Pandemic Parental Guilt

We all want what’s best for our kids. There isn’t anything the majority of us parents wouldn’t do for the safety, well-being, and happiness of our children.

As most parents tell you, if or when you do finally welcome your brand-new mini-human to the world, you’re also welcoming a new lifelong friend: Guilt.

And in these unprecedented times, that guilt is at an all-time high. Whatever you do, it somehow always feels like the wrong thing.

Some studies suggest that guilt is the driving force behind most parents trying to ‘better’ themselves, and in turn makes them a better parent. But, whatever the reason for it, there’s no denying that it sucks, big time.

If you’re now working from home, you’ve somehow been assigned the insane juggling act of full-time parent, entertainer, and teacher. Life was busy enough ‘before’ – now, the stress of the situation would be damn near laughable…if we actually had the time to laugh about it!

Let’s give credit where it’s due: thank you to teachers everywhere! You guys are amazing, and never will I ever underestimate how tough teaching is. It now makes perfect sense as to why one needs to go to University for a number of years before being qualified to teach (and why teachers get well-deserved gifts at the end of the school year!). And there’s a reason as to why kids need go to school for a number of hours a day before they master new tasks and topics – hours which not all parents have in these circumstances.

Trying to get those ABCs down in between emails

I truly, sincerely hope that, come September (or whenever the Hell schools reopen), kids aren’t going to be expected to be educationally where they would have been had COVID19 not happened. I have no doubt that parents everywhere are doing their utmost – but we’re not trained educators in the best of circumstances, let alone when we’re also trying to keep up with work and home responsibilities.

Of course, schools and teachers are trying to find ways of keeping kids engaged and connected with one another. You, fellow parent, might be part of an online group dedicated to sending educational material, notes and guidelines for parents-turned-impromptu-home-educators, and general light-heartedness like the sharing of photos, pictures, or crafts you and your little one might have made together.

Not that there’s anything at all wrong with that – I think it’s a silver lining that this situation has allowed us more opportunity for quality time with our kids. The issue that I find (I’m a bit pedantic that way, sorry) is that it subconsciously puts more guilt on the parent who might not have more time to dedicate towards these sorts of activities.

We’re focusing only on the fun and shiny side of things, and denying that there’s a tough, draining, and often sad underbelly to this. We need to also talk about how damn difficult this is.

Guilt tends to have a common denominator – expectations. Whether our own, real or imaginary, from society or elsewhere, nobody likes to feel as though they are not ‘enough’. And I find that expectations are something which many people are still clinging to desperately in these times (more about that here: https://ozuncut.com/the-illusion-of-normality/).

We’re expecting parents to work from home as though it’s business as usual. We’re expecting kids to keep up with schoolwork as though it’s business as usual. We’re expecting teachers to keep kids up to standard as though it’s business as usual. We’re expecting a sea of smiling happy faces, kids and adults alike, as though it’s business as usual.

In case it wasn’t obvious – either by the sudden avalanche of stress, or the repetition in the previous paragraph – it ain’t ‘business as usual’.

Pictured: The pre-COVID Parental Rule-Book

These are uncharted territories; there’s no guidelines on how to parent successfully during a pandemic – at least, not in the way we would have done ‘before’. There’s an entirely altered version of the parental ‘rule book’ – and it’s still being written, leaving many of us feeling lost.

My take on the situation is this: if it’s working for you, if you and your kids are happy, then roll with it. Yes, little Jimmy might come out of this pandemic without properly understanding the concept of Pythagoras’ Theorem, but there will be time to catch up. And in the grand scheme of things, the mental well-being of you and your family takes priority.

We’re all doing the best we can, so give yourself a pat on the back for that. It may be ‘unconventional’ and challenging, but, for now, it’s going to have to be that way. We’re all doing our best to maintain our physical health – the same should go for the mental aspect, too.

(If you feel you’re struggling and need help, check out https://ozuncut.com/6-ways-to-deal-with-depression-anxiety/ for a few tips and suggestions)

You’ve got this, tired parent. You really do.

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