Let me start with some reassuring news: don’t worry if you feel like you’re not doing well at parenting in this pandemic—none of us are doing all that amazingly at it right now.
Over these last thirteen months at home because of COVID-19, the kids have been out of school more than they’ve been in it, and while it ‘s taught me about patience, resilience and a number of other things, what it also taught me is this:
I’m pretty done with the pandemic parenting life.
While we’ve come a long way from where we were when this whole pandemic started – our homes full of aimless children stuck with self-directed education while the world struggled to find a new normal – in a way, things were so much simpler back then. In the time since, we’ve tried so hard to adapt to pandemic living that it’s actually made things more difficult when it comes to the way we parent.
Synchronous distance learning. The constant struggle to find ways to entertain our children with a world essentially on pause. We tried to return to some sense of the world that we’d known before with well-intentioned ways to help us all keep moving forward… but you know what the road to Hell’s paved with, right? And it felt like we had to keep our individual Hells quiet with the world suffering so much more than what our parenting problems amounted to.
But that doesn’t discount how hard the journey has been for so many of us, in my case sharing a desk for months with an easily-distracted seven-year-old, unsuccessfully fighting to get him to do his work while struggling to finish my own. I thought I was being the best dad possible given the circumstances, but all I got for it in the end was falling behind on what I needed to do and a scolding from my son’s teacher for being too involved with his daily classwork.
So when the kids were home for yet another isolation after being potentially exposed to COVID-19 by a classmate, I knew better this time. I set my kid up on the opposite side of the house and just let it play out. I let both kids play virtual hooky as much as they wanted, because I just didn’t have it in me to be an employee, father and teacher all at the same time. Many think that parenting’s biting off more than they can chew, but pandemic parenting is on another level altogether—it’s complicated, and I was ready to call it a wrap.
But I don’t really have that option, do I. If there has ever been a time our kids need us to be “pandemic parents”, it’s now. We might have less stamina for it all and we might’ve seen it coming a mile away, but it’s the job we signed up for—whether we knew it or not.
That said, it’s still important that we take care of ourselves to rise to the challenge. I’m sharing a few things I do – and that we ALL can do – to keep going even when things aren’t the way we’d like them to be.
3 Ways to Stay Positive
#1: Find yourself a sustainable long-term project
What we learned in the first year of the pandemic is that it really doesn’t take that long to get through good content on streaming services and that a pandemic might not be the best time to pick up new skills. We rushed in the beginning to make the most of all this time away from our routines, but with a year of it under our belts, we have all the time in the world.
So find yourself a project you can work on bit by bit as you look to fill the days, because it’ll still take a while to sort things out.
#2: Celebrate the small wins every day
In The Before Times, we’d focus on ambitious things to keep ourselves going—things that’d help us get through the everyday ordinary that usually filled our lives.
That lavish vacation. That massive party.
Now, when we get through a school day relatively unscathed – and with actual WORK accomplished – it’s a win! I celebrate tantrum-free dinnertimes and snuggles on family movie night. It’s not that I didn’t acknowledge those things before… I just have a greater appreciation for them now.
#3: Take joy in little pleasures
Since we’ve been in lockdown for what seems like forever and our list of activities is seriously limited, I’m finding joy in the things that we can do to make our days special – family walks, takeout coffee and treats from a local café, kids enjoying the slide at the park. It really IS the little things that have helped get us through the past year.
Once upon a time, I thought that we’d be better equipped to handle the struggle of pandemic parenting if we saw it coming—it’s been a year of adapting to all of this, after all—but now I’m not so sure. What I DO know is that we’re all just doing our best to get through this together.
We’re all waiting for the end of the pandemic. We all want the world back on its feet. But in the meantime, these kids aren’t going to parent themselves, so let’s cherish the memories we’re making right now – before the world speeds up again.
Good luck out there, everyone!
Casey is a Canadian Dad from Toronto, Ontario who shares his fatherhood journey at Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad, one of the few places to find fatherhood content in the Great White North. He shares his story because it’s different. He’s a Black father. He comes from a multiracial family. His family’s an urban family, looking to thrive in the city rather than run out to the suburbs like so many families have done before them.