Conversations

Positive Parenting in a Global Pandemic

Cristina Bocanegra is a wardrobe stylist and founder of Love Child, Mini Market, and co-founder of Current. Since the birth of her two sons, navigating motherhood and building a community centered around it has been the guiding force and inspiration behind all of her recent projects.
Sara Hussey is the founder of Sara Hussey Public Relations, a boutique PR firm focused on building brand awareness in the lifestyle, fashion, beauty, wellness, and restaurant industries. Sara is also the co-founder of Current Conference, a one-day event for mothers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.

Cristina Bocanegra is no stranger to a packed calendar—between juggling two young boys, working as a wardrobe stylist, and running multiple small businesses, there was hardly ever a quiet moment in her schedule—until COVID-19. 

Like lots of sisters (and mothers of young children) are known to do, Bocanegra reached out to her sister, Sara Hussey, to talk about how her family is adapting to parenting during quarantine. (It’s worth mentioning that Hussey recently gave birth to her second child—at home—after opting to shift her birth plan at the very end of her pregnancy due to the stress of a  hospital stay during the pandemic.)

Here, Bocanegra and Hussey share a conversation about how they’re keeping the little ones entertained, what it’s like to be pregnant and give birth right now, and how they and their spouses are staying sane during the global pandemic. 

Cristina Bocanegra: When COVID-19 hit, I went into panic mode. As a parent and a small business owner, there were a million things to consider. Of course our children are our priority, but spring Mini Market was fast approaching and I was in pre-production for a lifestyle shoot. There were so many loose ends to tie up, and fast.

There were moments of fear, self-doubt, and guilt mixed with a sense of relief that our days were no longer rushed or filled with birthday parties and soccer practice. We had nowhere to be, but also no rules or guidance to help us navigate a pandemic with young children. 

Sara Hussey: There was definitely panic. I remember the day so well—I was eight months pregnant with my second child when my daughter’s preschool announced they were closing indefinitely. I was two weeks away from maternity leave, which I’d been planning for months. I was wrapping up client meetings, onboarding employees to assist during maternity leave, and I had even allowed myself a couple extra weeks before the baby was due to prepare the nursery and enjoy some downtime as a family of three. Our plan was perfect, or so we thought. 

The hardest part was the unknown. Was I signing up to be a stay-at-home mom and homeschool teacher for two weeks, two months, or a year? There was also fear about bringing a new baby into this situation. What did this look like for our birth plan? There was also mourning for the plan that I had so meticulously laid out to serve my mental and physical health. 

Time spent reconnecting with old friends, taking up lost hobbies, and really allowing myself to be present with my family while refocusing on my personal and professional goals has been restorative.

CB: Mourning our plans is the perfect way to describe it. As parents, we thrive on structure, schedules, and routines. It makes sense to grieve those things, like the quiet hours you spend working or at home while your children are at school. 

Saying goodbye to our routine brought about an interesting shift in our family dynamic. What would it look like to entertain and teach two children every day? I’ve learned there really is no answer. 

We tried the color-coded schedules, but threw them out within a couple days because they seemed to cause more disruption than they did structure. Once those were out of the way, I no longer felt the pressure to make every moment teachable. Some days are a win, while others need a reset by 9 a.m.

So, what advice do you have for parents expecting a newborn right now?

SH: You really just have to be flexible. I chose to see the extra days I got with my daughter before our son was born as bonus bonding time. Would I have loved that prenatal massage? Of course. But that was my reality, and I was going to make the most out of it. 

In hindsight, I think one of the best things we did was talk to our family about what it would look like for us to quarantine together after Teddy was born. We discussed the precautions we would take to make sure we all felt safe seeing each other. He’s almost a month old now, and I couldn’t imagine going through that first month without you guys. Having those hard conversations early meant we had one less thing to worry about once Teddy was here. 

I’ve also learned there isn’t actually a huge difference in having a newborn and being on maternity leave, and being quarantined. We started focusing on outside time, too. Getting out the door with a toddler and newborn is an accomplishment in itself, so a short walk around the block might be the highlight of our day. We look for ways to make otherwise mundane activities really special. We take time to talk about the different bugs, flowers, and animals we see.

CB: It’s funny how the idea of entertainment has changed. Our boys have helped plant flowers, cook meals, and stretched themselves creatively. Honestly, it’s similar to how we grew up! Without the pressure of worksheets, timers, and frustrated learners, I really do feel like they’re developing new skills every day. Time moves slowly, but we’ve created a new routine that’s more child-led. 

Speaking of time moving slowly, you just had a baby, at home! That’s a story for another day, but I keep thinking what it would be like to have a newborn right now. Are you able to set aside any self-care time for you? 

SH: So far, self-care has been non-existent, but I do feel taken care of by our community of friends, family, and even our neighbors. Our community has leaned in and offered meals, dog-walking services, and sweet gifts like setting up a brand-new playhouse for our daughter in our backyard. We know our neighbors by name, and have made it a point to regularly check in with each other. 

CB: I didn’t just have a baby, but I’m also so inspired by the things our community is doing to create learning experiences for the boys. In most cases, you can find a local company to support, and we all know they can use it now more than ever.

SH: How is your and Michael’s relationship holding up? My and Trevor’s time together is so limited these days. Early on, we made a plan to limit TV time after our daughter goes to bed and instead spend some time talking about things that are important to us. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the day and only talk about your children, so being a little more intentional with our time has helped. But some days it’s getting dessert and watching a show together. Let’s be honest—most days it’s that!  

CB: I’m embarrassed to admit we’ve only made it through one show so far during quarantine, and that’s Tiger King. We’ve got some work to do! It’s hard for us to focus on ourselves—let alone each other—after the boys go to bed, so we use the small windows of time during the day to reconnect. We dusted off our espresso machine to make afternoon coffee, we’re giving each other time to exercise every day, and we’ve talked about what we hope to get out of our time in quarantine together, even setting mini-goals to help us get there. Managing expectations and lots of cocktails is our secret to happiness!

SH: So, what’s something you’ve learned about yourself during quarantine? 

CB: One thing I keep thinking about is how busy my life was before this. My calendar was always filled with phone calls, meetings, and deadlines, for my businesses and for my family. It’s too much! 

As my days have become more open, I’ve learned what it is to feel fulfilled at the end of them. Time spent reconnecting with old friends, taking up lost hobbies, and really allowing myself to be present with my family while refocusing on my personal and professional goals has been restorative. 

Photo credit: Paige Newton

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