Culture / Family

12 Dads on How the Pandemic Forever Changed Them as Parents

12 Dads on How the Pandemic Forever Changed Them as Parents

Most importantly, I learned that there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and that even when you’re doubting your abilities or decisions in the face of adversity (like parenting during a pandemic), doing your best is more than good enough. The pandemic was a testament to my own resilience as a father and served as reassurance that no obstacle can’t be overcome with patience, love, and a healthy amount of alcohol (kidding, sort of). —Ariel Owens-Barham, stay-at-home dad of a 9-year-old son“Tuning into my daughter was a game-changer.”Our daughter was born early in the pandemic, so stay-at-home orders meant I got to spend a lot of time with her in her first few months of life. I was grateful for the extra bonding time, but at first, whenever she cried, I would get stressed out and immediately tried to figure out what the problem was. The problem was me. Babies cry and that’s normal. I just needed time to better understand her cues and whether she actually needed something. That was a game-changer, especially for my wife. I think I stressed her out more than our daughter! —Arthur Mats, strategic projects director, father of a 2-year-old daughter“It doesn’t have to always be work or family.”I feel like I used to go 100% into work mode when I was at the office and put on blinders with all things family until I got home. Now that my work is at home and my family is around for a lot of it, I learned I can be a dad one minute and shift back to being a co-worker the next. I’m more flexible than I gave myself credit for, and honestly, having the mental break to talk to our kids or my wife for a few minutes regularly throughout the day feels good. It also helped my relationship with my wife, since, despite my best intentions, I realized I’d been leaving her with more than her share of emotional labor when it came to the kids and home. In lockdown, we had to get creative together fast, and that helped me see and appreciate how much she’d been doing the whole time solo, and then make the changes to better balance the load. —Brendan Hay, television executive producer, father of 6-year-old twins“There’s so much to learn from your children.”Sebastian, my son, was my greatest teacher during the pandemic. His nimble mind and McGuyver-like skills showed me what was possible during lockdown. He created two albums of original music, working in a messy studio with borrowed instruments and collaborating through various apps and platforms with 60 musicians from around the world (in seven languages that he figured out via Google translate). I know it sounds like bragging but, wow, the kid nailed it.Your children are not your children. It’s true. You’d think that during all that up-close time of being stuck at home, you’d wield more influence somehow as a father, but, lo, they really do their own thing. They go their own way. They have their own ideas and trajectories. They are in your house but not of your house. —David Hochman, freelance writer, father of an 18-year-old son“It’s important to make space for feelings.”Since being confined to the home, with limited travel and outings, was something new for us as a family, we had a lot of conversations with our kids about how they felt about our situation. We even developed an end-of-the-day sharing circle that we continue to do. It’s a place where we are free to express what happened in our day and how we felt throughout it. —Demond Jordan, digital marketer, father of a 7-year-old and 5-year-old daughter“Being a father is truly about spending quality time with my children.”I learned that they are just as happy reading a book with me or dancing to the same song over and over again as they are going on some kind of big adventure. Really, though, I feel like I learned less about myself as a father than I did about the capabilities and strength of my children, which was really impressive and inspiring. Early on, they were very uncomfortable with isolated life, away from friends, and dealing with things like mask protocols. But they adapted and grew past those things in a way that really makes me hopeful about the people they’ll become when they grow up. —Elliott Kalan, television writer, father of an 8-year-old and 3-year-old son“It became clear that my children are my purpose.”My job used to take a lot of my attention, focus, and energy. During the pandemic, when everything slowed down and our health and mortality came into question, my relationship with my children took a huge paradigm shift. It became increasingly clear that they are my world, my purpose, my legacy, my reason for being, and my greatest source of joy. —Joel Santos, environmental engineer, father of a 6-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son“There’s plenty of adventure in our own backyard.”Every day brought with it a new challenge. Either the remote-learning technology wasn’t working or one of my three children was having a meltdown about not being able to see friends. So, during the summers I had a plan for the girls every single day. They loved our adventures. For example, we live near the Russian River in Sonoma County, California. We had never been there, even though we’ve lived here for 15 years. We went to the river more than 40 times during the summer of 2020. It became our playground, and the kids loved it. —Matt Villano, freelance writer, single father of three daughters (ages 13, 10, and 6)“My children deserve my presence.”Before the pandemic, I saw all my clients in person at my gym. In order to give my kids the life that I never had, I had to leave home by 4:30 a.m. and come home at about 9 p.m. This meant that the kids would be asleep when I left for work and asleep when I got home. When the pandemic pushed me to pivot from an in-person business to a virtual one, it was a blessing because I could be more present in my children’s lives and get to know their routines. And they could finally see what it is that dad does when he’s away. I think it’s important for kids to see and feel the joy of hard work, but they also deserve my presence. —Ngo Okafor, owner of Iconoclast Fitness, father of a 7-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter“Make sure everyone keeps checking in on their mental health.”My wife and I tag in and out with parenting duties so we can get our respective work done and needs met, and that often bleeds into the evening. I have found that writing actually has come easier during this time, and my therapist has identified that productivity is a bit of my coping mechanism. Writing at night while I’m alone in my head has been a stress relief because I don’t have to think about anyone else’s needs. If your family enters into prolonged extreme circumstances, it’s important to make sure everyone keeps checking in on each other’s mental health as much as possible. And whatever people need—time alone, sleep, comfort food—try to make that accessible because burnout and emotional collapse are very, very real. —Mike Chen, NYT best-selling author and tech marketer, father of a 7-year-old daughter“I saw how absent I had been.”The pandemic brought a seismic shift in how I work now, which is almost exclusively from home. Before, I never worked from home, but now that I do, I can clearly see how absent I had been. If I still needed to go into the office, I’d basically never see my son outside of breakfast and that thought just terrifies me. For me, working from home means being there for as many meals and snacks during the day as I can, not being on my phone when we are eating or playing together, changing diapers as much as possible, and taking him out of the house so we can give his hard-working mother a bit of a break too. —Will Znidaric, documentary film editor, father of a 17-month-old sonRelated:

