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COVID-19 Parenting: Stop Should-ing All Over Yourself

During quarantine 2020, the world shut down quickly and suddenly and life hasn’t been the same since March. We have suddenly found ourselves with more time and less time all at the same time.

Many of us, as parents, are struggling to balance childcare, distance learning, entertaining our children during the summer and working, whether you are an employee or a business owner. It’s truly an impossible task that has resulted in a heightened level of stress and new roles that we have never had or anticipated we would have to embrace. During this time, parent guilt is on the rise. We are trying to fulfill all our new roles with grace and efficiency, but truth of the matter is, we can’t. We can’t serve as parents, teachers, camp counselors and event planners. It’s just not possible.

Many of us are holding these high standards and feeling like we are falling short each day. We are holding a lot of “shoulds” as we approach each day and they are not serving us. In fact, they are taking away our energy and ability to enjoy a moment with our children or to take care of our own physical and mental health.

Should #1: I Should Enjoy this Time with My Kids

Without commutes, sports practices and games, and activities, we feel like we should have more time. And, we should be using that time to bond and create joyful memories. Stop right there. That’s the stuff that fairy tales and princesses are made of. It’s not real. This time frame that we are living right now is tough. Really tough. We are balancing and working and preparing meals and buying food to create meals and monitoring screen time and making so many decisions that we haven’t had to make all at the same time before. It’s OK if you are having small windows of time where you are enjoying your time with your kids, no differently than at any other time of your life. It’s OK if you need to spend more time working one day or a few days. It’s OK if you want to spend time alone. This isn’t a time for us to try to make things magical. This is a tough time for all of us, parents included.

Should #2: I Should Be Able to Teach My Kids and My Kids Should be Learning

I’m going to stop you right there. Even if you are a certified and trained teacher, teaching your own child is just not possible. That’s why we send our children to school — so the person who doesn’t have an emotional connection with your child can objectively teach and assess your child’s skills. It is not realistic that you are, all of a sudden, going to be certified to teach math, science, social studies, reading and writing. It is not realistic that you have the materials to break down content and teach it to your child based on his strengths, weaknesses and learning style. It’s just not possible. Hire a tutor if you can, lower your expectations for learning and get through the day. 

Should #3: I Should Be Energized and Patient Every Day

Please be compassionate with yourself first. Be kind to yourself first. Be flexible with yourself first. We can’t work, teach, mentor, advise at the same time. This is truly an impossible expectation that is leaving many of us feeling depleted and defeated. It’s OK if your child ends up being on his iPad, phone or Xbox more than you would like. Right now, this is what it is. It’s OK if your family is not having nutritionally balanced meals and snacks and that there is more dirty laundry than there are clothes in your closet or drawers. It’s OK if the house is not as neat or orderly as you would like for it to be. It’s just OK. Take a breath. Ask your kids to help and survive the day. 

Getty image via Drazen Zigic