourself.  On top of that, many of us are also trying to balance working from home, virtual/distance learning for your children, and social distancing (and in some cases, having to quarantine).  Often times, you can feel pulled everywhere, trying to please everyone and do everything. Sometimes it feels like we’re just going and going and barely coming up for air!  As the New Year has begun, I want to provide some tips on how to feel more balanced with all of the responsibilities you may have, as well as ways to bring you and your family closer.

  1. Put Yourself First. When you fly on a plane, the flight attendant tells you to put on your oxygen mask first, before putting on anyone else’s, in case of an emergency.  If you don’t put your mask on first, then you’ll be unconscious and unable to help those who need you.  Often times, we, especially parents, put on everyone else’s “oxygen mask” first, before putting on their own.  Because we love our child, spouse or significant other, and loved ones, we feel that we have to take care of them first.  However, it’s the opposite. We need to take care of ourselves first and no, that doesn’t mean you’re selfish or a bad person or parent.  It means that you’re practicing self-care.  Burn-out, depression, loneliness, and physical ailments are just a few results that can happen if we neglect self-care.  Here are a few tips that you can do to practice self-care:  take a bath, have a glass of wine, go for a walk, exercise, practice yoga, read a book, watch a movie at home, take a staycation, or take a nap.  Think outside the box and be willing to try something new or different.  My family and I have been practicing social distancing.  One of the things that we did, during this time, was rent an entire cabin just for the four of us for a few days.  It was something very different from what we normally do, but we felt the need and understood the importance of “getting away” (safely), even if it was a cabin 1.5 hours away from our home.  When it’s safer to do so, you can possibly go out for lunch or dinner, go on a date with your spouse or significant other, take a vacation (mini or extended), or go to a movie, for some self-care.
  1. Say, NO. At times, we feel that we have to say, yes, to every event or request that comes our way, more so pre-COVID.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re social beings and it’s good to help others, when we can.  However, you don’t have to say, yes, to everything.  Say yes to everything, and you may find yourself “spread too thin”, overwhelmed, frustrated, and stressed, which can affect your parenting, your relationship with your spouse or significant other, and your physical and mental health.  So, go ahead, and say, no, sometimes.
  1. Put Down The Electronic Device! I know many of us, adults and children, are on screens more than ever, due to having to work from home and/or doing school from home, during the pandemic.  We’re also on electronic devices more as a form of engaging and being social with others via social media, zoom parties, etc.  However, we need to try to put in more effort to step away from the screens and go outside, read a book, play a game, dance, talk to the people in your home, etc.  Although, I do admit, I do spend a lot of time on electronics, for business and personal use, I also try to make sure that I’m spending quality time with my family by having game nights, (fake) snowball fights, and just playing.  One thing that I try to do, especially when I’m playing with my children, is keep my phone in another room, separately from where I’m playing or spending time with my children.  I know I have to do this because if I don’t, I will continue to check my phone for emails, texts, phone calls, Facebook, and Instagram.    I don’t want anything to interrupt my quality time with my family!  Just devoting your time to your family’s interests is a simple, yet meaningful thing.
  1. Eat Dinner Together As A Family. I know a lot of us are really busy, with long work days, managing virtual/distance learning, after-school activities, etc.; however, taking the time to eat dinner together, as a family, at the dinner table is very important.  This is an opportunity to spend time together, discuss how the day has been, and help your family to be closer together.  It allows you to know what is going on in your family’s life.  If eating dinner together as a family is unrealistic to do every night, then start off with a small goal, with just one or two days per week, and increase it as time goes by.  The dinner doesn’t have to be elaborate and can even be take-out pizza.  You can even have your child assist with meal planning, cooking, setting the table, or ordering out, if need be.  The important thing is that everyone eats and spends time together as a family.  However, TVs, phones, and other electronic devices are not invited to dinner.  Also, make the discussions pleasurable, leaving serious discussions for another time.
  2. Actively Seek Out Diversity. Do all of your and your child’s friends look like you?  Diversity is so important to have!  I can honestly say that our (my husband, children, and I) have a diverse group of friends.  We have friends that are White, Black, Hispanic, West Indian/Caribbean, African, etc.  If you look like, live in an area, or attend a school where everyone looks like you, your child (or even you) may believe himself or herself to be the “norm.”  In addition to having diversity in your friends, you can also actively seek out cultural and diverse events and activities to attend as a family.  Parents must work with children to avoid building up walls of intolerance, prejudice, and harsh judgment.  It is important to consistently and actively work towards being anti-racist and raising your children as such.  If you are interested in doing this, one thing that you can do is join my Facebook group, The Ebony Journey at http://www.facebook.com/groups/theebonyjourney.  You can also read books and attend workshops written or led by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).

While it’s tough, we have to try to focus on the things that we can control!  We can wear a mask!  We can practice social distancing!  We can spend time with our family living in our home!  We can learn to be anti-racist!  This pandemic has really taught us the value of self and family and that less is sometimes more!  One of the main things that this pandemic has taught me is to truly not take things, our way of life, people, and people’s occupations for granted!  Cherish every single moment!  Sometimes the little things can be big things!  Be thankful for life and for others!

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