Parenting in a Pandemic: You Will “Fail” and It’s Okay

I had a great session with one of my clients 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 and goggles, 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 please-shut-the-f$#k-up time.  By this, our 8th month into the pandemic, my clients 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 water park (true story).  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, if you didn’t already know, your grade-school teaching skills do leave much to be desired and your children are learning less with you than they would have with their in-school teacher.  Many parents are horrified by these harsh truths but the problem here is not “bad” or "incompetent" parenting.

The only problem with allowing your children to wear the same pjs for three days or letting them argue just to kill time, is the belief that you are failing as a parent. If you need a loving reminder let me just say that you are, in fact, a human being – not a robot. Given the current circumstances, you are doing the very best you can to care for your family.  No, you will not be perfect - striving for perfection in a pandemic is down-right abusive to self.  Your imperfection must be allowed. 

So what must come to the forefront to replace excessively trying to make everything and everybody in your household ok?: A new found belief that you can heal conflicts and wounds brought about by the pandemic.  Be it today, tomorrow, or months into the future, you and your family have the strength to work through any Covid-19 crisis scars.  You and your family are resilient...which something we must all remember.

So...sans pandemic, yes, you would have parented with more finesse this year.  But that’s only because you would have had more emotional and mental resources to discipline effectively after your kids ransacked the pantry.  You would have been well-rested and fully charged to attend those 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 have had less anxiety, which would have made all the difference.

But, as reality demonstrates, we are living through a frickin' pandemic.  This is not the time to be perfectionistic about your parenting.  Go easy.  Keep your kids alive. Tell them you love them.  

Now go make a fort.

Anna-Maria Tosco, or our Sassy Psychologist, has two masters degrees in the field of psychology and has studied and worked coast to coast. She has worked in both psychiatric and community settings in some of Montreal's most respected healthcare organizations and institutions, and has also given a variety of talks and workshops on neuroplasticity, meditation, and uncovering barriers to love.