I have never felt like a worse mother than I have in the last few weeks. And as we round out five full weeks in self-isolation, it’s only getting worse.
It’s ironic, because I originally started Momsanity to make sure moms didn’t compare themselves to other mothers and to know they were doing a good job despite what everyone was doing—or what they thought everyone else was doing. Because let’s face it, we all know that everyday life is usually far from the pretty picture painted on Instagram and Facebook. But here I am, watching everyone on social media doing amazing things with their kids and feeling…defeated.
I’m not saying all this to get a pat on the back and to be told that I’m doing a good job. I’m saying this because I have an inkling that I’m not alone in this feeling.
Now, don’t get me wrong: In no way am I disparaging moms who are doing all of these creative things. Ladies, you are amazing. You keep doing you. I love seeing your efforts and your creativity. And I know you’re dealing with your own anxiety about the world and all the uncertainties, and this is a great way to get your family through it. Plus, it’s inspiring; I’ll share ideas on my public page so others can benefit, and I get ideas for doing things with my own kids. Wild scavenger hunts! Quarantine art projects that look like they could be hung in a museum! STEAM project challenges that would win a science fair!
Sure, I’ve done some of them. But they never turn out as awesome as the ones I’ve seen online, and quite honestly, I can’t keep up. If I do one every few days, that’s an accomplishment. And I feel miserable about it.
“Are my kids the only ones who don’t want to sit down to do distance learning?”
Now that a few weeks have passed, I’m starting to see the cracks in the veneer of social media. The self-deprecating memes about color-coded homeschooling charts, work-from-home disasters and teachers deserving all the money gave way to sporadic interjections of timid exasperation: “Is anyone else having a hard time juggling work and kids?” and “Are my kids the only ones who don’t want to sit down to do distance learning?”
To answer those questions in order: Yes, everyone is having a hard time juggling work and kids. And no, some kids have no interest in distance learning, and even if they do, some of them need your help to focus and can’t do it on their own as an independent activity.
I know these are the answers to those questions. Let me rephrase that: I know these are the answers to those questions in my more rational moments. But let’s just say that rational thoughts go out the window when my 4-year-old is banging on my bedroom door as I try to dial in to a conference call and my 8-year-old is having the meltdown to end all meltdowns because he did his writing assignment incorrectly and I start screaming at them before I shove them in front of a screen.
Yep, there it is. The crying. The tantrums. The screaming. The excessive screen time. (Seriously, I think my daughter may have gotten eight full hours of it the other day.) It is the exact opposite of how I want to parent, how I try to parent and how I actually parent in normal times. But these are anything but normal times.
To be honest, I was barely keeping my head above water in the few months before the pandemic hit. I started a new part-time (but not terribly part-time) job in late August, which I am incredibly grateful for and I really enjoy, but I found it challenging to balance it with my other relatively demanding interests and, of course, my incredibly demanding kids. But I was finally getting into the groove by the time the new year hit. Of course, coronavirus sent everything into a tailspin.
I am doing my best. I really am. But in no way does it feel good enough, and how can it?
All moms are in the same boat right now, but moms who are working from home during all of this have an extra heaping dose of mom guilt to add to the whole mess. Kids need attention. Work needs attention. They are both full-time jobs, and when there is very little help, no matter how much you divide your time with your significant other, it is an impossible situation and you will feel like you’re not doing anything well.
“Mommy can’t play with you right now, honey. I have to work.”
“Just go play with your brother and be quiet for a little bit. Then we’ll get to play, I promise.”
“Do your schoolwork on your own and I’ll check it later.”
“Can you just figure it out?”
“Oh, my God—stop! Here. Here’s my phone. Just take it. BUT CUT IT OUT AND GIVE MOM A BREAK, PLEASE! I AM DOING MY BEST!”
I am doing my best. I really am. But in no way does it feel good enough, and how can it? In addition to suddenly having to homeschool our kids while juggling a million different things, we are worried about getting sick. We are worried about our loved ones who we can’t even be with getting sick. We are Cloroxing the crap out of every goddamn grocery item before it comes into our house. We are watching the news and the horrifying statistics and the conflicting reports and it’s enough to drive anyone crazy, even without the kid situation.
I may be hanging on by a thread, but I am doing my best.
No, I may not know you personally, but I know that without a doubt. Because we love our kids. Because we’re doing our best to provide for them and keep them safe. Because we’re doing our best to comfort them when they’re stressed out and having nightmares about all this or simply acting out. Because we are doing what we can to survive and sometimes that’s messy and ugly and completely not ideal. But if we make it to the other side of this, we will have done our jobs, whether or not they do all of those fun, fabulous activities.
It’s funny how everything seems so much clearer in the beginning of the day, as the sun is rising, before the kids are awake, and it’s quiet. Now to start the day…and hope I remember even the tiniest fraction of this.
If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to share it!