A Majority of Parents Are Really, Really Burnt Out. What Can We Do About It?

A Majority of Parents Are Really, Really Burnt Out. What Can We Do About It?

These short breaks should be centered on something the parent enjoys doing, Adriane Bennett, PhD, a psychiatrist and psychologist at Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. This means putting your child down for a nap or letting them play or relax in a safe area, then taking a brief moment to do whatever interests you. For example, for some parents this could mean squeezing in a quick yoga session during naptime, knitting, journaling, working on a puzzle, or any other de-stressing activity the parent has found helpful in the past.Connect with other people (especially other parents).Social activities are just as important as alone time: Experts also advise speaking to other parents about parental burnout. “If you’re really feeling burnt out, go seek connection with another parent. My guess is they’re going to say, ‘Me too,’” Dr. Kennedy-Moore says. “Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. So many parents are feeling the same way,” Dr. Melnyk adds.Speaking with other parents can help eliminate feelings of shame and isolation for parents experiencing parental burnout, Dr. Bennett explains. Oftentimes, she says, parents going through this think, ‘There must be something wrong with me.’ Speaking with other people who know the feeling challenges the guilt associated with burnout, since when other people can relate to what we’re going through, it makes us feel less alone, Dr. Bennett says.In addition to regularly touching base with people in similar situations, you may want to try a talk therapy session to see if it helps you de-stress, if you have the means. Therapists are in high demand right now, but there’s no harm in putting yourself on a provider’s waiting list, Dr. Bennett says. If you find another provider in the meantime, you can let them know you’re no longer interested and would like to be removed from the list.“Because it’s just so hard to get in to see a therapist [right now], two things that can raise our positive energy are physical activity and social contact,” Dr. Kennedy-Moore says. Therefore, consider options that allow for both–for example hiking with other parents and their children. And if meetups aren’t an option at the moment–due to COVID-19 or any other reasons—remember that an evening stroll, bike ride, or even running around with your child in a nearby park—all count as physical activity.Eliminate what you can.When burnt out, parents should reevaluate their schedule and prioritize what matters most. “We need to question our standards: If it doesn’t matter to you, let it go.” For parents, this could mean checking your calendar and canceling what doesn’t feel essential. It’s crucial, Dr. Kennedy-Moore says, for parents to figure out what’s important to them and their family and what could be cut from the schedule or paused in order to create space for parental time alone.Practice all of your go-to healthy habits.During those intensely stressful times, it might be beneficial for parents to follow the advice they’re giving their children. Dr. Kennedy-Moore says that parents often make sure their kids are observing healthy lifestyle habits but they don’t hold themselves to the same standards, and this can take a toll on their well-being. Her advice to parents is to make sure they’re getting enough sleep, eating at regular mealtimes, and keeping track of their screen time.

