I had a great session with one of my clients yesterday about working from home during the pandemic. She was frustrated her boss was not responding to her messages and as a result, she couldn’t deliver a high performance. She was, understandably, frustrated. However, my attention turned to her narrative. She expressed frustration, impatience, and confusion with phrases like: “How am I supposed to get my work done?” “The project cannot move forward without my boss’ input.” “People are waiting.” “It’s going to look bad on me if I delay any further.” I couldn’t help but notice that these concerns centered around her performance, with zero sentiment of allowance, understanding, or compassion for herself or for the position she was in – a position that we are all in: working à distance, grocery shopping with a face mask, dodging neighbors on the street to maintain distance, disinfecting our shoes after getting the mail…. This is, by far, the weirdest thing any of us will ever have to face in a lifetime and, the bottom line is, we must give ourselves a break. Let’s talk.
I’m especially writing this for all the parents out there who believe that they are undeniably damaging their children with too much screen time, play time, and shut-the-fuck-up time. By this, our God-knows-whichth week of quarantine, my clients and family have expressed things like: “What am I doing to my kids?” “They are going to hate me after this.” “My kids will definitely need therapy now.” “I’m being a terrible parent, aren’t I?” Many of us are having concerns and even full-on panic attacks after having yelled at our kids for getting kinetic sand all over the basement couch or sliding into the bath like it was last summer’s weekend at Calypso. We must realize these are out-of-the-ordinary circumstances that will cause out-of-the-ordinary parenting. You will scream more often. You will allow more TV time than usual. Your kids just might have a grilled-cheese every other day without a veggie side dish. And, in case you hadn’t already realized, you do suck at teaching grade-school and they are learning a lot less with you than they would have with their proper teacher. Many parents are horrified by these harsh truths but the problem here is not what they would expect.
You see, the only problem with allowing your children to wear the same pjs for three days or letting them fight just to kill time, is the belief that you are failing as a parent. By your normal standards, yes, you would have done things differently. You would have had more emotional and mental resources to discipline effectively after your kids ransacked the apocalypse pantry. You would have been well-rested and fully charged to attend those dreaded daily teddy bear tea parties. You would have quickly and efficiently decided that naked kid’s yoga was a bad idea. And, oh yeah, let’s not forget that you would NOT have had the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, which just might have helped.
So, yes, by your normal standards, you have “failed” at parenting during the Covid-19 crisis. BUT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, YOU ARE LIVING THROUGH A FRICKIN’ PANDEMIC. THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO BE PERFECTIONISTIC ABOUT YOUR PARENTING. KEEP YOUR KIDS ALIVE AND TELL THEM YOU LOVE THEM. MAYBE THROW IN A HUG. THE END.
Now get over it and go make a fort – something fun parents have been doing for years while you were busy “taking care” of your kids.