Parenting in a pandemic: do you step up as a Dad or crumble under the pressure?
I always thought I was an involved dad, but that means something very different in the midst of a pandemic.
It seems so long ago now, but six months back, I could be proud of being able to make all my kids’ events. Swimming lessons. Scout meetings. Backcountry camping, birthday parties and more—I lived and died by our family’s Google calendar, and did whatever I needed to do to make sure I put them first before my other commitments.
But what happens when you take all of those things away and your family’s permanently confined to your home? No school, no daycare, no programs—what exactly does being involved look like then?
The whole lot of us suddenly took on the roles of stay-at-home parents… without ever really preparing to do so.
How do you succeed at stay-at-home parenting when you never intended to do it?
It’s funny—being a stay-at-home dad was never high on my to-do list because I always thought I needed some freedom to live my best life possible.
Fatherhood’s not something I aspired to, even though it’s ultimately made me a better man. Back when we decided to try for kids just shy of a couple of years into our marriage, it just felt like something I was supposed to do. My wife’s the one who really wanted kids, and what was the harm in trying? You never knew how long it’d take until everything worked out, so I figured why not go with the flow?
How long for us, though, was only a month, and I soon found myself rushing headlong toward fatherhood, slashing whatever I could off of my to-do list, because everything changes once you have kids, right?
But it all turned out far better than I expected, with a life that let me balance fatherhood with my work, my blog, and the ability to keep having fun at a time meant to be one of the most stressful periods of my life.
And then COVID-19 tore the rug out from under all of us, and that balance I didn’t know I relied on so much was gone, leaving me to figure out my new rules for survival just like everyone else.
Here’s what I learned about stay-at-home parenting — it’s not all about me.
Some men are built for this.
I have many friends who thrive as stay-at-home dads, coming up with all sorts of activities to help their kids get through the day. These dads’ self-satisfaction doesn’t come from a number of likes online or a pat on the back from a boss, but from being the very best dads they can be and giving everything they can to their kids. There were men staying at home to parent – and even homeschool their kids – long before we even knew a coronavirus was a thing. It’s men like this from whom we’ve learned to become better dads in a global pandemic because it takes an entirely different skill set to be a good dad when so many of our usual parenting options come to a grinding halt.
So, I learned to re-think my parenting, to find new ways to interact with my children. Parenting in a pandemic helped me understand my kids in ways I never had before, allowing me to better appreciate their personalities and learn how to create an environment that suited them both. The pandemic taught me that the cool stuff I give my kids as a blogger is nice, but it’s not what they actually need from me. What they need is a dad who’ll not only give them his time, but time that actually matters. Time that strengthens the bond between him and his children. Quality time, free from the distractions and pressures of the world. Time that I was finally ready to give.
Regardless of whatever the world throws at you, you’re still a parent. How do you plan to handle that?
So the pandemic has been a bit of a lesson, in more ways than we could possibly imagine. And while we all want things to return to normal more than anything else, when we do, I hope we don’t forget some of the positive things that were available from spending more time with our families.
Deeper connections. Improved frameworks. And the time to build a foundation that will hopefully last for years. As we slowly go back to the world we knew before, I hope you can look back on this time as fondly as possible—here’s hoping it’s once in a lifetime!
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.