19 Deals From the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale That New Moms Will Love

19 Deals From the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale That New Moms Will Love

Listen up, moms: The time has come. The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2021 is here—and there are plenty of great deals you’ll want to take advantage of. Whether you’re planning for your first (congrats!) and starting from scratch, looking to upgrade some of your current kid and parent essentials, or shopping for the new mom in your life, you’ll find strollers, car seats, apparel, PJs, blankets, and more on sale. If this happens to be your first rodeo, the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2021 works in tiers: Shoppers are granted access based on the store’s rewards program, and the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Early Access is already underway. If you’re wondering what level you might be, check out our Early Access deals guide. (You can score those benefits too, by signing up to be part of the Nordy Club here.) If you’re not a card-holding member, you can start shopping on July 28 (and we promise all the deals won’t be gone by then). The sale concludes on August 8—but it’s a good idea to bookmark items now that you may want to come back for, since you know that mom-favorite brands like Nuna and Thule are going to sell-out fast.And while you’re at it, don’t forget to check out all of Nordstrom’s deals on bedding, kitchen and home items, activewear, and wellness items. Keep scrolling for the best buys to keep your baby happy, and a few items that are sure to help keep you sane as well. All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

9 Ways to Give Back as a Family—and Bond as You Do It

9 Ways to Give Back as a Family—and Bond as You Do It

Senior citizens living in care homes, who may not have any in-person visitors due to physical distancing, may feel especially isolated. Love for Our Elders, an organization that sends notes to senior facilities, makes volunteering with your kids easy. You can schedule family time to write thoughtful notes together.
4. Volunteer your skills.
In addition to letter writing, Gift of Words offers a volunteer mentoring program that provides free tutoring and educational activities to kids across the country. Student volunteers Zoom chat with their designated mentee to play educational games, draw, or just talk. This way, kids who are stuck at home because of COVID-19 don’t feel too isolated, says Vickie. Your kids can complete the organization’s application form to learn more about volunteering for the months of November and December.

Other organizations such as Family Promise allow families to search for volunteer opportunities nationwide that match their interests. For example, you can sign up to help another family with things like homework and budgeting, and everyone in your family can participate in the way that makes sense for their age and skills.
5. Ask for donations in lieu of birthday gifts.
New Jersey-based mom Pooja M., 42, hosts a birthday party for her daughter every year and asks people to bring unwrapped toys or books in lieu of gifts. Then, she donates the items to an organization. “Ever since she was one, we’ve had a big party with family and close friends—the village—which, being Indian, a family party automatically means 60 people,” Pooja tells SELF. “This year, there will be no party, but we will still do the drive online and possibly expand it to friends in other places who wouldn’t ever be at the party,” she says. “I’ve always used this as a way to talk about consumption—needs and wants—and to think about inequality in the world. It’s a moment to discuss those things while celebrating her life.”

In the past, Pooja has donated to Katy’s Place Child Development Center, a local on-site licensed childcare service. You can donate books to children in need through a nonprofit like First Book or a similar effort that’s local to you. Another option: When your kids get birthday or holiday gifts, take some time together to go through the books, toys, and clothes they currently own and decide what you can donate to a local shelter.
6. Clean up your community.
“Although it’s getting a bit chilly out, beach and stream cleanups are still possible in many areas of the country,” Shannon Brescher Shea, 37, a Maryland-based parent and author of Growing Sustainable Together: Practical Resources for Raising Kind, Engaged, Resilient Children, tells SELF. “Although most cities aren’t running organized activities, you can just grab a plastic bag and some gloves and pick stuff up on your own as a family.” Other options, she says, include raking leaves for neighbors who need the help, clearing out community gardens in preparation for winter, helping maintain trails, and even planting trees through a local organization with that mission. “Every fall, my family rakes leaves out of the cemetery that our house backs up to and uses the leaves as mulch for our garden,” she says.
7. Get crafty for a cause.
Project Tie Dye is a kit-based, at-home community service project that is suitable for a variety of ages. Each kit includes a narrative with details about the recipient of the service project. “Last month we made a pillow and a bedtime book with the components from the kit, which tells a bit about why those are important—when children live in transient living situations, it can really impact their sleep and these two gifts provide comfort,” Janelle C., 39, a Los Angeles-based mom whose six-year-old loves the kit, tells SELF. “The kid gets to keep a certificate of giving once they donate, and we are keeping ours in a binder. We really love it!” The community service kit costs $50.

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