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How To Overcome Pandemic Parenting Guilt

Arielle Lapiano  |  August 5, 2020

Despite being virus-free, I still suffer from a persistent COVID-19 symptom: parenting guilt. Here’s an overview of the symptoms and treatments.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was determined to be a model mom, resolute to be grateful, resilient and positive. But Instagram-inspired schedules and cheery kid coaxing are now distant memories. Forget model mom. I would just settle to feel like a half-way decent mom as my inner voice chides, “You are the worst mom ever!” If you’re also finding it hard to parent in the pandemic (and to not judge yourself along the way), I hope you’ll take comfort in my experience and how I’ve learned to deal with the guilt.

DISAPPEARING MODEL MOM

As the realities of COVID-19 were emerging, I knew that I was fortunate. I was healthy, employed, and safe. My appreciation fueled me to parent calmly and proudly.

But, work got busier and began encroaching on family time (not to mention time to eat and sleep). I was home, but seeing my kids less than when I was traveling to work every day. With more stress and less sleep, my appreciation wasn’t as powerful. My patience dwindled, and with it my attempts at “good” parenting. Patience during the pandemic was replaced with impatience and guilt.

Kind reminders to my girls to stick to their schedules were replaced by yells from my home office to, “Be quiet!” or the most common, “Get off the devices!” I just wanted peace and quiet, and I felt endless guilt for wanting it. I felt guilty about everything. So when a mom shared a photo of her sons’ recreation of a Van Gogh painting, after a virtual tour of the Louvre, her sons’ smiles seemed to snicker, “See, this is what good moms do. You suck.” It was a confirmation of my fall from grace.

Fast forward to summer. What I consider acceptable parenting these days is even surprising to me, but we are in the middle of a pandemic, right? The good news is that my daughters are able to take care of themselves. Sure, that might mean hours and hours of video games or TV, but it’s summer, and I had my fair share of the same during the dog days of July and August.

FINDING A CURE

Yes, I’m still fighting those super rude internal voices, but I am working on being kinder to myself to help alleviate the parental guilt. Here’s what’s been helping me.

I’ve become aware of “super moms”…

Social media is not my friend. I am happy for the mom who is conducting her own “Mommy Summer Camp” (think photos of DIY ice cream and tie-dye shirts) with her kids. Brava. But the images of these super moms and super kids makes me feel like crap (even though I know it’s all potentially carefully curated). So I avoid it. Muting, unfollowing, or just not looking at my device have all been excellent solutions.

I’m doing the “love” thing really, really well… 

I remind myself that my main job as a parent is not to create the best Instagram-worthy home schooling schedule, but to love my children. What’s important in life will vary for everyone at different times, and I am not taking a dig at the parents who are mastering pandemic parenting. Power to them! I just feel more empowered when I accept that I am not one of them. And I feel even better when I can remind myself that what’s important to me right now is helping my kids to stay happy, healthy, and feel loved by me… and that I’m rocking that.

I’ve started my own version of “Mommy Camp”… 

No, my kids are not painting Van Goghs. They aren’t even approaching a halfway decent Pollock. My attempt to make lollipops with my girls ended in a sad sweet puddle (seriously, do not try this without a candy thermometer). I have not taught my kids cultural or culinary sills these past months, but I remind myself that I have taught them lessons, about life … and death. My girls know that I am working hard for them, they have learned to be more grateful, and they have gained resiliency skills that will last them a lifetime. I can take failing at lollipops any day, as long as we can succeed at learning real life lessons, like handling guilt.

I’ve embraced the knowledge that “This too shall pass”… 

Parenting is tough even under normal circumstances. Add in pandemic, bored children that you are with you all —the — time, and top it all off with a generous dollop of work stress, and you have a parenting perfect storm. Yes, I’m going to feel like a crappy mom some of the time. But I know that this feeling is just that: a feeling. It will not be with me forever.

When I remind myself of how temporary these feelings are, how my kids are cool with my parenting (because who wouldn’t be happy with a video-game filled summer?) and that they’re learning important life lessons as we navigate these crazy times together, I realize that even though I might not feel it, I actually might be doing a pretty good job at this whole parenting thing and don’t feel that much to feel guilty about, after all.

Because if there’s one thing a real “Super Mom” should be able to do, it’s to give herself a little grace.

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