Social Distancing While Parenting and Being a Social Worker

How many of us are feeling the effects of trying to balance our lives while social distancing? In this post a good friend of mine outlines her experience parenting, while working from home, while worrying about the effects of the global pandemic on her children. I think many of us can relate on all sorts of levels – parents or not.

Guest Post By: Megan Murphy, LCSW

I begin writing some scattered thoughts after the third night of tossing and turning and waking up with a sore jaw and neck, from all of the things my brain must be trying to work out at night.  I notice that mornings, I tend to feel strong and hopeful.  I am noticing that afternoons are really hard, and my mind truly wishes it could download or shut down, sleep or reset.

I am familiar with anxiety and depression.  I have dealt with these emotions at many different times in my life, and overall, I have been able to overcome them, or at least survive, cope with, and accept them in my life. 

This has been a very confusing time for my mind, like it is, for so many others.  My career as a Social Worker, who works with many vulnerable populations, including the severely and persistently mentally ill, has given me more strength and hope than I could ever explain in words.  I have seen people survive and thrive in circumstances, I am quite sure I would never survive.  I’ve seen the communities of the homeless, helping one another, and caring for one another.  I’ve seen families doing their best to support their own, with limited resources, sometimes limited intellectual capacities, and very often, with judgment from the outside world.  My career has taught me so much about resilience.  I am so grateful for these clients and to so many people I have worked with along the way, who put their hearts, souls, and brains into this work.  I have no doubt that the clients I work with, have taught me so much more than I could ever teach them.  I THANK them to no end!

It has been heartbreaking not to be able to support these people face to face, to help get them the resources that they need now more than ever.  However, I am grateful for a job that knows that keeping all of us (clients included) healthy in the short term, will only help, not hurt our mission, to help them in the long term.  Or, as a wise man (thanks Dad) told me, “sometimes you have to stay in the fight, to win the fight”. 

Parenting has been a whole different level of anxiety, acceptance, and resilience during this time.  I have two sons, ages 14 and 9.  We are beginning to work on schooling from home.  I have so many worries about this time in life for them.  For my 14-year-old, I worry about this time in his life.  He is supposed to be working on independence, separating himself from his parents and working on finding himself.  Peers are also such a huge part of learning and growing at his age.  It’s so hard to tell him that we don’t have answers about when life may be “normal” again.  It is so hard to say “no” to so many requests.  I am so proud of him.  I can tell he is frustrated and worried.  It always seems that right when it’s needed, he invites his brother into his room to play games with him.  He is an amazing human being.  I worry about my skills to work and teach him from home, while also paying attention to emotional needs.  

For my 9-year-old, I worry about his enthusiastic, open view of the world and an absolute need to connect, move, and be excited about life!  Lately, he has denied every request to go outside on a walk.  At first, I didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed he is anxious about it.  “Is it safe”, “what if I see a friend on a walk”, “Can we talk to each other”, “am I sick”, “are you sick”, “will we all get sick”.  “Are we safe”.  While my husband and I do our best to reassure him, we don’t have the answers.  He seems to feel best when saying, “family first, right mom”?  

While these things worry me, I am reminded of how much gratitude I have.  I do not have to parent without a partner.  We are able to do this as a team and take turns when the other is feeling overwhelmed.  So many do not have this and they are HEROES!  Sometimes, I get frustrated with my own anxieties and worries because I am SO aware of the hard times others have and are experiencing.  My life has been so easy overall.  I have never needed for a thing, and have always had an abundance of love in my life.  I feel guilty and ashamed sometimes that I have so much fear. 

I have parents who give me strength.  My father, a Vietnam marine, has this way of saying just the right things, to keep me focused and strong, during hard times.  My mom, an independent woman, who has been a caretaker of many kinds, keeps me sane with love and constant communication and ideas of ways to keep myself busy.  My brothers are both amazing and show me love and support, and I hope I do the same for them.

I have an extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins, who check-in, send me love, and inspire me.  

I have friends that keep me grounded, strong, and grateful.  Each of them gives me something so special and unique and I cannot imagine life, or this crisis, without them.  We send each other videos, love, and ideas.  Let me tell you, these are amazing women!

The lack of answers is what continues to be the hardest.  I told my friend Jamie the other day, that while I am so aware that I am not alone, I “feel” alone.  She said, “yes, we are trying to accept and process something we have no answers to, and only fear.  We feel alone because we are not allowed to be around others”.  That felt so validating.  

So, for the moment, I plan to give myself grace.  I plan to accept that some moments I will feel strong, and others I may not.  I will do my best to show up for my family, friends, children, husband, and clients, with love, and understanding, that they too, will have good moments and not so good moments.

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Slow Down, Focus, & Finish Strong

I had a lot to do today. I am feeling a little scattered. I started by getting the kids off to school, then working with my dog on the leash – so she doesn’t break my arm when she pulls, then  I went to work in my home office, which can be harder than leaving my house to work because, then I started to take the dishes out of the dishwasher, started to clean the counters, started to check my email, started to look up the local yoga studio schedule. AND I wasn’t finishing anything I started.

This becomes a problem. I had to complete something or my day would be full of starts and no finishes. That never leaves me in a good mood. So I sat down, took a few deep long breaths to help re-set my system and began again. I looked at my to do list and focused on one thing I could do right now. Finished it, crossed it off, and focused on the next thing, finished it, crossed it off. Now I usually do my blog at the end of my other things to do – hence the lack of postings while I am in mid-semester – so the very fact that I am writing now is a testament to the power of my breath to keep me focused.

What helps you calm your system and focus? What allows you to stop the mental chatter in your mind long enough to feel successful getting one thing done? What will you do today to slow down, focus, and finish strong?

Working out isn’t just about the Body – It’s also in your Mind.

Getting Back on The Fitness Wagon … Again

I fell off. I started getting zoned into doing everything but exercise. And what happened? I started to feel crappy. I had headaches, backaches, felt bloated, and tired. Here’s what I did.

First, I took a hard look at my schedule. What was I really doing during my waking hours? Was I spending my time doing things I wanted to do, or was I spending my time doing things I thought I had to do? Now the argument I have too much to do and I have to do it all doesn’t work so well for me. I usually find that I may think I have a ton to do but when I break it down into actual needs I can usually find things I can let go of.

It takes me time to change. I have to give myself space. Space to think about what my life will be like if I put this exercise activity on my to do list. It usually takes me about three weeks to implement a new behavior – longer if I beat myself up over it. So I have learned to start thinking like a fitness everyday person even if I am not. This allows me to prepare both myself and those around me for the changes I will need to make. I don’t exist in a vacuum so it is important for me to think through my schedule changes so I can better prepare my family and friends.

Finally, I have to follow through. So for all my analyzing and all my space honoring my timeline for change when it comes down to it – I have to do it. I am the one who puts on my workout shoes and gets the exercise done. And usually, I am much better for it!