“I’m freaked out and scared and worried and having trouble navigating this, whether it’s work or relationship, and [the kids] are too! But I have to tell them it’s okay.” -Jake Hajer, Gonzo Parent
Here are some tips to help you avoid pandemic parenting altogether, or at least to recover faster if you find yourself already suffering from its effects.
Read on to learn more about the unique challenges of parenting during the pandemic, as well as some ways to cope when it feels like there’s no end in sight to this trying period in human history.
In today’s day and age, it’s easier than ever to feel like you are the only one who feels stressed out or is having trouble coping with your responsibilities as a parent. It’s difficult to get outside of your own headspace and see that parenting during times of crisis isn’t easy for anyone – but there are ways to cope with this pain and anxiety without neglecting your children.
A new pandemic has infected Earth, and it seems as if every parent has caught it. It’s called the pain of pandemic parenting, and the symptoms are almost entirely mental. Who would have thought something like this could happen? Life is full of surprises, and this is one of those shocking surprises. In reality, pandemic parenting can be one of the most unique experiences in history, and you are a part of it!
This week, Gonzo Parenting launches its kick off episode and what’s a better way to start than to talk about how this pandemic has been constantly straining family dynamics. The first part of our show starts with our Gonzo parents, Jake Hajer, Carmen Buffington, and Brian Farnham talking about their own pandemic experiences and tales of kids acting out in the weirdest ways. They also relate how they took the opportunity to grow closer as a family, how they were challenged by social deprivation, dealing with parental guilt, things they wish they knew before becoming parents, and their advice to fellow parents who are trying hard to show up as their best self during this tough time.
“You don’t know exactly how the kids are dealing with it. They’re very resilient on the one hand… But ultimately, there’s some process going on that you’re not privy to and that they’re not privy to.” -Brian Farnham, Gonzo Parent
The second part of our show with Dr. Amanda Zelechoski, co-founder of Pandemic Parenting, expounds on the clinical side of parenting, mental health issues, decision fatigue, stress management for kids, and the science of providing individualized support to each child. Amanda discusses how we can model how to process emotions to our children, how to leverage our kids’ ability to remember things in totality to give them an entirely different experience, how involving them in the decision-making process empowers them, and the importance of self-care in our role as parents.
Parents may feel helpless, but gonzo parenting is all about the trial by fire learning experience of how to become the parents we wish had. And when we’ve come out on the other side of this roller-coaster ride, maybe we can look back with a little perspective. But until then, let’s hear from our guests….
Join the Gonzo Parenting Community Finding Comedy in the Chaos
“There’s no playbook [in being a parent]… You have to wait and see.” -Carmen Buffington, Gonzo Parent
With Our Gonzo Parents
- 07:34 Meet Jake, Brian, and Carmen and Their Pandemic Stories
- 16:06 Spending Family Time
- 26:04 Social Needs Deprivation
- 37:15 Gonzo Parenting Craziness!
- 43:32 Things You Wish You Knew Before Being a Parent
With Our Expert Guest
- 50:31 Pandemic Parenting and Decision Fatigue
- 01:01:14 Modeling How to Process Emotions
- 01:11:23 Older Kids vs Younger Kids and How to Support Them
- 01:19:22 How to Bounce Forward
- 01:25:45 Give Yourself Grace as a Parents
“Kids are often okay when their parents are okay.” -Dr. Amanda Zelechoski
PANDEMIC PARENTING: The art of parenting during a crisis. Parenting during a pandemic. What a unique experience, right? Learn how you can overcome the challenges of pandemic parenting with @JayRooke and our Gonzo Parents with our expert guest,… Click To Tweet
Meet Our Guest:
Dr. Amanda Zelechoski is a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist and attorney, specializing in trauma. She is a Professor of Psychology and the Director of Clinical Training at Purdue University Northwest, where she conducts research on the impact of childhood trauma at the intersection of psychology, law, and public policy. She is board certified in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, has worked clinically with adults, children, and families, and provides training and consultation to numerous mental health, legal, educational, and child welfare agencies. Most importantly, she is a wife and mom of three young children, just trying to make sure her kids have clothes on when they bust into her virtual meetings.
Connect with Pandemic Parenting:
- 09:21 “Each person, being locked away and separated from other families and socialization, internalizes it and reflects it differently.” -Jake Hajer, Gonzo Parent
- 10:44 “I’m freaked out and scared and worried and having trouble navigating this, whether it’s work or relationship, and [the kids] are too! But I have to tell them it’s okay.” -Jake Hajer, Gonzo Parent
- 11:18 “You don’t know exactly how the kids are dealing with it. They’re very resilient on the one hand… But ultimately, there’s some process going on that you’re not privy to and that they’re not privy to.” -Brian Farnham, Gonzo Parent
- 18:19 “There’s this great awakening for those of us where it’s now changing how we have our dynamic with our kids in a more conscientious, deliberate, thoughtful way.” -Jay Rooke
- 42:35 “The pain of how we navigate things so much has to do with our compass and which direction it’s pointed.” -Jake Hajer, Gonzo Parent
- 43:48 “We tend to think that no matter how many kids, that you’re going to be able to continue to do the things that you’d wanted to invest in for yourself. And the truth is, there’s a trade off. You can’t do both.” -Brian Farnham, Gonzo Parent
- 45:16 “There’s no playbook [in being a parent]… You have to wait and see.” -Carmen Buffington, Gonzo Parent
- 46:46 “The personal time you get [as a parent] is almost nonexistent.” -Jake Hajer, Gonzo Parent
- 48:18 “Find parents who have kids that you agree with their parenting style and drink together because that’s going to save you. It takes a community to raise a kid.” -Jake Hajer, Gonzo Parent
- 50:53 “We don’t often know crises are coming before they do. We’re mostly only able to study the aftermath of really difficult situations.” -Dr. Amanda Zelechoski
- 54:18 “There’s a need. People are struggling, they need to feel like they’re not alone.” -Dr. Amanda Zelechoski
- 01:04:21 “The goal is not to eliminate all stress from your kids…. But we want to have situations where it isn’t the sort of chronic and toxic stress like ongoing abuse in the home or emotional neglect.” -Dr. Amanda Zelechoski
- 01:09:30 “Think about the totality instead of those micro moments.” -Dr. Amanda Zelechoski
- 01:17:04 “Compassion and empathy come to mind really big for me. And I think for parents, it’s really important for us to not only extend those to those around us, but to let that come back to ourselves as well.” -Jay Rooke
- 01:17:55 “It’s alright if you screwed up. You can come back and have a do over.” -Dr. Amanda Zelechoski
- 01:21:43 “Life is about choices. We get to be intentional about our time instead of letting schedules happen to us.” -Dr. Amanda Zelechoski
- 01:22:35 “A way to empower your kids is to involve them in those decisions.” -Dr. Amanda Zelechoski
- 01:26:03 “Kids are often okay when their parents are okay.” -Dr. Amanda Zelechoski
- 01:27:25 “Self love is the biggest gift that we can give our kids. We need to rewire and reframe that conversation.” -Jay Rooke
Jay Rooke: Hey everyone, I’m your host, Jay Rooke, I’m very excited to have this kickoff episode of The Gonzo Parenting Podcast. Today’s theme is all about the pain of parenting during the pandemic. And for any of us who were at home during this period with our kids trying to hold down our lives, navigate the pandemic, keep our businesses running, keep our relationships and marriages functional, and oh, by the way, raise kids in front of a tablet, many of us for whom we were raising and teaching our children for the first time highly complicated things, and it was in a motional, toxic stew for many. And so one of the things that I found was, it was just completely overwhelming all of the time. I never felt like I got stable ground. And that constant lack of foundation all the time and constant uncertainty, very much took its toll with me during the pandemic. And I think in talking with other parents and other parents in the community, that was a very common theme.
So one of the reasons why I wanted to bring this up is because it has been so pervasive. And that’s why we’re making it be our kickoff episode because I feel it’s very much needed right now at this point in time, and will be a relevant topic for years and months to come. Even if the pandemic isn’t going on those of us that went through it, how do we process some of that emotional baggage that we’ve picked up and clear out some of that scar tissue and evolve into the best versions of ourselves. For today’s conversation, we had a great roundtable conversation with a handful of parents from the Gonzo Parenting Community, talking about what they went through and endured during the circus of 2020 onwards with being home with our kids. And then I’m really excited for our expert guest today, Dr. Amanda Zelechoski, she is the Co-Founder of Pandemic Parenting, so it could not be more apropo expert.
And one of the reasons that we’re excited to have all this together is so that those of you who are parents that have been through all of this craziness can hear and validate yourself and the other parents and have a more honest and forthright conversation about what we went through. And things were not so great during the pandemic, and how that impacted us as parents, individuals, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and community members. And then pairing that with what Amanda’s seen on the clinical side of things and through all of her research, and how can we start to get our heads and hearts around this to start to make some of the changes to evolve and become those moms and dads that we wish we had as we exits some of these aspects of the pandemic.
So with that, I’ll stop blabbing, we’re gonna cross over and listen to our first parent roundtable. Enjoy the conversation.
And with that, welcome, everyone to the first full episode of Gonzo Parenting, the Podcast, like to welcome everyone to the show. I’m your host, Jay Rooke. We are here today with Jake, Carmen and Brian. Welcome to the show everybody. Today’s episode like we described, we’re going to talk about the pain of parenting during the pandemic. So before we dive into that, I just want to do a quick introduction to everybody to let you know a little bit more of who our guests are. So why don’t we fire off with Carmen. Carmen, tell us your breeding status as it were, and anything you want to share with our audience about your parents picture.
Carmen Buffington: I am a mom of two boys who are now seven and nine. I am not originally from Sonoma. We moved here from Chicago about five years ago. And yeah, I’m losing my mind. I have two boys. It’s crazy.
Jay Rooke: Yes, yes. Condolences. Brian, how about yourself?
Brian Farnham: Yes. I am a dad of four. I have a boy who is 12, I have a girl who is 10, and I have twin boys who are eight. And all that is as bad as it sounds. But also, as good as it may not sound. We live in Jersey. We’ve been living in this house altogether for the pandemic, like many have. Yeah, that’s my story.
Jay Rooke: I’m expecting to see over your shoulder, like the prisoner for draw line days marked off, and I assume you have a shift somewhere in the house.
Brian Farnham: Yes, just out of view.
Jay Rooke: Totally. Awesome. Thanks for joining us Brian. And Jake, how about yourself?
Jake Hajer: My name is Jake Hajer. I am a dad of two boys. They’re essentially seven and five. And it’s been as tough as you can imagine. They all have the same, some stories, not the same. I’ve lived in Sonoma now for about five years. I came from San Francisco before Chicago so I’m excited to be here.
