Parenting During the New Normal

Published on: November 11, 2021

Sadef reflects on raising her family during the Covid-19 pandemic and some of the ways they have adjusted to life in the new normal.

By Sadef Chhotani

Parenting is a never-ending, 24/7 job. Even if you are 80 and your child is 50, you continue to parent them in one way or another. Add the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic to the usual day-to-day struggles of parenthood, and it’s no surprise that even parents often feel as confused and scared as their children. 

Parenting during Covid-19 is like hitting a snooze button for an alarm that rings every few months with a new wave. Although there are good days when things seem to flow smoothly,  there are days when everything is chaotic. Lockdowns feel like a weekend that never ends. Your child is home all the time, and besides doing the regular day-to-day household chores, you now have to homeschool them as well.

Children today are a completely different breed of humans. They want someone or something to keep them entertained constantly. Gone are the days when children could keep themselves busy independently with simple activities such as observing ants on the floor, as we did when we were young. This has added more pressure on parents, especially working parents who have their own work to attend to, along with managing school and taking care of the household.

During the first six months of the pandemic, many of us could not grasp how to navigate the new normal, myself included. What has emerged since then, though, is that as none of us were prepared to live like this, we all learned—and are still learning—how best to cope through this tough time from each others’ experiences and trial and error.  The biggest lesson is perhaps that parenting is still about what suits you, your child, and your family best. So after many months of insanity, my family and I finally fit ourselves into a self-designed mold which is our new normal. Here is what I have done to stay sane and sociable rather than the frustrated, screaming ‘mombie’ I was becoming.

Parent less, friend more

With schools closed for face-to-face learning, our children have spent a lot of time at home and missed their friends in the process. At times we have needed to be a friend more than a parent so that they haven’t felt lonely. In my family, we engage our children in enjoyable conversations to share their emotions and thoughts freely with us. This also educates them as they are more open to sharing their experiences when they know we will listen and react like a friend. 

Simplify meals 

After spending hours in the kitchen making meals and snacks according to each person’s demands, I not only felt tired and cranky but was also upset to see so much food getting wasted. We now allot each family member a day of the week to pick a meal. If your child chooses the meal on Sunday, then Monday should be Daddy’s turn, and everyone has to eat the same food. No special favors. 

We also keep lunch and dinner similar. For example, if you have grilled chicken with rice for lunch, make a few extra pieces for dinner. Shred them, mix with boiled potatoes or mashed beans, season well, and form into burger patties. This way you are not spending too much time preparing everything from scratch for every meal.

Recruit everyone in the house to help

Although many households here have live-in or live-out house help, we must understand that they also deserve a break as their workload has increased with everyone being home all the time. We get around this by involving the whole family in running the house. My kids set the table, and my husband chops up some salad or takes care of the baby while I prep for dinner. This also helps to keep everyone entertained and busy! It can be easiest to let kids help you in their own way (as long as it causes no harm). My daughter loves watching craft videos, so we let her create origami with the table napkins whenever she wants to help. 

Create outdoors, indoors

We were all enthusiastic about arts and crafts at the beginning of the pandemic, but somewhere along the way, this became boring and the clean-up afterward also proved to be inconvenient. Even board games became ‘bored’ games. So we created outdoors, indoors. 

We made comfy recliners by tying cushions together and laying blankets on the floor in front of a bare wall, where we set up a projector. Add a big tub of popcorn—and voila—our own cinema! You can also use car seats to create cinema seats. We took an old, green bed sheet to our rooftop, pretended that it was grass, and had a small family picnic in a pretend park. Another day, we got super dressed up as if we were going to a wedding. We ordered the kind of food served at weddings, laid out our best dinnerware, played some wedding songs and danced to them—it may have been pretend, but it was a great wedding!

You can be as creative as you want. It is a lot of fun and so much better than moping around gloomily in PJs all the time, just watching TV, or being on the phone.

Make the most of being online

Since the entire world is online now, now is the right time to access the best teachers in the world, wherever they may be based. We enrolled our daughter in a logic-based calculation class conducted by a teacher who lives oceans away. This way she can learn something fun and productive instead of spending her whole screen time watching cartoons on YouTube.

Take breaks from the screen

With screen time perhaps reaching an all-time high, it is very important to take a break away from the screen to rest your eyes. A friend of mine and her family love to read. During the lockdown, they had a family reading competition. The person who read the greatest number of books in a week got to choose their own prize. The children loved it as it kept them entertained and it improved their language skills.  

Connect with grandparents

With travel restrictions in place, we have all been missing visiting family back home. My daughter misses going to her Nana’s house, so I plan at least two or three long video chat sessions with my parents and siblings during the week. She loves talking to my mother and listening to her life stories. A big bonus is I get some time to enjoy my cup of tea in peace away from my child while my mother or siblings entertain her. 

Be hygiene smart

Safety and hygiene are very important in this illness-prone time. Teaching and explaining hygiene consciousness to kids is a real task. After losing much sleep on how to keep my children alive, healthy and Covid-free, I came up with a hack to help us both: a budget-friendly Covid bag. 

I ordered a shiny sling bag that my daughter loved from Lazada. This bag is small and light enough for her to carry around all the time. I filled it with disposable and cloth masks, mask strings, and a sanitizer spray bottle I can refill from a bigger sanitizer bottle. All of these items were ordered on Lazada. Along with these items, I put in some sanitizing wipes, a small pack of tissues, and an alcohol wipe pad. So now when she goes out to ride her bike or rollerblade, she has everything she needs to be safe and germ-free, and I can also rest assured with this knowledge. 

Teach gratitude

During this challenging pandemic, I remind my children to be grateful. While many people have lost their jobs, are homeless, and dying, we are blessed to be healthy, to be able to shop online, and to live in a comfortable house. I keep telling them that every family is going through some stress that is taking a toll on how they conduct themselves towards others, so let’s be considerate of other parents and children. We do not know what they are going through, and can only offer our help and kindness. 

This pandemic has taught us all a beautiful life lesson: that much of what we worry about in life is materialistic, and that we can live without it. But what we can’t live without is our life itself and the people that we love. We are learning to be grateful and content with whatever we have. Let us all hope that this pandemic ends soon and makes us more compassionate human beings.

Photos from Canva.

About the Author

Sadef is from Pakistan, is married to a Thai-Paki and has lived in Bangkok for 10 years, along with their two daughters. She previously worked in the fashion industry as a women’s apparel designer and fashion merchandiser. Her passion for reading and writing since childhood has pulled her to the BAMBI magazine. An artist at heart, she loves to paint in her spare time. She enjoys traveling, weekly visits to Sephora and is a big foodie.

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