A Day in the Life of an Allergy Mom During the Coronavirus Outbreak Lockdown
Megan Lavin of AllergyAwesomeness.com shares her tips and insights for keeping youngsters engaged, entertained and safe at home as we practice social distancing to fight COVID-19.
Guest post by Megan Lavin
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Before we go any further, can I just pause a minute and ask you to give yourself a big high five? Because we all deserve it. And, I want to make sure that you know that what I’m about to share has worked for my family. And, if they don’t for yours, that’s OK. We’re all doing the best we can with work changes, business closures, store shortages, and being cooped up inside. I hope that the way my family and I have been dealing can simply spark some thoughts that you can use to help you through this very unique situation in life right now!
Most Important Thing: Sleep! We have kept our bedtimes the same as school nights, but we allow ourselves, and our children to wake up when they naturally will. This allows for us to start the day refreshed and not overtired. I do long for things to get back to normal, but I’m going to hate hearing that alarm clock once again!
Breakfast: With things like my son’s vegan eggs not being available at our local store, he knows that he can only have them every Monday and Friday to make them last. (I told him to pick two days a week, and those are the days he chose.) Otherwise, I let the kids pick what they’d like. I figure since I pick the dinners, they can have the freedom of choice for breakfast and lunch. Here’s some of our favorite allergy-friendly breakfast foods.
Exercise: I try to do some kind of HIIT training Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and yoga Tuesday and Thursday. It was a LOT easier with the older two boys at school. But, we just call it PE, and they get canned soup to use for their weights and they go at it with me in the videos. Is it as good of a work out? Definitely not. Are kids pushing each other over and tattling? Definitely. But, I want to model that we move and take care of our bodies, even in times of stress. Have we missed days? Certainly. But overall, I think this “at home PE” has been well worth it.
Morning Activities: This is where I might make you feel better. I don’t have an hour-by-hour schedule. Right now we are on the “what helps everyone stay productive, not hitting each other and happy” routine. Thankfully, my kids have really been enjoying drawing, perler beads (a new activity we just started for the first time during quarantine) and good ‘ol LEGOs. They’re really good at playing quietly and using their imaginations with that. If you want to call it “art class” to help you feel like an Instagram mom—then you call it that! I am just happy when they’re playing quietly and it doesn’t require direct supervision by me. I use this time to clean and do my own to-do list. Even some screen time is fine with me during this block.
Lunch: I make a different dinner every night (some call it crazy, but it is so soothing to me to end the night with a good homecooked meal) I enjoy cooking—hence why I have a recipe blog for food allergies!—and because it’s always been cheaper and safer than eating out. I have over 200 allergy-friendly recipes on my site—I hope they’ll get your cooking juices going! Needless to say, we always have leftovers floating in the fridge. We never pressure our kids to finish their meal, they know they can walk away if they don’t want to eat it all. But, if they do finish their meal, then they get to pick a treat out of our coveted safe treat box. To help ensure that leftovers get eaten, especially when you’re not sure what is going to be out of stock the next time you go to the grocery store, we offer TWO treats out of the treat box if they chose to eat leftovers instead of a safe sandwich. I have to say my oldest has really been helping us not throw out any food and has been eating leftovers like a champ!
Afternoon activities: This is fairly flux. I like to have them do their required school reading. I also like to read Harry Potter to them while they either snuggle or do a quiet activity. Sometimes it will involve a learning game on the laptop, and since the quarantine, I’ve been trying to think of additional skills I’d like them to learn, so we often have them do 15 or so minutes of a typing class to help them learn proper typing skills. Sometimes if it’s warm enough we’ll have them go outside for a bit. Really, whatever helps us make it to dinner time.
We’ve also enjoyed some of the many online opportunities like Lunch with Mo Willems, or story time with Josh Gad, or Art for Kids Hub, and my son loves to listen to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid audio books. We pick what sounds good to us that day, and I’m so grateful for the many resources and options out there that give us variety day-to-day. You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned homework—I think it’s partly because we live in Idaho and things are more laid back here and because they’re still fairly young, but we have been given no instruction or homework or online schooling for our children, so it’s really up to us to decide. I honestly don’t feel pressure to make up for missed school. I know that they won’t end up going to college without learning their times tables and my job is to provide quality activities to keep them busy and not feel like a burden or worried during this time.