Jay Rooke: And so I’ve got six year old boy/girl twins. Brian, I’m curious, you had twins on the third go around, and I think back to when, almost all twins are born premature. So we’re in the NICU and the nurses are talking to us. And they’re like, well, it’s gonna be tough. But there was this other couple that came in and they had three girls and the dad wanted to try one more time to get a boy, and they ended up with triplet girls. And I’m like, that poor son of a bitch is with seven women for the rest of his life trapped in the house all day long.
Brian Farnham: I mean, you wonder what’s in their previous life.
Jay Rooke: You need goat’s blood to cure that or something.
Carmen Buffington: Over the doorway.
Jay Rooke: Yes. 100%, 100%. Diving into today’s episode, I think we were chatting a little bit in the pre interview around how it has just been for parents. And I think one of the most notable things is looking at, when we talk to non parents, just how radically different their experience of the pandemic has been. And I think back to when it was initially announced in California as of this recording, which is January 2022, it was March 2020. And I remember the lockdown it just got announced in California, and just everybody thinking almost like the way we treat hurricanes in the northeast. It’s like, oh, we’re gonna hunker down for the weekend, get some extra snacks and alcohol, hang out with our friends in the basement, and we’ll wake up next week and it’ll all be over. And just how freaking naive were we. And everything that went through this, and so here we are. So we’d love to just touch base and kind of hear what some of your initial experiences were with the pandemic, and what made it the hardest the first time through, and kind of where are you at with things now?
Jake Hajer: Yeah, sure. Well, first of all, let me start with the right now. Right now it’s been like two and a half years we’ve fought this thing off and been hiding inside this house, and kids are peeing on stuff and acting out. And my wife tested positive on a home test last night, after like two years. It’s almost, and the symptoms aren’t that bad, and everyone’s happy, and it’s gonna be okay. But it’s almost like, even though we’ve been fighting for two years this way, and it didn’t work.
Jay Rooke: Your family like my own was super aggressive as far as isolated in place, and then so it’s kind of ironic. My whole family–
Jake Hajer: Like I went through all this misery, damn it.
Jay Rooke: I feel it’s like getting an STD and getting pregnant on your first time having–.
Jake Hajer: She unbuttoned my shirt, and now I have a family. But from the start, of course, in California, we completely locked down like march 15 or something like that. My boys are two years, five days apart. So March 8, and March 13. And so we throw a party for them together every year. And so we had to tell them at the time, they were turning three and five, I can’t remember. But we had to tell three and five year olds the day before their party like, listen, your party’s canceled, and we don’t know when we’re ever going to do your party. They did not take that well. And so like that was the start of it. Every family’s different in how I feel really lucky. I have an amazing wife. She’s really laid back. So being inside for so long, she wasn’t driving me crazy. It’s just each person being locked away, separated from other families and socialization. they internalize it and reflect it differently. And so one of our boys, we have Abraham and Hudson, and Abraham, he’s the younger. And at the time, he is three years old. And after three months of being completely locked in, we would go around the table like, hey, what’s the best part of your day? We go to Abraham, what’s the best part of your day Abraham? And we don’t even know if we remember school at this point, but we’re just, what’s the best part of your day? He just looked like not going to school. Okay, okay. And then Hudson on the other hand is so amazingly social. He was acting out and he’s a good, good boy. He’s not a jerk, he doesn’t do things negatively for no reason. He starts acting, he starts peeing on stuff. He started peeing his awesome brother, paint through a screen, like a sliding screen door from a second floor balcony is a disaster. It’s everywhere. I did not know.
Jay Rooke: And all I can think about is the old 80’s drug council out of, you all right, I learned by watching you.
Jake Hajer: I learned something. And so that was tough. And then the overarching emotional thing is they’re dealing with what we’re dealing with. I’m freaked out, and scared, and worried, and like having trouble navigating this, whether it’s work or relationship, and then they are too. Well, I have to tell them that it’s okay. And I have to tell him that like, hey, nothing’s matter. It’s alright, it’s gonna be over soon. When? I don’t know when it is. And I’m also worried. And so having to deal with us and the kids with the exact same problem, it was interesting. That’s like a gloss over my experience I think so far as a parent in the pandemic.
Brian Farnham: You hit on something, Jake, that this rings true for me too, which is, you don’t know exactly how the kids are dealing with it. They’re kids so they’re very resilient on the one hand, and they act like kids no matter what’s going on. But as this thing drags on, it’s having some effect. And sometimes, they can speak to it a little bit. But ultimately, there’s some process going on that you’re not privy to, that they’re not privy to. And I see it, as we sort of emerged with my kids and things got a little more normal, I started to see signs of that, like I started to see my eldest son suddenly, he’d be really stressed about his grades even though he was getting great grades. And I was like, this is not coming from mom and dad, so I don’t know where like, relax, but he just couldn’t. So I’m on the lookout for those things. And sometimes you see them, sometimes you don’t. And I also wonder, there’s gonna be a lot of therapy calendars and a lot of people’s features–
Jay Rooke: Yeah. One of the things that I was so bummed about was, I’m thinking like, here’s my kids are in these very formative years, and I’m struggling to show up as my best person by far. And for COVID just put me in a weird corner in different ways where I was just like, I’d be conscious of me not showing up the way that I wanted to, but yet still unable to change it at times. And to your point around how kids view things, I feel somewhat blessed that we have younger kids during this piece. I think the kids that are older are struggling with more of those social challenges. But also last month, we had gone to the east coast to visit family and everything got screwed. Everybody that we were supposed to stay with got COVID and we were kind of going from lodging situation, a lodging situation, and we all got COVID. And I was just thinking to myself, this is the worst trip ever. And my son goes, Dad, this is the best holiday vacation ever. And I’m just like, this is fascinating to me that you have this viewpoint of it, well, this is my experience of it.
Jake Hajer: National Lampoons COVID Vacation.
Jay Rooke: Yeah. How about you Carmen?
Carmen Buffington: My husband and I just went and had a beer together before this, and I was telling him this was coming up, and we were talking about it. And we were discussing how, up until the pandemic, because of our work lives, we had a life in Au Pair. And so we almost every night of the week either together or separately, would be going out. So we weren’t getting home until 7:00 or 8:00 o’clock at night pre-pandemic, and then life just shut down. And then we are like, we were talking about, not everything’s been perfect, but something that has been great through the pandemic is we’ve gotten really close to our kids. We spent time with them in ways that we weren’t spending time with them before. We get excited now. I have two boys and a husband, and they’re all geeking out over the Marvel Universe. I don’t know anything about it, but now I’m learning about it because we are watching in timeline order now every night of the week, not whole movies, but portions of movies in order, and I’m learning about this. I don’t know, we’re developing a different relationship with our kids that if the pandemic had never happened, I imagine our lives would have just kept moving forward the way that it was. And now, it gets to be 6:30 at night and we’re like, okay, we’re all together and we’re all ready to watch like the next 45 minutes or whatever movies are coming up. And yeah, it’s been one of the positives, for sure.
Jay Rooke: And so with two boys and a husband, everything turned into a forte in your house, are there any couch cushions where they belong?
Carmen Buffington: There are never any couch cushions where they belong. So yeah, it is something I did at the beginning of the pandemic is I button, and Terry said it saved, my husband’s name is Terry. He said: “Well, it saved our marriage.” There’s a gigantic trampoline in our backyard.
Jay Rooke: Yes.
Carmen Buffington: And the kids are on it every day. Like, since I bought it at the beginning, like in April, like the pandemic started, everything shut down in March. And then in April, I bought this trampoline and they’ve been on it almost every day, unless it’s like torrential rain. And we also bought an above ground pool. It’s been like a shit show of the situation with that. But at the same time, it’s been a great learning experience. I now know that I don’t care to have an inground swimming pool in my backyard, much less the Redneck version that I currently have much further of a hot tub. So it’s all been a big learning experience is basically what I’m saying.
Jay Rooke: Yeah. I think everyone’s got that other than the stash of emergency vodka. Everybody had that thing that they turned to that became salvation like I got it our garage, and just got all the crap and shelving out of it and turned it into a home theater for like a couple 100 bucks, and then had a blast with that. And so that was our saving grace.
Jake Hajer: Yeah. I totally agree with spending time with the family and how much different than that would be. I’ve started playing Legos with the kids. I mean, I play more Legos now than I ever did growing up, and we just for hours will sit around play. And that is awesome. That is a very positive thing.
Jay Rooke: 100%. Brian, how about you? Where are you at as we enter almost year three of this lovely escapade now?
Brian Farnham: Emotionally, it’s so interesting. I just turned 50 recently, so I’ve been trying to figure out if my existential crisis is about the pandemic, year three or a garden variety midlife crisis? It’s probably a mix of both, but I’m definitely like, the world is fucked and I don’t care anymore phase of things. Everything just seems like it sucks, and they’re the new normal. I can sort of deal with that. But I do worry, going back to the kids. It’s like, well, I can’t be too blase about it because they have to deal. But I am definitely like, I’m over it, healing a lot of things.
Jay Rooke: I think that fatigue is the hardest part that most of us are dealing with right now. The uncertainty is what it is. The dumpster fire of modern America also is what it is, but it’s just the constant ongoing of this and going back to yet another shutdown is just so soul crushingly busy. I think for so many years, it feels like as soon as we try to get a stake in the ground, or get some traction, or start to get our arms around any type of sense of schedule, or normalcy, everything blows back again, and it’s a particularly difficult position to parent. From my parenting style, I was much more around scheduling instability and charting things out. And so when all that goes out the window, I’m just like, alright, I have no clue what to do now. And six year old twins are intense. And if there’s not a strong vision laid out, the inmates run the asylum pretty quickly. I keep joking around with friends and like, okay, so I guess I’m not working again this week because of whatever it is that’s going on. And if we look at news reports, there’s a lot of talk about the great resignation. But all your earlier points, there’s also been this great awakening. I feel like for those of us that have paid attention to it where it’s now changing how we have our dynamic with our kids in a more conscientious, deliberate, thoughtful way than perhaps might not have gone on in the past, but still insanely hard to build off of.
Brian Farnham: You kind of wonder, sort of joking about all the therapy couches in the future, but also like everyone else’s point about the family time that has been great as a silver lining, and you know what effect that does have long term. What kind of memories do people have that obviously, depending on the age of the kid when they go to the pandemic will have, either I don’t remember that well, or I was always wearing a mask, everyone was wearing a mask. Or it sucked, school is hard. But they’ll have that family memory too. And what kind of families will that lead to? Or what expectations for families and parenting does that create in that generation is really a big question.
