The past year or so hasn't been easy for anyone, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown and all kinds of other stresses. But parents, who've had their children largely out of school, have faced some unique pressures — and that includes "The Good Place" star Kristen Bell.
For her, it all came to a head during Christmas. "If there's one memory that fully encompasses my parenting during the pandemic, I think it was going to get our Christmas tree," she recalled during a Reset Your Mind stream from Yahoo! Life.
"I ran back to the car, the kids were screaming in the back because they weren't getting attention," the 40-year-old actor explained. "Everyone's mad. It was absolute mayhem. There were so many tears... We barely got the Christmas tree up, but when we did, it was beautiful. I think that's a pretty poetic metaphor for this time: you gotta search for the joy amidst the chaos." (Interesting to note: 2020 wasn't the first time Christmas was a dramatic occasion for the Shepard-Bell pod.)
Of course, she wasn't alone in recounting what the last year or so has been like (and, despite many people getting vaccinated, we're not out of the woods yet). Bell was joined during the conversation by mental health experts and celebrity parents including Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Mayim Bialik, Sherri Shepherd, Holly Robinson Peete and Candace Cameron Bure.
Everyone who spoke to the camera had a different story to tell; Bialik (whose children are Miles, 15, and Frederick, 12) noted she was a "divorced parent in quarantine" and said she had to learn to take the pressure off herself, so she wouldn't then lay it on her children. "This is not the time to teach discipline from the ground up."
Mowry-Hardrict (who's married to Cory Hardrict and has two children, Cree, 9, and Cairo, 2) echoed Bialik's take-it-easy approach, noting that she's locked herself in the bathroom with a glass of wine once or twice. "It was so rewarding," she said. But, she added, it also taught her kids that saying "Mommy needs some space" doesn't mean "Mommy doesn't love you."
Shepherd has two children: Jeffrey, 15, and Lamar, 6; Jeffrey has special needs. She said that if you have any children, especially ones who require special attention, you should "lean into them. Really listen to them because they will talk to you. If you have a teenager, try not to take it seriously."
She added, "You're a punching bag ... you're the one they love on at the end of the day."
The hour was filled with personal anecdotes about how many of them believed it would be an adventure early on, but quickly the togetherness wore on everyone. Many found different ways to cope, from cooking to long walks, and there was a lot of support for therapists and therapy.
Robinson Peete (who's married to Rodney Peete; they have four children: Rodney and Ryan, 23, Robinson 18, Roman 16) explained that she used meditation and mindfulness to get through the difficult times, and urged her children to get on board. "I tried to give them tools to walk through this," she said. "In the beginning it was kind of fun, but it became a little problematic when we wanted our privacy."
And Bure (married to Val Bure, with three children: Natasha, 22, Lev, 21, and Maksim, 19) noted one of the ways she got her kids involved was to go through a cookbook, page by page, making every recipe. "We've been together 24/7," she said. "My kids are always watching. They see how we deal with the stress, how we handle difficult situations."
Her marriage also underwent some ups and downs, but now that there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, she feels they're all stronger for this time together.
"There's always hills and valleys no matter what, but when you come out of the valley it's like 'aaah!' And 'hallelujah!'" she said.
Meanwhile, Bell said one way to figure your way through the darkest hours is to reach out for your community. "Lean on others," she advised. "It takes a village is a cliché for a reason. Being a parent is learning that sometimes you just got to throw away the rule book and you gotta be flexible."