Dinner: I get cooking while I let my kids continue to play. Sometimes I have them help me. We shoot for a dinner time between 5:30-6, just like we always have. I think it helps kids to still continue the structure from before (like same bedtimes, etc.). With so much change, they need that stability. Since conversation can be tough with four small children, we always go around the table and each person says one hard thing from the day (learning to open up about failures and frustration and be vulnerable) one good thing, and we’ve added since the quarantine one thing we’re grateful for. It’s so fun to hear their little thoughts and end the day with some positivity. We are also very religious, and like to read one page out of the scriptures. I draw strength from that.
Bedtime: There’s usually not much time between dinner and bedtime. But, when there is, we’ve started a new tradition. We wanted to be able to wind down together by watching a show. Finding a show that doesn’t make you want to rip your hair out as a parent, but one that entertains the kids, can be hard. I remembered loving America’s Funniest Home Videos as a child and loving it and I honestly haven’t seen it since. My kiddos erupt in laughter and just think it’s hilarious. They’ll quickly do their asthma treatments, brush their teeth and get ready for bed if they know they get to watch that show for just a bit before lights out.
After Bedtime: Finally, it’s quiet time for my husband and me to finally check some emails, and do things without being interrupted like writing, blog work, and relaxing. It’s hard for me to not want to read all of the news articles. I find you have to be really aware of how much it’s affecting you. I’m not perfect, but I try to strike a good balance of staying informed while not getting too caught up in the news. I find scrolling through social media relaxing, and a way to stay in touch with friends and see how they’re holding up as well. I also love to Marco Polo with my friends to get some actual human face time. I also LOVE to try and find humor in it all, and love to read all of the memes out there—so if you have any good ones, DM them to me! I love to share my favorites in my Instagram and Facebook stories.
It’s hard to not want to use TV as a way to zone out for hours because it sometimes feels like you’re putting on a brave face for the kids all day, but behind it you’re worried you’ll run out of food allergy necessity foods and how long your husband will be out of work. These are heavy times. I’m all for taking mental breaks with fun shows, and a snack or two after the kids go to bed to help me unwind. I also know that it’s far too easy to keep hitting “next episode”, but I do believe there’s a difference between relaxing and going numb. On the nights I’m not as boundaried about my bedtime I find myself regretting it. So, my husband and I try to stick to a mutual bedtime so we’re holding each other accountable.
Since both my sister and I have both been struggling with worry during this outbreak, we also do a daily gratitude accountability, where before we go to bed, we text each other one thing we were grateful for that day. I like to end the day connecting with her over that, and thinking of something good before my head hits the pillow. I’d recommend it!
This snapshot is the best of our days, and we certainly have lazy days.
And, even on the “good” days, I’m still found wearing no makeup, my hair pulled in a pony tail and donning my ever so fashionable bathrobe. We all have to make small accommodations like that to help us keep our cool and save the other moments for the extra chaos that has descended into our lives. I do believe this will pass, and I’m trying very hard to take this time to enjoy my kids. I keep telling myself the only time I get the bigger kids everyday is during the summer—which is usually jam packed with swimming lessons and family outings, or Christmas break, which again finds itself stuffed with holiday festivities. When else will I have time to kill reading Harry Potter to them?
By no means do I feel like we’re doing this perfectly. I don’t think there is a perfect way to do this. I do feel peace that I know I’m doing my best…and sometimes my best changes from day to day. I spend a good amount of time seeing what others are doing and then assess if it’s a good fit for our individual family. I’m always on the look out for other ways to do things.
Times are scary, but there is also good. This is a time to set down a lot of the weight we carry with our busy lives and access what we want to pick back up again when this passes. I truly do believe this too shall pass, and I hope we find ourselves on the other side of it better, with few regrets.
ABOUT ALLERGY AWESOMENESS: Megan Lavin is the owner of AllergyAwesomeness.com and cookbook author of The Allergy Mom’s Lifesaving Instant Pot Cookbook. Two of her four kids have multiple food allergies and asthma, and her oldest has a rare allergic condition: eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). You can find her and her many top-8-free recipes and tips on day-to-day living with food allergies on Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest.