Ask Miriam | Making the Abnormal Normal

Mother working from home with kids. Quarantine and closed school during coronavirus outbreak. Children make noise and disturb woman at work. Homeschooling and freelance job. Boy and girl playing.
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Dear Readers,

In response to the influx of questions regarding the daily challenges of life during lockdown, I’m answering two questions today with overlapping themes. I know times are hard. Please keep the questions coming. 

Dear Miriam,

How do we create a new idea of work/life balance as we move into a “new/temporary normal” versus crisis mode? How do you create a new pattern of shared mental/home load with a partner under above circumstances?


Adults Need Balance

Dear Miriam,

In lieu of the things my big kids (8 and 5) need and want (school, friends, activities, experiencing new places) how do I fill their cups and help them feel like life is “normal.” It’s not. My emotional energy is being depleted trying to give them all of the emotional support they seem to need. What to do?

Keeping Kids Cups Full

Dear Adults and Kids,

Your questions are the same, in that you are both wondering how to make the abnormal normal, how to adjust our expectations and, simply, how to keep living like this. While one of you is focused on how adults can best share responsibilities and the other is concerned with how to navigate all of this with kids, the problems are the same: isolation, staying at home, emotional energy.

When it comes to expectation setting, routines are key for kids and adults. We need routines for things that happen each day (meal time and bedtime), for things that happen most days (work or “school” or independent reading) and a routine of the week so that the weekends and weekdays feel different and there’s an overall rhythm to our lives right now. 

If your circumstances don’t provide natural rhythms in the form of meetings or assignments, I’d encourage you to set some. Work out your schedule for each day the night before.

Look at your schedule for the week every Sunday evening. Advocate for yourself in terms of how many nights a week you’re willing to cook or what percentage of the time you’re going to be responsible for the trash or how many hours (or minutes?) a day you need uninterrupted time to yourself, whether for work or self-preservation. Call a family meeting, use a shared calendar app, put schedules on the wall; using whatever methods work for your family, put together a shared structure that is understandable to everyone in your household.

Talk with your partner about what needs adjusting, and figure out how that fits into the rhythm of the days and weeks for both of you. Empower your kids to identify the activities they are able to do alone or together without adult supervision. Encourage them to see what they can do independently before rushing to ask you for help, and push yourself not to swoop in to solve every problem.

Though you are physically distant from friends and school and places, I hope you are finding ways to get help from your support systems. Set up video chats for your kids to talk to and see their friends, but even more important, set up video chats with teachers, grandparents or other trusted adults so that someone else can take on some of the grown-up emotional burden by providing adult attention for your kids.

Prioritize your own mental health, and set aside time to text or talk to your friends, join relevant Facebook groups, keep a journal or set a telehealth appointment with a therapist. When you talk to friends, don’t focus on small talk or force yourself to be positive. Be real about the challenges. Being seen and heard can make a huge difference in how you feel. 

None of us know how long this will last. No one can predict how deeply we need to settle into our routines in this particular phase. But if you know that the way things are going right now isn’t working for you, it’s worth investing some time into making some changes for the upcoming week. As things in the world shift, you can gradually shift your routines each week, too.

But no one — not your partner, not your kids, not even yourself — can anticipate your needs if you can’t articulate them. So start there, and then bring everyone along with you, for everyone’s benefit.

Be well,



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