Jay Rooke: And it’s weird to me to try to figure out how we parent from this spot that nobody’s ever been through before and like that, whatever, prefer a war or something like that over this. But we all have answers to have gone through that. And so being like, what was that time like? Or what was the depression like grandma? Or whatever these things are? What was the upheavals of social stuff in the 60’s like? And then this where there’s no guidebook and everybody’s just kind of flying blind I think just reintroducing that fear component. And I think it’s a major challenge for us as parents to try to be stable and grounded, and also experiencing this all the time. I feel like I vacillate between hiding and putting my head in the sand, pretending this isn’t going on, or being hyper into the moment and caught up in all the emotions of crazy.
Jake Hajer: It’s interesting. It kind of reminds me a little bit. You’re talking about scheduling and have it all planned out. And I don’t know, maybe it’s a guy thing, but it’s not. I think it’s just a parent thing. You first bring the first one anyway, first baby home from the hospital. You took the classes, read the books like, oh, if it cries, maybe it’s hungry. If bla, bla, bla. But as soon as you get home, it’s like, oh, my god. God, we got to keep this thing alive 24/7, what do we do? And it’s just sitting there and crying. And you’re flipping out because it’s like, now I know, I’m responsible this life. And I read a book, but a book does not like take care of this thing 24/7. And so there’s this, almost say roll with the punches, but it’s like you’re going to figure it out. There’s not like, oh, well, we’ll sleep on it. Or I’m gonna write up a plan. It’s no, we’re going to figure this out with this second, because we have to, we love this thing. And I think through the pandemic, it’s been somewhat that way. I mean, every time we have to be tested, every time that kids have to come home, it’s like, okay, we’re gonna do this, this what has to happen. And like we’re just gonna roll with the punches.
And as long as we have each other, it’s going to be all right. And I think that not only the kids, I think it’s a great point about when they look back later in life, how they remember this, there will be positives to it. The amount of times they played Legos with that type of thing. Well, I also think our relationships, not so much as amongst parents, because it was so much fun to go over to our fellow parents house, drink and let the kids play, but couples relationships. I mean, I feel like being locked inside with my wife last year, it’s not necessarily been a bad thing. Like said, she’s a laid back easy going person. It’s not intense, and weird, and edgy, or anything like that. And so it’s been a good thing. And I think that, not just me, I think for a lot of Americans, this strengthens their relationship with their significant other.
Carmen Buffington: Or it brought things to the surface. I’ve got a ton of friends who have separated and been getting divorced during this time, and I think Billy things were probably going to happen anyway. And the pandemic, just the way it strength, like I feel the way you do, Jake, about my relationship with my husband, and during the pandemic, things have gotten even better. But for some people, it’s been an eye opening situation to let them, oh, you know what? Let’s go ahead in this and make everybody happier.
Jay Rooke: Totally.
Jake Hajer: I think it gets it done quicker, gets to the surface faster. That time with each other, I think beyond strengthening the relationship and making you value it. It’s like you get that Redneck cool, really start to value, or the trampling,
Carmen Buffington: Well, I really value my husband’s effort that he put in. I just want to stamp a hole in it and get it over with.
Jake Hajer: Well, it’s just, now that you’re forced to use that thing, you really get a sense of value. And now that we’re forced to be with a significant other, it’s like, not all the time, but we talked about it often, like our friends and others that are single, or how hard it would be to be dating right now if you were 20 something, it’d be a nightmare. And I feel like, oh, lucky to have a family.
Brian Farnham: I mean, that is a whole other side of things. Not just the parenting, but the relationship hopefully stable, unable to be strengthened. Although not always, there’s definitely stress, but just that life stage where I think it being a work, I don’t personally need to see the inside of an office ever again. I will go back, but I don’t need to. But I think all the time about being 24 during this thing in your like little studio apartment in the city when most of your social life at that age is people at work or those not working. And I really do feel for them. I was lucky enough to be in a big house in the burbs of the yard. I wander outside at any point of the day from my home office, and they’re like, I can see them on the Zoom calls in there little studio shack and they’re like, yes.
Jay Rooke: Can you imagine the lengths that you would go through at that age to hook up at any level?
Brian Farnham: Yeah. STD, COVID, I don’t know
Jay Rooke: Totally. And I think back to it, I remember it was, whenever the first week of lockdown had kicked in and I had friends that had, the husband said, I’m just done with the marriage, we’re gonna go divorce the week prior. And not knowing what was coming down the pike, obviously, and then the two of them had to try to figure out how to co navigate that space afterwards. And I’m just imagining walking that one back and being like, so hey, last week, totally kidding, don’t know what I was talking about. But I think the first go around in my house anyhow, I think my wife and I were at each other’s throats just from the stuckness of it all and dealing with our own emotions of going through it. And then it became this aha moment of like, alright, this isn’t going away anytime soon. We can either choose to be teammates and make this work together or kind of finger point, etc. And I think things stabilized, and were good for a long time. And then I feel like one of the challenges in all couples, certainly says for myself now is, as we’re laying into this fatigue of not getting all of those other social needs met, and the going out, and the connecting and whatnot, I think it’s a challenge to not put it on the other person for getting our needs met type of thing. And those of us again that are stuck at home with kids all day long, it’s so frustrating in a 10 ish hour kid day and want to plug in. One of us might be still having to work or not ready for that, or whatever those things look like. And being able to have that kind of on demand plugin for instinct, social gratification type of stuff, I think is a challenge we’re working through as well.
Carmen Buffington: Yeah. The lack of social has been, my husband and I are both like social butterflies. Like I said, before the pandemic, we were out networking. It was for work, but it’s the kind of stuff we love to do, so it didn’t feel like work. We just love people. We have big parties, like we have a chili party that we started throwing when we lived in Chicago, and when we moved here, we started throwing it here. The last time we got to throw it was in late 2019 before the pandemic. There were like 75 people at our house for a chili cook off. We love doing this, and then like slam, so we got really close with like two other families because they became our pod.
Jay Rooke: Sure.
Carmen Buffington: And so then you’re just depending on to other families, and then like, we would go to Arizona and see my husband’s family, and then we’d have to be like, okay, well, we can’t see you for two weeks because we have to sequester to make sure we didn’t catch anything in Arizona, which is like the Wild Wild West, they don’t care about anything. And so like, we’d come back and be like, okay, we can’t hang out with you. It was really hard not to have to go from a big social life to like, we hung out with like eight people, and it’s brutal. We both suffered, and we’re still suffering from it. I think we might be moving away from here just because the pandemic interrupted our ability to keep moving forward, creating relationships with people and social networks. And now, I’m like, you know what? I’ve learned, like I would rather go home and be close to family and friends I’ve had for a really long time and to try now, we’re not even post pandemic. What is it going to be, another two years? I don’t know.
Jake Hajer: I don’t know. I want to go to a chili party.
Carmen Buffington: You can’t do it virtually. Here, taste this.
Brian Farnham: When I hear a 75 person thing, I’m like, oh, super spreader event.
Carmen Buffington: I know. Are you kidding? 15 people are super spreaders right now.
Jay Rooke: It’s funny, our perception of things. I was watching a movie the other day, and like my initial thought was, why are they standing so close to each other without a mask?
Brian Farnham: I know. Like, what did they film this? Talking to each other.
Jake Hajer: Yeah. I saw some video of Octoberfest and just a thousand people packed together and I’m like, oh, my god, that’s so dangerous. No, I want to go to a Chili party. I used to throw champagne and french fry parties in Chicago.
Carmen Buffington: Ah, where did you live in Chicago?
Jake Hajer: All over the place. Hyde Park, but most of the time, in Ukrainian Village.
Carmen Buffington: Okay. We’re in Logan Square.
Jake Hajer: Uptown, oh, yeah. I live in Logan Square. But all North Side, except for Colorado, I was in Hyde Park.
Carmen Buffington: We’re thinking about moving back there North Carolina and we’re probably a house in Andersonville is what I’m looking at right now.
Jake Hajer: Andersonville, nice.
Jay Rooke: What’s everybody’s kind of like fantasy coming out of COVID, or stolen to a type of thing like, hey, if we could wave that magic wand, what would it be? Or where would you move to? What pops up for you guys?
Carmen Buffington: For me, it’s Chicago or North Carolina just because we know so many people there. My husband’s from there, and we were there for 12 years, like my social network. They’re people I’ve known forever, love and trust. We’re older parents. I didn’t have my kids till I was 40. So like, and they all waited later. Like I’m in Rohnert Park now, and I meet moms that were teenagers when they had their kids. I’m not even sure if I can give them a glass of wine if they come and hang out with me. It’s like, what is going on here? And so I just have a place where it’s more, it feels like more who I am. So they’re in North Carolina where I’m from, and again, I get tons of friends and connections that have been there forever and way cheaper.
Jay Rooke: Yeah. How about you, Brian, what’s the magic wand play for you?
Brian Farnham: Yeah, a lot of fantasies about, because we have a big old house which is great to a point, and then you’re sick of it and ready to move on. And so it’s like downscaling, getting it all the crap and moving further away from people. So both my wife and I kind of have a fantasy of living further out in the wilderness, but then you balance again, it goes back to the kids. Do I really want to do that to my kids and take them away from the social opportunities that they probably need and want at this stage? So that may have to wait a little bit of fancy.
Jay Rooke: Love it.
Jake Hajer: Me, as far as we’re concerned, living situation, we always want bigger things. Us anyway, we want bigger, more space, just more space. But we love the town. We live in the town of Sonoma, we love the towns. Even with magic wands, we want to raise our kids here. Actually, the community has been really good and stable through the pandemic. From a budget standpoint, I know that the town of Sonoma as the sort of hub for tourism in Sonoma is one of them. So it’s a very tourism economy, very tourism based. Like the first year when it was all locked down, I just know this, their wife and their local politics, that the city has enough monetary reserves that last eight years without making any tax, without any tax income. And so I think that they put in a couple million in the last tax revenues, but they could do this years and years on end. So really, the town is really stable, the economy is really stable, there’s good money here. It’s not like there’s a lot of homelessness or crime popping up. Housing prices have skyrocketed due to the pandemic as people were leaving San Francisco and in Oakland and they were already ridiculous. But other than that, the magic wand would be getting a bigger house, a much bigger house, but a much bigger yard. But we love this town. Love this community. It’s getting back to, as Carmen was saying, we’re social too. And they do a lot of socialization, managing that type of thing. So I usually, actually don’t do a ton of non work hours, but just friends. Hanging out with Jay and drinking, and not parenting kids, that’s it. Just getting back a little more social, and more space, but we wouldn’t move.
