Family life can test the limits of our patience. On any typical stay-at-home day, spouses can feel like they’ve seen enough of each other, and younger kids especially like to test the waters and push our buttons. Add a pandemic that keeps families home all day every day, and button-pushing gets taken to a whole new level.
Kids get bored and adults get stir-crazy as they step into new roles, like homeschool teacher. It isn’t far-fetched to assume that many at home feel like they’re “losing it,” and with no promised relief in sight, irritations can quickly build.
I’m not here to tell you how to be a better spouse or parent. Instead, I want to offer some encouragement from one spouse/parent to another, for what it’s worth.
It is Right and Good to Get Some Rest
One of my favorite Bible stories is when Jesus was sleeping deeply on a boat with his disciples during a violent storm. Especially during this time, chaos at home can feel like a storm of sorts, and we won’t weather it well from an empty vessel. If the Son of God sought rest in a storm, how much more should we seek rest also? Responding to our need for renewal doesn’t suggest that there is something wrong with us. Instead, it suggests that there is something right with us. We are Image-bearing creatures made for work and rest, even as God rested after the six days of creation. So, if and when it’s possible, consider letting the kids’ nap times be yours as well. If both spouses are home, schedule times where you give each other a break from activity and responsibility. Jesus did not say to his weary people, “Get busy and stay busy.” Rather, he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” His invitation isn’t just for other people. It’s for you, as well.
2. There is No Such Thing as a “Best Quarantine Life”
I’ve noticed that the Internet is loaded with new “how-to” advice regarding the best ways to weather a pandemic. Some of the advice feels more like a one-size-fits-all solution to getting through this unprecedented time. The certainty is a bit comical because the truth is that we are all “winging it,” trying to figure out a new, disorienting and tiresome way of life on the fly. Add to this all the social media posts of people living their “best quarantine life” (you’ve seen these, yes?), and what’s left is a recipe for feeling less-than, ashamed, a failure by comparison. And comparison steals both reality and joy, so please treat these sorts of voices for what they are...lies. If your kids feel bored, or if they don’t finish all of their lessons on a particular day, if you forget to exercise, or if you and your spouse aren’t living their “best quarantine life,” remember that there is no best quarantine life. Quarantine is no way to live a life, and it should throw us off. We are made for community and the ability to gather has been stripped from everyone. It is still not good for people to be alone or isolated. It should feel like loss and struggle and madness some days. It means you are human. It means you are normal. Don’t fall into the trap of extending grace to everyone but you and those you love most. You have limits, and that’s your reality like it is everyone else’s.
3. The Daily Little Faithful Things Matter
In quarantine, everything can feel so “have to,” mundane, and repetitious...like Groundhog Day. This is especially when we are stuck inside most of the time. Without our churches, our colleagues, and our friends, we are prone to discouragement. These feelings escalate even more when we sense boredom in our kids, or discouragement in our spouses. It tempts us to feel like we aren’t doing enough, and that what we are doing is insignificant, small and of little value. But here is the truth—when you show up by getting up day after day, tending to the people and place that have been entrusted to your care, it is of great significance. The simple act of speaking a kind word, tending to another’s frustration and tears, forgiving an offense, putting food on the table, initiating a board game or a movie together, saying “I love you” at bedtime and “Good morning” at wake time, these are all acts of God through you, built into the daily fabric of being. These are also the things that connect you to the One who says he loves us, who shares our struggles and sorrows, who forgives all our sins, who feeds and cares for us, who smiles over us and takes delight in us, who runs the world while we sleep and whose mercies are new every morning.
Hang in there, for this too shall pass. And the pressure is off, because you are just as loved and seen now as you will be if/when you get back to living your best life.