5 things I learned after a year of pandemic parenting
Last month marked one year of my, dare I say it, pandemic parent journey.
It’s something that no one asked for but moms everywhere had to find a way to manage without warning. Schools and daycares shut down. Work offices closed. Some had to decide between their careers and motherhood.
It’s been beyond a rough patch as we try to move toward recovering from the happenings of 2020 and whatever it left at your doorstep.
It’s wild thinking about how “normal” things were a year ago and how the COVID-19 pandemic will forever change us.
But here’s what I’ve discovered in these last 365 days.
The obnoxious mom judgement.
The family comparisons.
Just throw it all away.
We don’t have room to compare ourselves in motherhood and most certainly need to judge each other less. Why do moms judge the hell out of each other so much, anyway? I wish we’d do it less.
If there’s anything that living so far through this ongoing pandemic has taught me is to care less about if you’re being judged as well as how other families are dealing.
Focus on your own because under these circumstances, you just don’t have the time.
Maybe homeschool isn’t so bad
Listen, I had a nice little curriculum going. We had a theme every week or every other week. We covered fundamentals, and I challenged my little one to explore greater concepts.
She was so proud of her Mommy School projects, and I was equally proud of preparing her weekly lesson plans. We’d print out worksheets, incorporating art projects, books, presentations and education videos that aligned with the lesson.
I was a person who (I know, we just talked about that judgmental thing) couldn’t understand how or why a mom could homeschool. Honestly, it always seemed intimidating, especially from where I was standing as a working mother.
But I tell you one thing, it felt good to know what and how she was learning.
(To answer you question, yes, she is back at her school. I sent my girls back in November.)
Take the damn help
My mother and I were not speaking for many months during the pandemic.
I was drowning in this whole thing, but she couldn’t find a way to help. However when she was ready, I put my pride aside and let her take them off my hands — even if it wasn’t often.
I always thought it was easier just to keep them because I didn’t see the benefit for me of her watching once every blue moon. Yet, that’s one day I don’t have to be woken up by screaming children, fighting to brush teeth, brush hair, clean butts, clothe tiny bodies, temper attitudes and then some all before breakfast.
So I take the help, even if it’s not exactly what you envisioned. Everyone isn’t fortunate enough to have a village, so you gotta get it where you can.
Don’t ignore your mental health
There were days, about six months in, where I sat on the edge of my bed feeling paralyzed. I was so stressed from balancing work with virtual Pre-K and nursing a little one what felt like around the clock. I felt like the ongoing demands of home life were crushing me.
There was so much noise, so much mess and not enough time. Every. Single. Day. My job was pressuring me. I was putting pressure on myself to make sure the kids were enriched, thriving and fed a balanced meal three times a day. I had no outstanding support, especially when my husband went back to his office. I was drowning and had no one to talk to about it. I was so resentful, feeling like there was no person on Earth going through what I was going through. I felt weak, like maybe I should just deal with it better.
I sought counseling to address how overwhelmed I was. I still go virtually up to twice a month. Just maintenance even though it seems like I have a better handle on the stress. I’ve learned to care less about that pile of laundry that sits adjacent to my workspace. I’ve learned to live with the fact that sometimes fries are for dinner (see below).
The days are just as hard as they were. Sometimes I feel like they get worse since there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. But I’m dealing.
You always hear as a mother how important it is to take care of yourself, and I learned what it means to take care of you so you can take care of them.
Your best is going to have to be enough
So about that cute little lesson plan. Didn’t always happen.
Wanting to feed them three square meals a day? Some nights it’s Chic-Fil-A (fries for baby girl with all the food allergies and mac and cheese for my big girl who doesn’t eat meat).
I put a schedule on the fridge when staying home and working with children was but a novelty. That lasted about two months before I realized that I as one person will not be able to maintain this every single day.
I felt guilty, and it honestly took me a couple of months to show myself some grace, but that’s what you gotta do.
What you’re able to manage is going to have to cut it. That’s it. Maybe some days you have breakfast a little later or skip nap or let them watch more TV than you had planned. Maybe some days you don’t get around to art or math or whatever activities you thought about.
Making it to the next day with happy children and however you get that on a day to day basis with NO DAYS OFF…that’s going to have to be good enough.
Bonus: Maybe another baby wouldn’t be so bad
We had a pregnancy scare in the early days of the pandemic.
I swore I was pregnant. I had a total breakdown when I thought my husband closed out a tab with Kobe Bryant‘s career stats. Since the basketball legend passed away, I haven’t been able to close that window on my phone’s browser. That overwhelming emotion had me thinking we had Baby No. 3 on the way when maybe I was just mourning.
While we waited though, the initial distress started quickly transforming into eagerness, just a little. We thought about which car we’d upgrade to in order accommodate three tiny humans. I pinned a few kids’ rooms ideas featuring three beds. We discussed how we’d adjust our budget with a third daycare bill on the horizon.
All this time, we thought another child would be too far out of our depth. We just don’t have the village-style support, so it’s hard. But maybe we had it wrong.
Anyway, we got all sad when it turned out I was not expecting.
But, we back good with two now.