Jay Rooke: 10-4. I feel like the one, that parenting thing is huge. If there’s anything I want more than anything, it’s just a pause button on that. The been on 24/7 for going on way too many months now has been what’s taken its hardest toll on me. I just want to sit and stare at a lake. Do nothing to know that my kids are safe somewhere and have been taken care of. And in the comments, I’m moving back home with friends and stuff like that. We don’t have any close family out here as far as child care stuff goes. And so once all of that shut down, it was just a very aha moment around escaping children.
Jake Hajer: Yeah. And I’ll tackle that out. I mean, I don’t want to watch TV all day or play video games all day, but I’m with them all day, and I can’t play with them or tell them to do stuff every second of the day. It is so exhausting. So they end up watching way too much TV and I’m like, I care, it matters. My sanity also does. There’s a balance somewhere in there.
Brian Farnham: It was an incredibly well timed moment of your son walking behind you with a screen, by the way. My kids are somewhere doing that too. No, it’s true. I mean, my wife went back to work a year ago, full time. So we have an au pair. I mean, you mentioned that too. I’m at home, my kids are around, but I feel both that I like to see too much of them, and I’m not seeing enough of them because it’s not the kind of time you want to spend. I was actually thinking about that part of this call, like the amount of, it’s a complete cliche of it goes so fast, and you look back on that. I have a Google nest that just pulls photos up next to me of like from the past, even from two years ago.
Jay Rooke: Oh, and you go by and you’re like–
Brian Farnham: Oh, I gotta turn it off. Actually, it’s futile. But it also makes you realize like, the moment that you had 15 minutes ago was one of those moments and you were like, would you please shut up so I can do work, in that moment as opposed to being present. And that’s thing that’s really hard, trying to remind yourself to be present because it’s going to be a moment that you’ll see in two years on your Google nest.
Jay Rooke: So well said man. I feel like every parent’s conundrum during this time is feeling guilty about the work you’re behind on when you’re with your kids. And then when you’re working, feeling guilty that you’re not with your kids, and that whole swirling shit show around. There’s just not enough time to pull from all of those moments and try to manage ourselves. And I couldn’t agree with you more on the presence there, Brian. A big founding moment for Gonzo Parenting was one day, the kids wanted to go on a dolly cart ride and push the furniture dolly down the street. And I was just like, no, we’re not pushing a furniture dolly down the street. And they just persisted so much. I was just like, alright, screw it. Let’s go with this. And then it just kind of flowed through.
Carmen Buffington: Yeah. Sometimes, we just decide to let go and let it happen, and just do whatever. It’s like, why? This morning, my younger son took one bite of his pancake and didn’t want to have any more pancakes. And normally, my husband’s like, you have to eat something. And we were talking about later in the morning together and he’s like, if he’s hungry, he’s gonna eat. Why am I getting all wrapped? Wrapped around the axle about this, just let go. We’re working on that. It’s a work in progress.
Jay Rooke: Or the flipside of that is, there’s moments where I spent three and a half hours cooking something and then lost it because I had no patience left when they decided we don’t eat chicken anymore today, when chicken was their favorite meal yesterday. I’m just like, this is not happening. You’re eating this. Well, let’s see anything else we need to cover pandemic wise that you want to touch on.
Brian Farnham: God, no. Can we stop talking about it please?
Jay Rooke: Speaking of which, look like how much does that suck? By the way, we’re all so fucking sick of it. And yet, with our limited socialization time that we do have when we do connect with other people, it’s all we talk about. And I’m just like, why are we talking about this right now? Like, let’s find anything else to talk about? Let’s go Betty White, I don’t care. Something else to talk about.
Brian Farnham: It’s a great common denominator, unfortunately. I remember the panda. I mean, they’re gonna be so sick.
Jay Rooke: Oh, my God. Totally. Totally. Yes. Yes. Well, hey, let’s roll out with some just general Gonzo Parenting overview questions. So does anyone have any favorite Gonzo Parenting stories about their kids they want to share?
Jake Hajer: Gonzo parenting, meaning like we screwed something up?
Jay Rooke: No, that crazy over the top moment when you realize that you were in way over your head and the kids are, actually, I think you could pin through the second story screen. It’s a pretty good one.
Carmen Buffington: I relate to that just a little too much. My kids decided to get pissed, and then I’ll walk in their room and they have a clothes hamper, and I’ll be like, oh, someone got pissed and decided to piss, and [inaudible] that’s really great. And it doesn’t happen all the time. But just when they’re so emotional, they need an outlet. And apparently, pissing on things is a great outlet for little boys.
Brian Farnham: That continues into college.
Carmen Buffington: Thank you.
Jay Rooke: And longer for some of us.
Brian Farnham: I mean, my big famous Gonzo moment was kind of an eye opener. So this is four years ago when the twins were four. We were spring breaking in Florida with grandma, and we’re coming back, and everything has been great. And we were in the end, my kids are really into beanie boos, which is this little wad of plushy animal stuff from China they love. While we were walking in the airport, one of my twins, August, who is quite emotional at times, had a big voice. And he saw a Beanie Boo in the shop just as we cleared security and he’s like, I want that. And we were kind of, you’re literally holding to your arm, you may not have another meltdown, like category 5 meltdown, which was that, he tensioned before, but always controllably. And this was the first time and we didn’t see it coming. So we were like, oh, see what was happening. So we’re like, okay, this will be over in a minute. So I took the rest of the kids while my wife was with them and tried to come down. And like five minutes later, I got a call like, you need to come now. So I went back to the shop. He’s on the floor screaming, people are looking. And literally, this guy’s like, what’s wrong with your kid lady. Nothing, he’s just allergic to Florida shithead like you. As I described it, he was on the ground. He just looked like a meth head yoga instructor. And he was just, and it finally went by, but it was that whole like, there was a guy at one point, there was a security guard walking by us and I’m holding him, he’s screaming and the guy looks at me and immediately gets on his mic. Not to call and help, but just to look too busy to help me. ISIS attack, I can’t help you. Yeah, that was when I was like, Okay, I’m both over my head. This was just something we’re gonna have to learn how to deal with, and he just hits you like that. This is what I was dealt, and that’s part of his personality. So we deal with everyone.
Jay Rooke: That’s one good story.
Jake Hajer: I guess as far as the big personalities dealing with them. The two little ones I have, you reminded me Brian, Abraham, he’s a little boy, and this was actually before pandemic. So he was, I think two, and we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They have huge huge tank. It’s one of the biggest, I think tanks, saltwater tanks in America and they have all kinds of fish, obviously. But they have a tiger shark, like an 18 foot tiger shark. And all the parents, all the kids are right around the glass, like right next to it watching all the fish. And then out of the darkness, this giant shark just comes swimming towards the thing and like all the kids step back cautiously and the parents like, oh, wow, what do you know? And I’m kinda like that. My little boy, [inaudible], again, two years old. And what’s neat about this is, looking back and having this verified is he steps four, he gets [inaudible], while all the others are like, and I had to grab, what do you think you’re doing? But it was like this special deep guttural, like he was about to shank that shark?It’s a special growl that he uses when he gets really pissed off of his brother, a really melt attack, there’s this deep growl. And so every time I hear it, I think of that story and having to like grabbing like, what do you think you’re doing? And the other one is during the pandemic.
So we’re sitting there, and again, you’re wondering how this is affecting you emotionally and where they’re at mentally. My wife is from Holland, in Europe, and so she is really anti gun. But for some reason, got them nerf guns. So they’re in the room and they have like a nerf six shooters. They have like the six little bullets in there. And again, Abraham is sitting there, he’s looking at me like not saying words, just looking at me. His brothers are there. It’s bedtime, about to read a book and he has six shooting stars, taking out each bullet, click, click, click. And Hudson, his big brother says, hey, what are you doing? And he points it right between my eyes and he looks at me and says, I only need one. Oh, my god. And so you’re wondering, what am I eating in bed here?
Carmen Buffington: The badass.
Jake Hajer: Tough little guy, different personalities. And I think how we navigate things so much has to do with our compass. And which directions pointed in, what universe we’re in like Hudson. Hudson, Abraham are radically different people. And so how they express everything about being inside and being outside is radically different. If we went in there and fought right now, it wasn’t like they jumped on the bed or wanted to wrestle a daddy. Hudson would bounce on the bed and be like a prizefighter and jumping around. He will be a junkyard dog and he’ll die for your ankles, start licking them first and then start biting me. They’re like, that’s how they navigate everything. And it really expresses itself when you clamp them down.
Jay Rooke: Yes. Very much good. Well, let’s wrap it. So either biggest lie about parenting out there? Or what do you most wish someone told you before becoming a parent?
Carmen Buffington: Oh, wow.
Brian Farnham: The lies are so, there’s so many of them. Just one, the thing that I wish someone had told me besides don’t having twins is not that we chose that. But I think just a reminder of the trade off meaning like, he tends to think that no matter how many kids that like you’re going to be able to continue to do the things that you’d wanted to invest in for yourself, like beyond the job and whatever they were, maybe the job is it. And the truth is, there’s a trade off, and you can make that trade off either way. You can decide, I’m all about work, or I’m all about this project or whatever. Not the kids, but you can’t do both. And so it’s kind of an obvious thing, but sort of like, and you need to experience it. But for me, that’s been very, like writing that novel that I was supposed to be writing that I thought I’d come back to, I’ve been making choices toward my family as opposed to that for good reason. But you can’t do both.
Jay Rooke: Yeah, I’ll second that big time. And I thought it would be kind of like almost getting a dog where it’s like, alright, you’ll work it into the schedule. There’ll be some sacrifices, but things will more or less stay 80% the same and it’s like no, it’s 100%, it’s gonna change and backfill the rest at best.
Carmen Buffington: Yeah. Having grown up in the South, I’m originally from North Carolina, like the parenting style in the south east is very spanky, do what I say. I didn’t know that I thought it was gonna be that easy. Maybe I was just a complaining little southern kid, and my kids definitely aren’t in any way, shape or form complaint. Actually, if I ever try to force any sort of compliance, it’s really terrible. So it’s just there, I guess, to know that there’s no playbook. There’s someone I know right now is getting ready to have a baby and she’s asking for advice. And I’m like, you’re wasting your time. You have to wait and see what, you know? Kids are like boxes of chocolate. You have no idea what you’re gonna get and might, in much to what Jake said about his boys, my boys are night and day. They’re two years apart exactly, and their personalities are night and day. You just don’t know, parenting is just a shit show. I have no clear understanding or idea of what I’m doing. I just try and day drink when I can.
Jay Rooke: Cheers to that. Jake have you met any closing thoughts?
