The key to successful pandemic parenting? take care of yourself, too.

A photo provided by the Gross family, shows Lance Gross, his wife, Rebecca Gross, and their two children, Berkeley, 6, and Lennon, 2, during a family getaway last fall in Joshua Tree, Calif. (Photo: NYTimes)
Last November, Lance Gross, an actor known for his roles in various Tyler Perry productions, including “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” had to say goodbye to his family for four weeks as he embarked on his first movie project since the coronavirus lockdown began.اضافة اعلان

As the film project began to ramp up, it did so with one major change from the prepandemic times: No one could leave the studio until filming wrapped. Once the cast and crew arrived on set in Atlanta, with negative COVID-19 tests, it essentially became a production bubble.

For Gross, 39, it was the longest he had ever spent away from his wife, Rebecca Gross, 35, a stylist, and their daughter, Berkeley, 6, and son, Lennon, 2.

It was a shock to the daily routine for all four of them, who spent every day together for nine months. But it offered something meaningful to Gross’ psyche.

“I absolutely love what I do,” he said. “To bring characters to life is a creative pursuit that fulfills me.”

Finding Balance

Like many families, everything changed for the Grosses during quarantine. Not only did his filming schedule shut down but her personal styling business was also put on pause.

Instead, the couple, who live in Los Angeles, jumped into home-schooling their daughter and managing an active toddler, 18 months at the time. While they had always been very present parents, they had balanced parenting with their busy careers and rich social lives, allowing them to feel fulfilled personally and in their relationship with each other. Now, it became parenting, and only parenting, 24/7.

“As parents, you just do what you have to do — it doesn’t matter if it’s hard or challenging,” Rebecca Gross said. “But when you put yourself on the back burner, you will get burned out. It was a journey, but we realized it’s important to carve out time to be your best partner, your best parent and your best self.”

Filling Their Love Tanks

A few months ago, she said, they found the trick that helped them through it all: creating “me” time. She believes that all parents need a moment to refill their “love tanks” both individually and together.

“When your tank gets really low, it’s harder to cope with everyday challenges,” she said. “Before quarantine, we were able to build those tanks without really thinking about it, having personal time, traveling, working, even small moments in the car playing music. All of that was robbed.”

She recalled a day when her husband walked around the house in a “grumpy” mood. She realized that he had not been alone; nor did he have a creative pursuit at the moment, no space to fill his love tank. She told him that he needed to go take some time for himself. He agreed, and began to include screenwriting in his daily routine.

Similarly, Rebecca Gross noticed that she missed her girlfriends. Last fall, she organized a tailgate, where she and a few other women parked in a socially distant circle in a nearby lot. They sat by their vehicles with takeout food, going over the high and low points of pandemic life.

Prioritizing Date Nights

The couple thrive on being a team in the household. Although they enjoy their roles as parents, they still needed time to nurture their partnership. They sneaked out for a date night twice a month to a drive-in movie theater, without their children (they have a nanny that comes regularly, with proper safety measures put in place). Going to the movies has long been an integral part of their relationship and gave them some semblance of normalcy and a chance to bond.

Going back to work also provided a welcome shift in their schedule and increased the energy they each brought to the family. Both are creative people and find their respective jobs to be immensely fulfilling.

Despite the unpredictable nature of their careers — the long hours and hectic travel schedules — they have always supported each other’s endeavors. It may have required more logistics to do so during the pandemic, but they made sure to tag-team parenting and household duties to allow each other to take advantage of professional opportunities.

Through it all, the couple chose to inhabit the happy end of the spectrum. Lance Gross relishes how he has been there for Lennon’s milestones, releasing the anxiety that often haunted him on prepandemic travels and film sets.

He wrote a screenplay, a goal he said he never would have achieved because of his schedule before the pandemic.

“I looked at it as a positive, because it was a time to reset,” he said. “To be with my children and my wife for this extended period of time was such a blessing to me.”

Rebecca Gross developed new ways to connect with Berkeley, including Friday treats like sushi takeout for lunch or a movie with no little brother in tow.

As husband and wife, they have devoted time to themselves and each other, too.

“Life isn’t going to open up a moment for you to distance yourself from the hustle and bustle of the day to day,” she said. “You have to be deliberate about it.”