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Anti-schedule is the real schedule

Angelica Villarreal Charris
︎ @mutti_angie
website: muttiangie.wixsite.com

A proud Latina, Angelica left the Colombian Caribbean Coast to come to Germany to study Political Sciences and later International Relations and Diplomacy Studies of the European Union in Belgium. Since January 2020 she writes a blog on her experiences as an expat mom in Germany seeking to share her experiences with fellow moms.

 © Estée Janssens
As previously mentioned, I’m a mom of two blessings. My toddler started going to daycare last August and the winter season that just ended was actually his very first one. The year before, we managed to escape long enough from the cold and its many viruses. So we started our self-imposed quarantine about a week before everyone else due to yet another virus my little blessing caught at daycare - for the xth time since november. Immediately afterwards, Covid-19 put the entire world upside down: daycare facilities, schools, offices and everything else closed and most parents panicked.

Now, parents would not only have to work. Now, they have to work while simultaneously taking care of their blessings 24/7.  Since we are all called to stay at home to flatten the curve, parents have to multiply even more than they already do on a normal day. Now, we are not only working from home but also homeschooling and throwing the household, many times not only with one child but with two or more with completely different needs. It is families who are struggling the most during lockdown and social distancing, showing the need of a more balanced work-family life.

Imagine how it is when everybody remains under the same roof for weeks eating, screaming, running around and wasting toilet paper non-stop. And above all think of all single parents who don’t have one free minute during the day. Imagine how they still sit long hours in front of the computer after they put their children to sleep. So, suddenly, everywhere in social media, thousands of different daily schedules with activities for children started to pullulate.

At the beginning, I thought that was actually pretty great and was happy about the existence of social media sharing all that stuff. When the first official lockdown week started, I was convinced that we could make good use of those schedules. They aimed not only at giving our days some needed structure but also converting our blessings in highly skilled little robots in this already aggressively competitive world we live in.

The truth is, those routines were so tightly timed that deep down my laid back caribbean inner voice already signalised: “abort!” The first two to four days, I tried to do some activities with the kids: painting, sports thanks to Alba Berlin’s YouTube videos for children according to different ages, playing with Playdoh, reading the favorite books again and again, making puzzles, one of my kids’ favorite activities. Most of that took place in the morning so that my husband could somehow attend the many telcos and actually work.

I wanted to do some fine motor skills exercises with my preschooler to help him get prepared to write. But then, many times, I felt that they were not that much into imposed activities. I kept (and sometimes still do) telling my preschooler, that he needed to learn not to object that much, since at school it would be rather not welcome to oppose.

But then, after a few days of total exhaustion of entertaining around the clock, I thought “f*** schedules, I’m going to Narnia!”. Seriously though, they are just kids and the good news is, at least in this family: we don’t actually have to do anything related to homeschooling... yet. So, I decided (also for my mental health), to just let them be kids and let them play or engage in the activity they feel like.

It does not mean that we don’t have a routine. Guys, I’m a taurus, I love routines. They wake up at a very similar, normal hour everyday, eat breakfast, play or paint or read different stuff and move (of course not as much as when you are free to go outside for as long as you want). We eat lunch at the same hour, the toddler takes a nap, meanwhile the preschooler watches some TV. They eat a snack, go outside a little, have dinner, talk to the Colombian grandparents and get prepared to go to bed. And nobody, nobody, wears sweatpants... well, at least not us parents...

In these times, we are really lucky not to be chasing them for them to do homework. It is more than enough to keep them fed and alive. We don’t need schedules, just go with the flow. Otherwise we wouldn’t even be able to keep some basic household chores. Sometimes, I have doubts about my quality as a parent for not doing anything over the top. But I know that not doing so does not make us bad parents. We are well aware that our kids are very bright, clever and curious to learn. And the good news is, they themselves ask to be taught what they are really into. I think that is about right and more than enough. And it is important for us parents to stay as sane as possible.

In fact, I am very thankful for these times. This period enables us to have so much family time, even though I am desperate for some me-and-my-projects-time and sometimes yell around like crazy. It is actually me, as a mother, whose plans and projects get relegated for an uncertain period. But this huge amount of family time is something that we will hardly experience again once the Corona crisis is over. And for my children, as siblings, almost four years apart, it has been one of the most precious gifts, even if they are not aware of it. Although they fight about toys many times a day, it is also true that they now have had so much time to bond. You can see how the toddler adores his brother and how they manage to play together, come up with role play, and watch books together. It makes me happy to think that they also feel less lonely while missing their friends in times of confinement - because they have each other.

So, our schedule in times of Corona is based exactly on not having a schedule, taking every day as it comes, being thankful for what we are experiencing as a family, and avoiding wearing sweatpants.