Jake Hajer: I mean, I don’t necessarily remember being, there are a lot of lies and things out there. I feel like all the ones that I wish I’d known are all about the ease. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s like, why did anyone send me onesies with snaps? Why did I put those on 5000 times, or with the buttons, the buttons and not the snaps. Like, what the hell? And then sleep. I wouldn’t change anything, but I wish someone would like, hey, for the first like, three years, I can sleep. I wish I would have been prepared for that. And I have the same sentiments as like, I’m a person with a lot of hobbies. I’m an artist, I’m a writer, I do all this stuff. And it is just the personal time you get is almost nonexistent, like, I’m a night owl. So it’s like, okay, from 11:30 to 12:30, here’s my hour, and that’s it.
Brian Farnham: And if the hobby doesn’t mix with drinking, you’re really out of luck, because that time is carved out for that.
Jake Hajer: Well, I multitask.
Brian Farnham: Power tool, but other than that.
Jake Hajer: No power tools. I only use power tools, but yeah. So that’s a type of thing that someone mentioned, I think Brian or Carmen, or both of you, it’s constant. Jay, you were saying pause button. I mean, if they come and ask me something right now, it’s like, okay, and that happens all day, every day, and it doesn’t stop. And so you wish there was a pause button, or you could just escape and just like, okay, I’m gonna go to Mexico on a bender for four days so you want to get– I mean, it just can’t happen. And I share with Jay one of the hardest things about all this is, we are so far from our family. We have no family out here. We have no support. And I guess you know what? That is what I wish someone had told me is how important it is to have a very strong network. I mean, meeting parents in this community has been wonderful for us because we’ve gotten a little bit of a parent community. And that’s so valuable. I had no idea. And I think if someone asked me, a young parent, what is your biggest piece of advice? I would find parents who have kids that somewhat agree with their parenting style and drink together. Because that’s going to save you. It takes a community, really does. Community, parent kids.
Jay Rooke: Well, thank you. I appreciate you sharing that. And I think that’s probably an ideal note to end on. 100% what we’re shooting for with Gonzo Parenting is creating more of that community of parents that want to show up real and authentically and a shoe perfect parenting. And I want to say thank you to Jake, Brian and Carmen for playing along in the sandbox today and sharing your experiences and the pain of pandemic parenting.
Carmen Buffington: Thank you.
Jay Rooke: With that, we’re getting to commercials and we’ll be right back with our next segment. Thanks, everybody.
Gonzo parents, welcome, welcome, welcome. So remember when everyone was losing their mind around 1999 and it was like, oh, my god, the date and the time thing is gonna overflow, and the world’s gonna blow up, and bla, bla, bla. Who’s not going to remember 2020 as the dark scar in their diary for the rest of our freaking lives? So this has been the wildest ride. This is our kickoff episode of the full Gonzo Parenting spectrum here. And what we’re going to do today is dive into the pain of pandemic parenting. So I’ve got some notes I want to kick off with here. One of the fun things, the symptoms are entirely mental, like who would have thought something like this would have happened. If we could just go back to how naive and innocent we were in like, let’s call it January of 2020, in la, la, la, lights rolling along and then boom. So this is one of those crazy surprises in reality for me. And my parents, he was one of those uniquely inimitable experiences of life. Like we’ve been here, we’ll remember this forever. So here we are as a part of it. And like, what do we do with all of this?
So in this kickoff episode, what we’re going to do is talk about how pandemic parenting has been, obviously, straining family relations, making all of us go crazy, requesting everything that is, and all of our foundational values, and what we do, and how we want to show up in the world, and everything that sucked, and then everything that was also healing and introspective about it. And so the first part of our show today kicks off with some of our Gonzo parents, community parents. So we’ve got Jake, Brian and Carmen talking about their own parents’ demick experiences. And talking about kids acting out in the craziest ways, they relate how our officers grow closer as a family, how we were challenged by that whole social deprivation thing, like who knew like, for those of us that were introverts, that was awesome in some ways. And then for others of us, it was like cruel and unusual punishment to not be able to connect with other human beings. Well, there was a lot of parental guilt going on during the last few years and we’re gonna talk about things that we wish we knew before becoming parents. Our guests are going to share their advice on how fellow parents can show up and be more of themselves as their best self during this tough time as parents.
And we have a bunch of the last second part of the show, we have Dr. Amanda Zelechoski. She is the Co-Founder of Pandemic Parenting so could not be a better more apropos guest for this episode. She’s going to expound on the clinical side of parenting, mental health issues, decision fatigue, stress management for kids, and the science of providing individualized support to every child. Amanda is going to discuss how we can model how to process emotions for our children, how to discuss our kids ability to remember things in totality to give them an entirely different experience and how involving them in our decision making process empowers our kids. And most importantly, the importance of self care as our role and parents. And we’re going to hear that over and over and over again in the council parenting community that that’s like our number one goal and how do we start to do all of that better.
So wrapping up here, parents, we may feel helpless at times, but Gonzo Parenting is all about the trial by fire learning experience of how to become the parents we wish we had. And when we come out of the other side of this roller coaster ride, hopefully, we’ll be able to look back with a little bit of perspective and get some laughs and catharsis out of it. But until then, let’s hear from our guests. Alright, again, so parents, as we roll into our next segment, very happy to be here today with Dr. Amanda Zelechoski, Co-Founder of Pandemic Parenting. Amanda, thanks so much for joining us today.
Amanda Zelechoski: Thanks for having me.
Jay Rooke: We’re super excited about Amanda, tell us a little bit about yourself and your family experience.
Amanda Zelechoski: Sure. So I am a married mom of three boys who are 12, 9 1/2 and 6. They were much younger, obviously, when the pandemic began. It’s hard to imagine how much time has already passed. But yeah, mostly just trying to kind of get through each day with the massive bags under my eyes that comes with parenting three boys.
Jay Rooke: I know. There’s another boy mom on the show. I love the boy mom stories.
Amanda Zelechoski: Oh, my gosh, yes, because there’s just something about it. So professionally, I’m a psychologist by training. So I focus a lot on kids at risk, child trauma, child maltreatment, things like that, working with families in really complex situations. I’m a professor at Purdue University Northwest is where I spend most of my time teaching and training students in a lot of these areas.
Jay Rooke: That’s awesome. So great expertise for today’s show and all that we’re talking about. Tell us a little bit about Pandemic Parenting, how it was founded and all that good stuff.
Amanda Zelechoski: Yeah. So it was an accident. I definitely don’t recommend accidentally starting a nonprofit organization in the middle of a pandemic while you are parenting and trying to work full time. But it’s just been an amazing, amazing ride. So basically, I did some research as the pandemic was unfolding. I mean, one of the really interesting things in my field of studying Child Trauma is we don’t often know crises are coming before they do, we’re mostly only able to study the aftermath of really difficult situations. And so this was the strange thing where we kind of knew this was coming. And so a lot of other social scientists and myself sort of dove in and recognized that we can kind of study how people are doing right now before it begins as its beginning, and then you track them over time and kind of see what that looks like in different facets. So that’s what I did. I followed about 450 families for the first year of the pandemic just to look at parent mental health, children’s mental health and how those things were sort of intertwining.
Jay Rooke: I find it interesting that you are saying that you can see this coming. So in my personal experience of it, I did not see this coming pretty much, in my personal experience. I feel that’s why I felt additionally blindsided. Even if I didn’t know it was coming, I’m not sure I would have done it or could have done anything differently about it. But that’s interesting to me that y’all were able to have that foresight, this early in the process and the macro effects of it.
Amanda Zelechoski: Well, not that early. I mean, we’re talking like the two weeks maybe as it was becoming clear in mid March, we were going to be going into lockdown. So yeah, I don’t mean like I had this beautiful crystal ball months in advance. You sort of hear what was happening around the world. It started to seem like this is headed our way, and so that just means kind of mobilizing in the week before and realizing, okay, most people around March 15, we’re going to go into lockdown, or we’re going into lockdown. And that’s the day I launched my study. Let’s just survey them, figure out what’s going on right now. Working through all the research channels that we have to kind of get quick approvals for that for a timely study like that. But no, I didn’t know months in advance. I wish I had, or maybe I wish I didn’t. I don’t know.
Jay Rooke: Yeah, yeah. People also say–
Amanda Zelechoski: I did this study right. And like I said, a number of colleagues were doing similar studies. And so as that summer of 2020, kind of arrived, and weren’t we also adorable, we thought like, okay, well, got through this is over. Good job team. Mission accomplished. Oh, my gosh. And so it started to become clear in that summer that we’re gonna enter round two of this. This is not over. And so I was in the midst with my research team of kind of analyzing that data and feeling like, wow, there’s really helpful information in this that I think could be useful for parents right now as we’re trying to make decisions going into a second school year of potentially remote learning or not, or what should we do? At the same time, I was getting lots of phone calls and texts from friends asking questions like, why am I struggling in this way? Or what do you think’s going on with my child? Recognizing like many of us in the mental health field, we have access to information and knowledge and training that we take for granted that other parents don’t realize like, this is why you’re feeling this way. Let me explain the concept of decision fatigue to you and here’s why this is going on, or why we’re seeing increased anxiety in our kids. And so it was the combination of those two things of just feeling like there has to be a better way to get information to people right now that is trustworthy.
So I reached out to a colleague of mine, Dr. Lindsay Malloy from Ontario Tech University who did a similar study and just said: “Hey, let’s try this a different way, let’s see if we can start getting some of this information out there. And now, let’s pull in a lot of experts from our network and do the same.” So we launched a webinar in August of 2020 and it hasn’t really looked back because I keep wishing we could fire ourselves, meaning, the pandemic is over, and this isn’t needed anymore. But similar to what I think you’re finding in your Gonzo community is that there’s just a need. People are really struggling, they need to feel like they’re not alone. And from our perspective, it was, okay, so what we can do is get credible science based information into their hands in really bite sized digestible ways because nobody has time to read the 300 page book from the expert right now, I just need a quick answer in the middle of the night. So that’s what we did.
Jay Rooke: That’s beautiful. Thank you so much, we’re gonna be half of all parents that are challenged and will continue to be challenged. This is really, really awesome that you guys said this. What are you hearing most from parents that are reaching out to your organization these days?
Amanda Zelechoski: I think we’re continuing to hear just the relentlessness of this, the exhaustion that has always been there. It’s been interesting to really sort of watch the waves of that, and what is the source of the exhaustion. I think right now, what we’re hearing a lot from parents is, especially the frustration from parents of younger kids, kids under 5 who, for example in the US cannot yet be vaccinated and just feeling forgotten. The rest of the world is returning to their version of normal and here we are, still struggling. Many of us with no childcare, inconsistent childcare still worrying about our kids being safe in the community because they aren’t protected. Especially with this most recent variant seeming to be really even more contagious for kids. So I think it’s just this screaming into the void that, hey, we’re still here, we’re struggling more than we ever have even though we’re two years, almost two years into this, that’s been part of it. It is not just the fatigue and exhaustion, but just the frustration and desperation of like, does anybody else see us, and how much we’re still struggling?
