I got a text the other day from the best mom I know confessing that she’d just completely lost her you-know-what and screamed at her entire family, including the family dog. I’ve seen my coworkers looking stressed and apologetic with toddlers clinging to their necks on Zoom calls instead of triumphant like the champions they are. Yesterday, I watched a video of another friend chasing her toddler down the hall while he clutched his latest treasure, a raw egg. As for myself, in the 42 days I've been quarantining with my husband and teenage daughter, I’ve felt guilty and drained and fairly psychotic at least 42 times. Though things are (much!) less physically exhausting for me compared to my friends with little kids, this is really rough on my high school junior, and I’ve been (poorly) grappling with her (our) intense feelings of loss, disappointment, and deep fear and anxiety over the future. Am I doing this all wrong? Probably! But you know what? It’s fine. You’re fine! We’re doing our best and it’s pretty great. With every just fine parenting moment we (especially you) are doing an amazing frickin’ job and it’s time to acknowledge that.
Yes, I mean you, the mom who just let her toddler eat a pile of week-old Cheerios from behind the couch. And I mean you, the mom who cried with frustration when you finally scored a grocery delivery and they forgot the thing you were most looking forward to all week. (OK fine, that was me: Earl Gray ice cream makes me cry now.) And I definitely mean you, the mom who took a break from trying to get a bead out of her child’s nose to listen to John Mayer before resuming the hunt. You, the mom who truly cannot remember if your kid’s last bath was four — or maybe six? — days ago. Whether you’re sheltering in place or you’re an actual hero and logging hours outside the home as an essential worker, adding parenting into the mix dials things up approximately 1 million hardness levels. So, whatever went down today, however it went down, and whether or not pee on the couch was involved, it was JUST FINE and should be celebrated as a win.
Listen. I worked from home with a small child for years and let me tell you, this is not that. I also stayed home with my infant for nearly a year with no support system other than my partner and constant dread about what would happen when our COBRA ran out, and I still wouldn’t equate that stress with the current pressure cooker of isolation and uncertainty new parents find themselves in at this moment. I know my life at home right now with a kid who can fix her own lunch and even sometimes be sweet-talked into bringing me a cup of tea (!) is a bubble bath with a pile of bonbons compared to what moms of little kids are going through. We all have varying levels of privilege, but the point isn't to compare hardships: suffice it to say, what’s going on is not normal and no one has been there before.
One thing that is the same as in our pre-pandemic lives? As parents, it’s all too easy to focus on what we think we’re not doing right, replay the moments we let ourselves or our children down. (I've logged 17 years of second-guessing myself and wondering if I’m doing a good job!) But if we take only one thing from this experience, let it be learning to go a little bit easier on ourselves, and to celebrate and truly honor the very OK, just fine parenting moments. My daughter, alas, probably will remember that I furiously shrieked do you want to be responsible FOR US DYING?! when she badgered us to let her go for a "socially distant" walk with her boyfriend. But I think she’ll also remember the long drives we’ve taken, the cheese and crackers eaten in front of yet another viewing of Gilmore Girls, the pile of paints and colored pencils that now live on our dining room table.
Every day that you get through another 24 hours as a mom, you’re killing it. Celebrate that.
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