An Open Letter to Moms and Dads During the Pandemic
Hey, You! Yes, YOU. You, who had to learn to use a video conferencing platform overnight, who feels like an assistant teacher. You, who misses nights out, showing off your new lipstick in public, whose newest accessory is a face mask. You, with the toys from last week still on the floor, the dishes from last night still in the sink, the laundry continually piling up. You, who has learned, since March, to juggle as a parent, virtual employee, and protector against the boogie man named COVID-19.
You are not alone, are not doing a bad job, are not coming undone! I read this comment from a prior parent educator and I felt like she heard something I’ve been thinking:
“2020 has been such a smack in the face. Delivered so many bad things to me and my family that
honestly, I almost gave up. There were so many days I felt I had nothing else to give. Days I thought about just taking myself to a psych ward to lock myself away because I was on the edge.”
Who else connected with this statement? From mass chaos during the never-ending hunt for toilet paper to an instant shut-in to unexpected job losses, to what has become for many extremely challenging, children whose classrooms are now in their homes - they cannot have large group sleepovers with their cousins and playgrounds are considered a danger zone. But guess what? You rocked it! COVID-19 did not get the best of you; you became the best version of YOU!
“Life has been putting on the pressure lately. I was upset with myself, for expecting too much. I
was saddened for my kids. I felt at fault that they spent holidays alone.” These words came from a
parent who has successfully completed the Parents as Teachers program. I know her personally so I can tell you she is positive, creative, devoted to her children and spouse, and always prepared for whatever is coming next. I read it twice – the first time as if I was reading a random statement; the second time I read it word by word envisioning her as a representation of all of the PAT families. I felt all of your challenges, but I have seen your success!
Say this aloud: “My kids are loved happy and safe!” What you see as not doing enough for your children, they feel as having non-stop, open access to mommy or daddy. Right now, you are the coach, the teacher, the superhero. Your child is your biggest FAN! Merriam-Webster defines ‘fan’ as “an enthusiastic devotee, an ardent admirer, or enthusiast.” You replaced the eight hours that they were in a school setting with constant hugs, cuddles, and one-on-one instruction. This time has been gifted to you as a promise to your children of lifelong affection and trust.
Her words struck a chord with me as she continued by saying: “Yesterday I had a meltdown. A full anxiety attack. I completely lost it and didn’t sleep all night.”
Nod your head if you have felt this way - lost sleep, felt confused like this all has to be a dream or even a nightmare, you may have even lost your patience with loved ones and not understood why. These emotions are completely normal, because we don’t know when this pandemic will end. But I see you moving forward with purpose every day! You are the TAB of your family; by tab I mean just like the colorful sticky notes that highlight the important parts of reading material. By definition a tab is used to designate importance; you are the MVP - the most valuable person in your child’s life during these uncertain times.
It takes energy to do what you do with your children. It requires a focused mind to play the role of an educator, and I applaud you for the stamina you physically use to chase, to play, to cook, and to clean in order to maintain your household. So what if your living space isn’t immaculate! No one should be coming into your home anyway and their houses look just the same. So prioritize your mental health by standing outside to soak up the sun, turn off the news and social media and play your music loudly while dancing, and indulge in your favorite snack even if you have to do so secretly. (I am a huge advocate of closing a door to privately enjoy your favorite chocolate.
This same parent ended her comment by sharing these empowering words: “This is a very hard truth to face. I’m learning to not expect anything. I’m learning to validate my feelings while challenging myself to come up higher. I will not give up. I will find joy amongst the pain because at this point peace is more important.”
Go easy on yourself! It doesn’t matter if you have breakfast for dinner, they’re eating. The TV police aren’t going to come and arrest you if your kids get more than the suggested screen time. And Scrunchies were made for when we just don’t have time to wash our hair. You are the roots of your family! One of my favorite root words is -ulous, meaning inclined to do or credulous, so let’s say it proudly… -ULOUS! Picture yourself as Helen Parr, aka Elastigirl, from The Incredibles. She can stretch herself to any length to best fit the needs of her community but in your case the best needs of your family. Every day you push away the feelings of fear and anxiety for your children. You reach out to programs or local resources for support to enhance the quality of your family’s life. You restart every new day even if yesterday’s challenges are still lingering. You conquer unexpected issues like a boss! When this pandemic is over, you will come out of it stronger, wiser, and closer to your children who will look to your first when they are in distress. They see your hard work, they hear your encouraging words, and because of you they will know that it is okay to fall down and get back up again. Now piece those bold words you’ve created together: FAN-TAB-ULOUS! The next time you wonder how you are doing, you already have your own answer.