Jay Rooke: 100%. And like you said, that isolation that comes with that as well, and that insane dichotomy. You’d say, on one hand of the parents that have a couple kids under age 5, and then perhaps a single guy in his 30’s, and their lives are wildly different. They get to live next door to each other and play wildly differently.
Amanda Zelechoski: Yep. Yeah. And in our workplaces, we’re seeing that, we’ve done some programming, focused on working parents and sort of how employers can support working parents right now, and how to advocate for yourself as an employee. And that’s been some of the differences. We’ve heard from a lot of parents and noticed ourselves in our own workspaces that maybe my colleague whose kids are now adults and out on their own has experienced this whole thing very differently than I have. And oh, he’s more productive than he’s ever been, and how lovely. And you’re just like thinking, oh, my gosh, you really have no idea what it’s been like for us to really be able to only work in these like seven minute increments and quickly fire off an email before another kid is interrupting me. Or this one’s in tears because it’s a roller coaster all day long. And so yeah, so this is a very dichotomous experience I feel like for a lot of people.
Jay Rooke: And how much parents needed to step up their own mindfulness as you talked about those seven minute increments in the day being so long. I mean, I remember, in some of the earlier months of the pandemic, looking at the clock and being like, well, at least it’s almost dinnertime. I look at the clock and it’s 11:00 in the morning, I’m like, you’ve got to be shitting me, how many more hours? Is this day going to go on?
Amanda Zelechoski: Oh, for sure. Yeah.
Jay Rooke: Talk to us kind of from a clinical viewpoint as far as validating what parents are experiencing, I think so many parents are still struggling or look back and we’re struggling, but can’t really put a name on what was going on. And so it was a bunch of, if you picture Christmas tree lights, when they get all tangled, their emotions were like that inside that they knew there was a bunch of bad stuff going on, but not really been able to separate it, process and understand it.
Amanda Zelechoski: Well, and right, it’s like this chaotic ping pong ball of assaults coming from every witch. So as soon as I think I figured out this crisis, now this new thing has happened. And there’s just no roadmap for this. So no, no. I think a big thing, which is something that kind of came out in the study that I did and a number of colleagues have looked up to is this idea of that concept I mentioned, decision fatigue. That was a lot of it in the beginning. So really, what that means is it’s the sort of deterioration in our ability to make decisions after a really long period of intense decision making. So it can mean that what actually seem like pretty simple decisions, like what should we have for dinner can feel paralyzing after an exhausting day of having to make all these kind of constant judgment calls that didn’t have clear answers and that were actually about pretty high stakes things, like the safety and well being of our family.
Jay Rooke: Totally.
Amanda Zelechoski: Which again, with no clear answers about what is safe, and what should we do? I’m also trying to be mindful of making different sorts of decisions or having a different analysis for each member of my family instead of making collective decisions for the children. I’m trying to look at each of them individually and what they need. I mean, that is exhausting to think, can we go to the store? Is it okay to do this? Should I try sending it back to school? What if we don’t have childcare? I mean, that pace and chaos when it has to do with your safety and well being. We’re not wired to make decisions at that level of intensity for this chronic period of time without relief in that. So it created this sort of fatigue that I certainly felt that like the things that would kind of bring me to my knees at times and just make me feel paralyzed, or cry, or whatever. It was like silly things like, what is my problem? This is not a big deal, but because of all of the big deals leading up to that. By the way, isn’t just for your family. If you’re working, you’re also having to do that. Or in many stages of the pandemic, we’re having to do that constant prioritization. Like we talked about, if I only have a seven minute increment, if I know I’m going to get interrupted, what is mission critical? Which email do I need to respond to right now? What can wait till after the kids go to bed? You were doing this on every level, and so then it just compromises your ability to roll with things when something new comes up. Now this kid was in tears, and now I’m in tears too because, oh, my gosh, I can’t believe, like you said, it’s only 9:30 AM.
Jay Rooke: Right, right.
Amanda Zelechoski: So that decision fatigue is a big piece of it that I just don’t think people recognized or could name for themselves. And so then they were beating themselves up like, why can’t I figure this out? Or even right now, I will say that is something we’re hearing a lot about too is we’re two years into this, I should have this figured out right now. Why can’t I? And it’s like, because, oh, my gosh, because we’re two years into this.
Jay Rooke: Yes, yep. And I also noticed, for those of us that were parents trying to hold it all together for the family as well, and as a result, perhaps not being in touch or processing our own emotions with it at the time. And when I noticed that was true for me would be something, you said something silly would set it off. I’d start to cry at a TV commercial that I thought was a motive, or like an email would get deleted or something. It was always something silly, like you said, and then I realized, oh, wow, this is something else creating a window for me to look at my emotions that I’m trying to ignore, or suppress, or delay while I try to get through living today.
Amanda Zelechoski: Well, and I think that piece you just said about, we were trying so hard to hold it together for kids. I actually think that, as hard as it’s been, there are aspects of that that have, I think, really been beautiful for our kids to see. Not that we want them to be exposed to any sort of chronic stress in the house or anything like that, but they are getting, because they are struggling, many of them, many of our kids for different reasons. And so for them to be able to see, hey, this is really hard for mom and dad too, it’s okay that I feel sad. Look, Dad’s having a moment where he feels sad. And it just makes these wonderful teachable moments and conversations with our kids to say, sometimes like you didn’t nap, and then you’re so tired, and then you’re falling apart at dinnertime, and everything’s making you upset, grownups feel that too. So that’s kind of what was just happening for me when I reacted this way. And so they’re getting to see us kind of work through stress and crisis, which is modeling for them. And of course, there are better and worse ways to do that. Our kids certainly saw us at our lowest points, didn’t they? But to be able to come back and process that together, I think is really important.
Jay Rooke: Major teachable moments. I was so disappointed the other day thinking about how we’re still not teaching emotional intelligence in the school systems and the heavy effects of that. And I thought, oh, wow, this is awesome to be able, like you said, to have those conversations to come back and be like, hey, so when Daddy blew up earlier, I want to revisit this and explain what was going on. Here’s maybe how I would like to handle it differently, and here’s what was the etceteras around that. And talk to us a little bit about those ace moments, and how those things play out as well as that trauma/chronic, C PTSD aspect of all of this, especially with an eye towards those that might not know those terms.
Amanda Zelechoski: Say you are using these terms that I’m so impressed with. Yes, exactly. So aces that you use is people aren’t familiar with that stands for adverse childhood experiences, and there’s just a lot of research around, what are the impacts of some of these adverse childhood experiences, which could be anything from experiencing abuse, or neglect in your home, or community violence, those kinds of things. And then Complex PTSD or C PTSD, you mentioned two which are related to the idea of developmental trauma. So things where kids are experiencing really adverse events or things like maltreatment, but within the context often of their caregiving system.
So it’s especially complicated to be honest, I mean, these concepts you just brought up, or why I did the study that I did because that’s what I immediately was worried about is, this is a recipe for disaster. When you have parents under extreme stress locked in their homes, you have kids who do not have their usual sort of community outlets, and village, and teachers, and coaches, and all the other people who help sort of have eyes on our kids and nourish and nurture them in different ways. So that’s a lot of what we’ve seen is maltreatment rates increasing, sometimes in really extreme ways. And so it’s very important for us to be paying attention to and talking about. So when we’re seeing those things in the home, the goal is not to eliminate all stress from your kids, like they’re going to experience stress, and that is okay.
And if you have not ever followed Dr. Bruce Perry’s work, every parent I think should read his books. You will see that he talks about the notion of kids need to experience stress that is sort of dosed, moderate, and controlled, and predictable. And so that’s okay. So things, like for example, kids who have stage fright at a music concert or recital, or I’m up to bat in the big game and everybody’s staring at me and calling me like those are dosed moderate stressful experiences. They’re what build resilience for kids. And so we actually don’t want to keep them away from all stress, but we want to have situations where it isn’t the sort of chronic and toxic stress like ongoing abuse in the home, emotional neglect, those kinds of things. So it’s trying to strike that balance of, I recognize that I can’t put my kids in a bubble, and they’re going to experience stress, but how do I start to scaffold and build the tools in our home around them so that they can navigate those experiences, and we’re helping them walk through those experiences. And I guess the difference for the pandemic is that it wasn’t dosed moderate or controlled, was it? It’s just still going, it’s this uncertainty where we don’t have answers for our kids, we don’t know when this is gonna end, and we’re going through it too. So it’s really hard to help somebody else walk through stress when you’re in the middle of it yourself.
Jay Rooke: Yes. And even going back to two completely different experiences, we can say that for us as parents that were holding down jobs and our kids as well. So the kids are like, hey, this is kind of fun, we can build forts every day, and mom and dad are around all the time. And I’m like, I’m trying to sit and be with my kids, but I am wracked with anxiety and overwhelm about the emails that are building up the projects, I’m not making gains on, and I want to, I guess, use my own example to call out for other parents that experienced this would be the shame and guilt that was occasionally associated with my own emotional, not well being. Meaning, as you said, our kids saw us at some of our worst, and there were times where I was so bummed at myself to be like, man, this sucks. My kids are home, they’re in this highly formative impressionable period and I’m showing up the worst, and not liking it shameful or valid. I was at my bar to emcee this talks, and man, I really hope my kids don’t have memories of this type of thing almost at times, and wishing that I could have showed up differently during those times. I think a lot of parents have experienced that and are holding on to that still as well.
Amanda Zelechoski: Yeah. No, I get that. I mean, that is the parent guilt that just comes with as soon as you bring a life into the world. Here’s this beautiful gift of guilt for you about so many aspects of it. But I also think that it’s important to understand about kids memories, that they are the totality of things. So I often just sort of think about it, if you grew up in a relatively functional home, and you kind of think about things like the holidays is always a good example to me. We stress as parents about creating the perfect, magical holidays, and the meals are perfect, and these gifts are perfect. And when you think about your own holiday experiences, again, this is excluding people who obviously had really dysfunctional or traumatic sort of home lives. If you think about it, what are the parts you remember? Do you remember that your mom burned the turkey? Do you remember that your parents didn’t buy you the exact action figure you wanted, but instead made a mistake? I mean, no, often. It’s the totality of that. It’s the way people make you feel. It was sort of the warmth, and the surprise, and the mystery, and that we were together. So I think when we’re beating ourselves up often, which believe me, I do it about those micro moments, it’s important to step back and think about how many of those micro moments I remember. Or is it broader, abstract experiences that have feelings attached to them?
