In general, parents are incrediby hard on themselves.
I’ve long thought this was the case, but the quarantine of 2020 has been revealing. I see the pressure imposed every day at home as well as through conversations with friends. My wife is an overachiever. She’s giving homeschool her all, but with it comes inevitable frustrations. Distance learning is challenging. Everyone – from the teachers and administrators at school to the parents and kids at home – is doing the best they can in impossible circumstances. However, reality is tough these days because people are out of their elements. Parents should not be teaching their own kids. Children should not be utilizing bedrooms as classrooms. Parents need to work for balance and success, and kids need to be in school for their academic and social wellbeing.
The fact is people are struggling. While “continuity of learning” is the goal, we are kidding ourselves if we think it’s the same for everyone. Technology is amazing most of the time, but it’s not always perfect, leading to frustrations for all. Virtual learning is just not the same type of well-rounded education our children deserve. Most parents know this full well and subsequently have put a tremendous amount of pressure on themselves to be all things to their children. I know this is certainly the case with my wife and our sixth and fourth graders.
I came across an article on the subject of parents overwhelming themselves at home during this period of closure on fatherly.com. It’s an interesting perspective from a fellow writer dad, Patrick A. Coleman, and here are some excerpts.
I recently interviewed the amazing Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, Senior Vice President of Curriculum & Content for Sesame Workshop (the people behind Sesame Street), who offered a very apt description of what families are facing. “Parenting is hard enough as it is,” she said. “And now we’re doing hard parenting in hard times.”
But here’s the thing about this unique and isolated moment: When the parenting gets hard, parents need to be less hard on themselves. That expansive world of child-rearing you once lived in — with its caregivers, in-laws, school staff, playdates and family outings — has been compressed into the boundaries of your home. Worse, so has your standard workday.
Parents everywhere are now expected to be, simultaneously, an employee, an educator, an entertainer, a coach, a nurturing protector, an information technology pro and a moral guide. And if that sounds impossible, that’s because it is impossible. None of us have enough time, energy or mental capacity to give all of our new roles the energy they deserve.
I know this doesn’t sound like a pep-talk. It’s not, really. That said, I want to release you from some of the stress you are feeling and maybe focus your priorities a bit. In fact, you should have one priority: Care for your family.
… Of course, the children complicate things, simply with their presence. Also, there’s tremendous pressure to make sure that educational standards are met. And, of course, with screen time being the big bad evil, and the rise of childhood obesity and the insidious moral decay brought about by video games you have to make sure your kids are doing something active and educational and social and spiritually edifying … and … and …
You don’t have to do any of those things. You only need to provide a stable environment where your kids feel safe and loved. That’s it, and you’re already doing a damn fine job of that simply by keeping your children home.
What else do they actually need? They need to be fed at regular intervals. They need a fairly stable routine that has them waking and going to bed at roughly the same time every day. They need to be able to play. They need to know … you love them dearly. Everything else is extra.
Education? Look, every one of your children’s peers is going through the same thing right now. It’s highly unlikely that what happens over the next weeks and months will put your child ahead or behind. You can only do what you can do. And frankly, if meeting every educational milestone will break you, then you need to focus on not being broken and relax the standards. It’s okay.
Screen time? I’m going to stop just short of suggesting the evils of screen time are an all-out myth. The truth is that we simply don’t know. The research is still out. I think you can be forgiven if screen time creeps up during a pandemic. Your child’s mind will likely not be forever altered for the worse.
… You can’t do everything and you should not be expected to. However, you are your kid’s anchor. Their world has already been destabilized and they need you to offer them a place where they can feel sheltered, and where they can still feel like children.
This will all get sorted out eventually. We’ll all meet back up in the sunshine. It’s a long haul, but if you lean into love and turn away from the bullshit, you’ll make it through okay.
This is your permission to let some things go. It’s the only way we’ll survive.