parenting during the pandemic

Parenting during the pandemic

Let’s be honest: Parenting under optimal conditions is challenging. And the last year has been anything but, thanks to COVID-19. I’ve been pushed beyond what I thought were my limits countless times, only to be pushed further and further as COVID-19 drags on. I’m tired and I’m struggling.  

And you know what? I don’t know any parent who isn’t struggling in some way right now.  

First of all, change is hard. We choose “the devil we know” again and again for good reason. Millions of years of evolution has conditioned us to seek out the predictable and mundane, and to be wary of the unknown. When I think of the many things that have changed over the past year, I start to wonder if it would be easier to instead count what has stayed the same; I think it would be a shorter list. Work. School. Childcare. Social gatherings. Family gatherings. Self-Care (What’s that??) Fun and entertainment. Shopping. The list goes on. There have been times I felt my desire for some sort of familiarity, for some semblance of normalcy as if it were physical pain; a horrible ache I couldn’t quite put my finger on. All while trying to put on a brave face for my son, whose world has been rocked, too.  

That leads me to my next point. It’s not as if I was a “worry-free” parent before the pandemic. Far from it. I’ve worried about my son, his health and well-being, his happiness and his future, since the day I found out I was pregnant. COVID-19 has put that worry on steroids. As parents, it feels like we’ve been asked to do the impossible. We’ve had to wear simultaneous hats of parent, teacher and employee, juggle ever-changing, ever-demanding work and childcare responsibilities without our typical supports, and make choices with shifting information about whether we should send our children back in to- person learning, while having to sift uncomfortably through our thoughts and feelings about their physical safety, learning needs, emotional, social and mental health, much less our own. And that’s if we’re even lucky enough to even have those “choices” to make. 

And then there’s the isolation. What got me through my tough parenting days before COVID-19 were things like a visit with grandma, connecting for a playdate or a rare treat of hiring a babysitter and actually venturing out into the world. But COVID-19 has taken that from us too. Its just me, as a parent. 24/7. And it’s too much.  

So what can we as parents do? 

First, we need to talk, and keep talking, about how hard it is. Silence is isolating. Talking leads to a shared sense of connection. 

We need to keep it real.  

We need to seek out people we can be totally honest with, without fear of judgment.  Toxic positivity is exactly that: Toxic. We need to be able to express the ways in which we’re struggling. That we’re sad. Angry. Scared. Done. There needs to be space. There doesn’t need to be a silver lining.  

We need to become much better at managing expectations: – For our children, friends, families and for ourselves. We need to celebrate the little things and seize the opportunities we can, to feel joy, happiness, pride, and contentment, without judgement, especially when those moments are few and far between.  

Sometimes, we need to help others manage their expectations of us better. We need to say “no” or “not right now” more often. We need to not be afraid to ask for help and to be clearer when we’re struggling. To that end, I sometimes “forget” to lock my office door during meetings, knowing that my son will, inevitably come in and interrupt. You know what? I welcome that. I feel like it’s important that my colleagues aren’t given the opportunity to forget what my day-to-day during this pandemic looks like. There is no “business as usual” for parents. 

We need to find new ways to connect and new ways to take breaks (Even if it’s just hiding in the bathroom).  

We need to allow ourselves the space to struggle and not feel ashamed. Some days, my biggest accomplishment is dragging myself out of bed. That needs to be okay.   

The good news is that we’re all living through this pandemic together. We’re not alone. We all have this as a collective experience, and we all benefit when we can talk about it openly. But the bad news is also that we’re all living through this pandemic together. No one really knows what they’re doing and can tell us what it’s like on the other side.

At any given moment, we’re all doing the best we can and that HAS to be good enough. We’ve already made it further than we ever thought possible. We don’t have to “rock it”. We just need to keep going. Our children are resilient and so are we.

Tired, but resilient.

Leave a Reply