But yeah, I get what you’re saying. It was a struggle. I often think about, again, especially for working parents, and I’ll speak from my own experience. Going to work, especially as a new mom was like, where I actually felt competence and mastery. I went to work to feel good about, okay, I may not be perfect at my job, but I at least know what to do. I can show up and do a decent job. At home, there’s no rules. I don’t feel any competence or mastery over this. It’s chaos. I’m figuring it out as I go. And so when you took that away, and we were just doing all of it all of the time, and I am having to be a parent, and be the teacher, and be an employee, all I did was drop balls everywhere. And so it was like trying to make peace that those skills are gonna tip on different days. And some days, you’re going to really show up for work the way you need to because it’s mission critical and I have this deadline. And so yeah, I’m gonna have to tip those skills this way and pay more attention to that. And so then, maybe tomorrow, I’m going to spend some more time with the kids and just say, hey, thanks for being patient. I know, I was really distracted yesterday. What do you guys want to do this morning? It’s trying to think about the totality instead of so many of those micro moments.
Jay Rooke: Great reframing, and just put that into some sort of application here. So over the holidays of 2021, my family and I went to the East Coast, visited my family for like the first time in three years, and had all these plans, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do that. Everyone, we were supposed to stay with God COVID prior to our arrival, so we had to shuffle lodging around. I guess we’re in a hotel tonight, we’re in somebody’s basement another night. And then a couple days before we were supposed to fly home, our entire family got COVID. And so we were shooting on the East Coast for like three and a half weeks. And there I was ruminating on like, hey, this is the worst vacation ever, and it sucked, and blah, blah, blah, and everything went wrong. And on the last day, my son goes, daddy, I want you to know that this has been the best vacation I’ve ever had. And I’m like, this is hilarious. Voting this and judging it up and down when they’re having a whole unique experience of this as well.
Amanda Zelechoski: That’s right. And they remember so many things like that differently than we do because we zero in on the part that we didn’t get, or we struggled, or it didn’t go the way we planned. And they’re like, this is awesome. We’re staying in a different hotel every night. Cool. So it’s just, I think that’s a great visual example. And less than that, they also take their cue from us. There are times that we can say, you guys, isn’t this crazy and fun that we get to stay in this hotel and jump on the bed, and we didn’t even think we were gonna get to. That’s totally different than, oh, my gosh, I cannot believe that we have to stay here another night. Like you take our cue from us. And so believe me, a lot of parenting, there are times we are faking it till we make it and creating the magic when on the inside, you’re like, you have got to be kidding me.
Jay Rooke: Totally, What has been particularly eye opening findings from your research or perhaps something that one of your guest experts comments on you and whatnot that really cracked open something around the pandemic experience?
Amanda Zelechoski: Oh, man, there’s been just so many. We’ve been so lucky to have so many folks come on and share nuggets of wisdom. And so yeah, it just depends on the topic, which I meant to say in the beginning, all these resources are free. If you just go to pandemic-parent.org, you can type in the search box whatever your question is. I’m worried about anxiety for my kids. Or last sports season, there’s probably an episode or a resource on the questions because we’ve been digging all those questions from parents for many, many months now. So I guess from the research, what I can just tell you, if people are really interested in the mental health pieces of this in my study, in particular, we did see differences for older kids versus younger kids. That’s a question we’ve gotten a lot is how is this impacting kids of different ages and potentially different ways.
So in my study, older kids, middle schoolers and high schoolers seem to have more internalizing mental health symptoms. So that means things like withdrawal, isolation, depression. They were kind of retreating into themselves throughout various phases of this. Younger kids have the opposite of what are called externalizing symptoms. So tantrums, aggression, anger, frustration, and so in many ways make sense given their sort of developmental ability to emotionally regulate. But it means different worries for parents of kids of different ages. The things I was hearing from parents of teens and college students who were sort of forced to abruptly return home looked very different than the things we were hearing from parents of preschoolers or toddlers.
So that I think was, again, goes back to that notion as I was saying in the beginning of, it’s important to think about each person you’re trying to make decisions for or support differently, especially as a parent of multiples. This becomes really hard when you have twins, or triplets, or whatever that it’s like, again, we think about the kids and they each have different needs. Some kids were okay, some kids who are more introverted actually had ways throughout the last two years that they thrived, because they didn’t have to navigate complex lunch cafeteria situations and they weren’t worried about getting called on and they could not feel like everybody was staring at them in class. So it’s important to take individualized approaches to the ways we think about how this is impacting each of us and our kids.
Jay Rooke: I love that. Can you talk a little bit about what are some of those things that parents should be looking out for that are showing them that perhaps they’re not as well as they thought they were. And some of those things whether it’s anxiety, or that PTSD type of issues, or holding on to grief that’s been unprocessed for too long, those types of things.
Amanda Zelechoski: Yeah. So think about what you already knew about your kids behaviors and patterns, like changes in that are something we want to pay attention to. So if your child is withdrawing from friendships or activities that they formerly enjoyed. You’re just kind of seeing a change like that. Like, wow, this is a kid who usually loves to be out in the community doing things, and now they really don’t ever want to leave home. So that’d be like a change, or maybe some separation anxiety issues where you have a child who’s usually really independent, but now doesn’t want to leave your side for some reason. And so really, just looking at any marked changes in their behavior. And now, to be honest, that’s sometimes hard to notice when you’re the one with them every day, all day. And so it’s probably more gradual. So it can be helpful sometimes to talk through some of these situations with people who know your kids really well. Or like, if grandparents haven’t seen them in a while and kind of come back and observe like, oh, yeah, she really does seem kind of clingy more than I remember. Have people kind of help you reality check that, because it’s hard to notice sometimes. Or to just think back, actually, it has been three months since they asked to have a friend over, whatever. So look for changes, look for emotional and behavioral regression. So things that they miss, this is probably the case more. So for younger kids, things that they’ve accomplished. Staying dry through the night, or potty training, or any of those kinds of things.
Are they regressing? Is this a child who hasn’t wanted her blankie or her lovey for many, many months, and now she’s asking for that again. That can kind of help us have a sense of, there’s just some way there, maybe not feeling kind of safe or secure. And so we need to attend to that. If there were any existing mental health problems already, look to see if those have kind of been exacerbated. So if you have a child prone to anxiety, I mean, this pandemic has, again, just sort of been a recipe for skyrocketing anxiety because of all of the uncertainty and just constant changes. Like we just keep moving the goalposts. To our kids, if you can imagine from their perspective, it’s like, okay, well, as soon as this happens, I know for my kids, it was, alright, well, we’re waiting for a vaccine, and then we can do ABC. Then they’re vaccinated. And all of a sudden, people they know are still getting COVID through the omicron variant even though they’re vaccinated. And now, all of a sudden, we might have to be quarantined again. And so we keep changing things up.
So what’s really important there is, there’s not a whole lot you can do about that, but you can keep the dialogue open with your kids. So predict as much as you can, which might be something like, I don’t know what’s going to happen with school on Monday, the school hasn’t let us know, it sounds like they’re going to tell us on Sunday night. So as soon as I know on Sunday night, I will tell you. But at least they know instead of just you. I’m guilty of this too, like you know what? I don’t know, okay. When I find something out, I’ll let you know because we’re frustrated and exhausted by the uncertainty too. So just trying to anticipate. Alright, I know that I’ll probably have more clarity on this on such and such date so I can at least tell you that. Or you know what? Here’s how we’re going to go about making the decision. And then we sort of keep them in the loop on that. So those are just some kind of markers I’d pay attention to
Jay Rooke: When you’re describing earlier about these wildly different experiences that all individuals are having, compassion and empathy come to mind really big for me. And I think for parents, it’s really important for us to not only extend those to those around us, but to let that boomerang come back to ourselves as well. And to be compassionate and empathetic with ourselves, and lots of space, and lots of time, and lots of forgiveness, and lots of understanding rather than just resetting how we evaluate, judge and move through this.
Amanda Zelechoski: Yeah. Oh, gosh, I can’t underscore that enough. You have to have the grace and compassion for yourself right now. Again, you’re doing the best you can. You’re making the best decisions that you can at this moment with the information you have. I mean, the other thing there is we get do overs and I think we sometimes forget that. You gave a lovely example of that earlier of coming back and talking to your child later and saying, here’s why I was frustrated like that, let’s talk about it. So we have so many opportunities with our kids. It’s alright if you screwed up this time that you can kind of come back and have a do over. So extend that to yourself to like, hey, I really dropped that ball, and that’s okay. There’s so many things I’m juggling right now. I keep going back to, excuse me, honest advice. And frozen too, in the song, she sings about doing the next right thing. Like that’s all we can kind of do in this situation we’re in, which is just, alright, what’s the next right thing in the next 10 minutes, in the next hour? Like it doesn’t make sense to beat myself up for something two weeks from now. What do I need to do right now?
Jay Rooke: Totally. And I feel like if there’s any cure, all that’s worked. 100% of the time, every time it’s been coming back to love over and over again. If we can just get back in that space, operate from heart space, and it’s kind of like the care bear thing that fixes everything in that moment better than any other strategy or the thinking. And it’s noteworthy to me that we’re at such a divisive and hateful time, then so much of our country when love is so much of what’s needed for all of this right now. I don’t think many people will ever go back to the full way that they were prior to this, so reset isn’t the right word. But how do parents integrate what they’ve learned coming out of this? How do we start to work on some of the scar tissue and integrate who we’ve evolved into modern life versus operating? Like you said, from this constantly stressed, constantly overwhelmed, constantly uncertain point of view.
Amanda Zelechoski: I think about it, people keep asking me about the notion of bouncing back. I push against that and say, no, we have to think about how to bounce forward because there isn’t a sort of return to what it was, because we’re all different people. I mean, think about the ages of your kids when you start. My youngest son was three, he’s now six.
Jay Rooke: And not even just our kids, I don’t know, I learned a ton about myself, and I’m a pretty introspective reflective guy and like blew my mind.
Amanda Zelechoski: Exactly. We are not the same we were when this began. So to hold yourself to that standard, or to expect that you, or any family member, or friend is going to go back to who that was. We’re not the same people, and that’s okay. That’s a beautiful thing. We’ve sort of evolved and found so many ways to be resilient in this, and it’s strengthening those resilience sort of skills and muscles. And so I think it’s more thinking about that, as you said, there are lots of things you’ve learned about yourself in this, there are things you’ve learned about your kids, and they’ve learned about you. And so I really loved hearing examples when people have talked about those conversations they’re having with their family members or themselves, really reflecting on what are the ways I am different. Well, you know what? I’m much better myself professionally at saying no to stuff. And that’s probably the best self care I could have done throughout this whole thing is because I actually just didn’t have a choice. There were only so many hours in the day, we were now full time caretaker for our kids at the same time as we were full time working.
