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21 ways parents and caregivers managed to find joy in the disaster that’s 2020

21 ways parents and caregivers managed to find joy in the disaster that’s 2020

If 2020 were an emoji, it would be the exploding brain. And if it were a GIF, it would be the one with the flaming dumpster adrift in a flood. In other words, it’s been a tough go for many people — an utterly understandable response given the pandemic and its economic fallout. These are deeply challenging times, and it’s OK to struggle.

But there’s light to be found in the darkness, too. We asked parents and caregivers — who are among the folks juggling some of the most difficult and complex circumstances — to share what they’re grateful for, especially right now. From pets and Peloton to shelter and security, here’s what they told us.

1. People who keep it real

“One thing I’m grateful for during this mess of a year is fellow sarcastic moms on the internet. You really need a sense of humor to get through times like this, especially when you’re stuck in the house with kids 24/7. I’m thankful there are so many moms out there who aren’t afraid to show how messy parenting can be.”

— Alice Anderson, founder and creator of Mommy to Mom and mom to a 12-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, Buffalo, New York

2. Understanding employers

“Employers keeping me on full time even though they were on leave due to COVID. And weighted blankets!” 

— Nicole Michelle, nanny of 16 years, Boise, Idaho

3. Sweaty workouts

“I’m grateful for the CARES Act and the direct impact it has had on my life. It has given me space and time to set up home-schooling alternatives. I also effing love my Peloton.”

— Stephanie Rivera, mom of a 2-year-old daughter, Long Beach, California 

4. Opportunities for adventure

“The ability to travel as a nanny and all the beauty [traveling] has to offer. Current location: Oahu.” 

— Emily Maple, nanny of three years, Ewa Beach, Hawaii

5. Binge watching

“‘Schitt’s Creek.’ Our health. Legos. TikTok.” 

— Mina Bressler, mom to 7- and 9-year-old daughters, San Mateo, California

6. The luxury of time

“Extra time with my nanny kiddos, who would normally be in school.” 

— Tori Blanchard, nanny for a couple of years, Philadelphia

7. Bonding over hobbies

“I am so grateful for the extra time we’ve had to share as a family, from the additional snuggles in the morning to the family runs we’ve been taking in the evenings. It has also been really special to pick up some shared interests and hobbies, including sharing some of my favorite TV series with my tween and teen, as we spend more nights relaxing together in front of the TV. “ 

— Alexandra Fung, mom of four kids, ages 13, 11, 3 and 11 months, Chicago

8. Quality hospital care

“For the past 27 of our 47 years of marriage, my husband has and continues to suffer chronic health issues that have needed my care. I am grateful we have good insurance. I am grateful for a well-respected hospital close to our home. I am grateful for my faith. Grateful for my strength. Both have helped me care for my wonderful husband throughout the years.” 

— Carol Gee, author and caregiver, Atlanta

9. A superstar partner

“During this dumpster fire year, I am most thankful for two things. First is my amazing husband who throws all gender roles out the window with abandon; he is the one keeping us fed and educated. And for the endless gorgeous hiking trails in our area.” 

— Sarah Granger-Twomey, mom to 9- and 6-year-old daughters, Portland, Oregon

10. A reliable paycheck

“Good health. Job security. Reduced hours with full pay.” 

— Amy, nanny for over 35 years, Seattle

11. Animation and adult beverages

“Extra time with my kiddos. But also Disney+ and bourbon.” 

— Annie Shustrin, mom of a 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter, Austin, Texas

12. A perfect pod

“I’m thankful for forming a home-school pod. It was a big risk because we had never considered an alternative schooling setup, but it has turned out to be the best thing we could have done for our children. Finding a teacher and classmates who are in agreement on our approach to the pandemic has provided us with a safe and happy school for our children.” 

— Christina Cay, mom to a 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, Charleston, South Carolina

13. A blossoming relationship

“Time to read and connect with new love.”  

— Gina Marie Bivens, nanny/family assistant for over 10 years, Washington

14. Safety at home

“I am grateful to be working in a home-care environment which means reduced risk of exposure to COVID-19 for my family and my employing consumer.” 

— Amy Edson, personal assistant for 23 years, Amsterdam, New York

15. Dance parties and game nights

“We have more silly dance parties in our kitchen, and our playlist is a fun mix of our eclectic favorites. We’ve made more homemade recipes and invited our children into the kitchen to take on more responsibility. Our board games have gotten more use over the last six months than in their entire existence [before]. The forced pause has pulled us together as a family unit to produce slow, sweet and special moments, and that is something I am most certainly thankful for.” 

— Caitlyn Scaggs, mom of 2 kids, ages 6 and 8, Radford, Virginia

16. Forever friends

“Friends that I can text at any time to share moments of heartache or brilliance.” 

— Kristel Harlacher, nanny for over 10 years, Raleigh, North Carolina 

17. Nearby nature

“I am grateful for our outdoor spaces — front porch, backyard, nearby river — so we can get somewhere to enjoy a meal other than the kitchen, get some exercise and have some quiet time. We are so lucky to live where the weather is good almost every day of the year.” 

— Tami Hackbarth, mom of a 9-year-old daughter, Sacramento, California

18. Open communication

“Employers who keep it real and open by talking mental health with me — the real MVPs.” 

— Lauren Gerrity, relocation nanny for six years, San Francisco

19. Therapeutic walks

“I am grateful for evening walks with my family. Up until COVID-19, I was running around like crazy, always busy, busy, busy. Now, because there are fewer things to do and more time to do them, I have found that walking either with my son or my husband is great therapy!” 

— Stephanie Shanks, mom to three sons (including one she cares for with cerebral palsy), Baraboo, Wisconsin

20. The unconditional love of pets

“I’m extremely grateful for my dogs. My grandmother lost her Yorkshire terrier before COVID-19 started, and she already found it tough transitioning to life without a dog. While I’ve taken care of my grandmother’s needs, my dogs have arguably done more than me. She loves to spend time with them. Having dogs in her home help to take her mind off the stresses in the outside world. The companionship that they’ve brought her is invaluable.” 

— Kieran Beckles, grandmother’s caregiver of five years, Martinez, California

21. Laughter

“My kids’ sense of wonder at even the smallest things helps me to remember that I have a lot to be thankful for. I love seeing the world through their eyes as they are exploring and learning and growing. And their innocence gives me hope even when the world news is discouraging. They also make me laugh — and laughter really is the best medicine!”

— Sarah Miller, mom of 2, ages 5 and 2, Kalamazoo, Michigan