So what’s mission critical? Everything else, the answer’s no. And so that helped me really streamline and prioritize decisions I was making, or tasks. And for our family too, what are we saying no to, what do we feel okay with? Was neat to kind of see my kids learn stuff about themselves and what they enjoyed or missed. We had conversations about things like, well, maybe you don’t want to do all those activities when we go back. That’s okay, this is a great opportunity for us to kind of reset, like you said, and think about how to be more intentional with our time, and what we do together, and what we sign up for. And so all of these are opportunities to think about, how do we want to bounce forward? I love this idea that not that we asked for it to happen this way, but I think many of us have gotten into this rut of life, and our schedule sort of happens to us instead of the reverse. And these are great lessons to teach our kids to that, no, we get to choose. Life is about choices. We get to be intentional about our time instead of letting schedules happen to us.
Jay Rooke: Yes, I love that. No, that’s been a big thing for us is being more intentional and deliberate about everything that we’re doing now. And one of my big epiphanies was realizing how chronically busy I was in my prior life. And not just busy, but like distracted over extended. Like you said, saying yes to more than I should. And I look back and I’m like, oh, well, a lot of that stress that I was experiencing beforehand was pretty self inflicted by some choices and whatnot. And hey, how can I not do that again? And then also, like you said, putting that family unit first in decisions going forward and saying, okay, what works for us? And the hell with everybody else, and realizing that our family units, mental health and happiness are most important in parallel. And all that other stuff gets built on top of that.
Amanda Zelechoski: And what a way to empower your kids to involve them in those decisions. Because I’m continually surprised, even from my youngest,who I don’t always think maybe has a sense of what’s going on. Sometimes when you ask for their thoughts, well, what do you think we should do? Or do you want to do that? Do you enjoy it? I just make assumptions. And so the little things that kind of come out from them, it’s like, oh, that was really insightful. I also had no idea what you enjoyed about that activity, as opposed to what I assumed. So when we can empower them, I just don’t think we spend a lot of time, enough time listening to kids, we do a lot of talking with them. They had pretty good things to say.
Jay Rooke: Totally. That was one of my big epiphanies was kind of viewing our relationship as hierarchical. Like dads on top, kids are below. And realizing like they’re pretty developed little humans already with a fascinating amount of viewpoints and understandings like institutional knowledge, if you will. They’re hardwired for so much more than I was giving toddlers credit for.
Amanda Zelechoski: And they can be hilarious to break that tension. Like, oh, here I am worried about all these things, and what’s on your mind is the Cheerios you want to eat in 10 minutes. Cool.
Jay Rooke: 100%. Speaking of how funny, are there any particular Gonzo Parenting stories in your own mother experience?
Amanda Zelechoski: I guess this goes to the idea of listening to our kids and what they can kind of teach us through their behavior. So I have one that just happened actually last week. So my youngest child is struggling a little bit, he’s scared to kind of go to bed at night on his own. A normal fear developmentally for his stage. And so we go through the like, okay, will you sit up here with me? Or alright, I’ll come back and check on you in 10 minutes. All these ways sort of ease him into feeling kind of safe and comfortable to be upstairs by himself before his brother, who he shares a room with, comes to bed a little bit later. So I was actually, I study, I’ll just sit and kind of work in the other room while you settle in. I looked up at one point, and there was a little post on the floor outside of where I was sitting that looked to have a heart on it. And I thought, oh, that’s so nice. Found a piece of paper, wrote a little heart and put it by me up here to just sort of sit here. And so a few minutes later, I kind of came out to check on him and I saw down the stairs, there was a little other post-it with a heart on every stair. He had put it on every stair. So I went to check on him and I said, that was really nice of you to put that note outside my door. And he goes, it wasn’t me, it was a monster. I want you to know what it’s like to think that there’s a monster outside. And then I said, well, but thank you for all the hearts going down the stairs. And he goes, those aren’t hearts. Those are monster paw prints.
Jay Rooke: That’s awesome.
Amanda Zelechoski: I either have this really insightful empathic child who wants to show me through his behavior, some of what he’s afraid of. I don’t know, I have a budging. I’m not sure.
Jay Rooke: That’s good stuff. It’s good stuff.
Amanda Zelechoski: I mean, again, one of those, we talked about it, but like, wow, they teach us a lot through their behavior if we’re sort of listening and looking.
Jay Rooke: If we’re listening. Yes, good point. As we start to wind down here, any particular advice for moms or dads that are currently in the thick of it right now?
Amanda Zelechoski: I think my biggest piece of advice is just give yourself some grace. You’re figuring it out. That’s what we do as parents. For better or worse, we don’t really have another choice right now. But what you can do is give yourself some of that compassion and grace, you’re working so hard to take care of your kids right now and make sure they’re okay. But kids are often okay when their parents are okay. And so I think this reciprocal relationship of watching your own mental health as best as you can. I’m not minimizing, like I don’t mean that we can solve all of this, we’re all just, when bubble bath and glass of wine away from beautiful self care, it is hard. And these are real systemic issues many of us are struggling with. But so just give yourself that grace, because a colleague said to me recently, which has really stayed with me, kids only tell us what they think we could handle. And that was really important. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Because if we’re not taking care of ourselves and our kids are worried about us, it doesn’t give them space to talk about the things on their hearts and minds. So just think whatever grace, and compassion, and patience you can give yourself to just keep trying to figure out the next right thing.
Jay Rooke: I love that. And we’ve had quite a few discussions around that in the Gonzo Community around the biggest lever to better parenting is better self care. And I think a lot of us were raised in such a way or Western philosophy, in such a way that we come last. And then it’s a noble servitude to self to deny and put everything with everybody else first. And as we all know, grumpy, resentful, overwhelmed, taxed out, parents aren’t happy people to be around. They don’t do the parenting that they’re able to do and all of that. And so, it’s this specious thing where it feels selfish, but that self love is actually the biggest gift that we can give our kids. And we need to rewire, I think, and reframe that conversation in our society.
Amanda Zelechoski: Yeah, yeah. That it’s the opposite of selfish. I mean, this idea of sort of, and again, I say this, being guilty of it myself. But like a parent as a martyr. I give myself and it’s all for my kids, that actually isn’t necessarily healthy for modeling fruit. Because what are you now teaching them when they become a parent is what you want for them when they will have their own families that they put themselves completely to the side. Of course not. I think you’re right, it really is critical.
Jay Rooke: Any closing thoughts on your indoor questions that you had for us?
Amanda Zelechoski: No, I think it just keeps showing up for each other. Parenting, as you said, can be this very isolating and vulnerable experience, especially when we’re scrolling social media and feel like everybody else has figured it out. So the ability to make sure you have a few people in your village who you can be real, and authentic, and scream into the void with and say, I am screwing this up. I am terrified. I think that’s what keeps us afloat.
Jay Rooke: I love that. Amanda, you just plug everything about your site again, and where folks can go in the URL. We’ll have all this in the show notes as well, but we flipped here one more time.
Amanda Zelechoski: Yeah, absolutely. So pandemic-parent.org is the website where you’ll find tons of resources. Literally hundreds of resources, including the YouTube channel which has over 200 of these bite sized videos that are one or two minutes. It’s an expert answering a question, probably things you’re Googling in the middle of the night like we are. And then The Pandemic Parenting Podcast, which you can find on all podcast players. And please, if you have suggestions, or topics, or things we haven’t covered, reach out, we’d love to hear it. We’re trying to stay ahead of what we think parents are worried about. Yeah, Season 2, we’re actually going to bring in all the researchers now that we finally have data on how these things are impacting us. We’re going to translate that for parents, and I hope in really accessible and practical ways.
Jay Rooke: Well, that’s so awesome. I really encourage all of our listeners to share those URLs, and your mom and dad communities that you’re in, and Facebook groups, etc so that we have more of these resources out there. So there’s less parents suffering, more parents getting the help and support they need so that we can be raising happy and healthy children. I mean, I want to say thank you so much on behalf of myself and all the Gonzo community for taking the time to be with us today and share some of your insights and findings. We really appreciate it.
Amanda Zelechoski: My pleasure. And thanks for all you guys are doing in all the ways parents are showing up for each other. I really appreciate it.
Jay Rooke: Awesome. Boom. There we have it, folks, our first episode under our belt. In this episode, we heard some hilarious information but also great informative parenting tales from our Gonzo parents, Carmen, Brian and Jake, and our expert on Pandemic Parenting, Dr. Amanda Zelechoski. I want to recap some of the golden nuggets that I think they shared. First thing to do is to take care of ourselves. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and it can have a profound impact on both. I put on a good 25 pounds during the pandemic. Anyhow, by making time for self care, we’re able to ensure that our children are raised by healthy parents modeling healthy lifestyles for our kids. So us doing our work and being our best selves is actually the best parenting we can do. We don’t need to step outside of that.
The best way we can help our children through their stress is to model how it is okay to be stressed, anxious, angry, sad, whatever it is. We need to let them see us struggling too, and talk through what that looks like. And if we can create that healthy and open dialogue, how awesome would that be to have people that are actually growing up know how to express and navigate their emotions, like one novel thought. It’s easy to get caught up in our child’s day to day activities and forget that they too need time to play and be silly. And so I want things that I’m really struck by having kids that are now in sports is how much to do there is ib the show, the back and forth and feel like they’re going all day long. And there’s times where they’re cooked at like 7:00 o’clock at night, I’m like, oh, because you’ve been going for almost 12 hours now, like this makes sense. And so how do we start to pay attention to that? There’s nothing more depressing than a toddler that’s burned out in life already. I guess the joy that we get out of parenting, but how it can also be a deeply isolating experience, especially during this time. And so let’s connect back with each other and learn how to get a community. And that’s what we got at gonzoparenting.com.
I highly encourage you. if you’re listening to this and not already in the community to hop over and see what we’ve got going on. And please support our sponsors, they keep the lights on, this is awesome. We’re doing a lot of great work here. And lastly, closing notes, show yourself compassion, empathy, and grace. Self acceptance is key at this time. And the beauty of being a parent and recognizing the Gonzo Parenting Community. And one of our main values is we’re not shooting to be the perfect parent, we’re shooting to be the best version of ourselves to show up as a parent. And what all of that looks like until there’s no real standards around this. And this is fluid. And this is all of us on our own unique journey. Your kids will love you for any of those past flaws, no matter how many poop stains you have on your clothes. And that’s what we’re here to navigate. So thank you for being part of this journey. I look forward to having you listen to the next episode. And thank you, thank you. Thank you, you’ll be awesome.