7 weeks in and lockdown fever is becoming a very real thing. Yes, I know it is better to have lockdown fever than corona fever but I am done with feeling guilty for feeling fed up, because it is by downplaying my feelings and frustrations, I am not able to find the good and feel inspired and appreciative.
I am currently being hugely triggered by stuff that really shouldn’t bother me, my tolerance levels are at an all time low, and I being told constantly by the media that I am lucky and that all I am being asked to do is sit on my butt whilst the real work goes on somewhere else. Apparently, I should just suck it up and be grateful for my health. I should accept that everything I do right now isn’t really good enough but that’s ok. It is not ok, I am not ok with it, and you know what that is what is ok.
I am giving myself full permission to feel however I feel, and rather than fearing the judgement of others thinking I am a self-obsessed bitch I will recognise that the circumstances we all find ourselves in is difficult, no more no less than the next person, because everything is relative to personal circumstance.
So, this blog is for the parents of young children out there for whom this is really very hard. The image attached to this blog is what I found doodled on my 7-year-old daughters’ desk. This is the reality of parenting during lockdown, the hidden sadness of our children that they most likely don’t have the capacity to process. This breaks my heart, as I am sure it does for every parent out there. I hear you; I feel you, and you are a bloody hero, because you have suddenly had to become their everything, and for all that you do for them, you are incredible.
Education, or more precisely home education and the role of the education institutions is triggering me big time right now. I read a lot about the difficulty of home educating in these times. Lots of light and humorous posts about how we are all shit teachers, about coping with the stress of our children with the help of much wine and swearing. But the reality is this. Home educating is incredibly difficult when it is not a choice., I imagine it has its own challenges when it is a choice, but when chosen, parents will have planned out how it would work and how they wish to educate their children. For the rest of us who have been thrown into it with little to no thought or support it is incredibly tough. We are not teachers, we do not have the training or enthusiasm to makes some of the bizarrely dull stuff that is being taught interesting and engaging, we are also doing this alongside trying to work, or run a house, or keep our own businesses afloat. We are doing this with our own mental and physical health challenges and stresses. It is incredibly difficult, so;
To the parent who still has to go out into the community to work whilst leaving your children in a school with teachers they don’t know, other children they have never met, with the worry about what they or you are exposed to, you are a bloody super hero. Being a parent is a constant cycle of tough decisions and worries. It is super tough and you are doing a job that many of us can’t do. You are keeping the country running, you are looking after the sick, you are keeping us connected. The choices that you are currently making whilst the rest of us are told to ‘stay safe at home’ must be so incredibly tough. But also, do not feel guilty that you do get to go out, that you do get to do other things, to feel a part of the solution. You do what is right for you and your family every day, and you are amazing, never forget that.
To the parent who has just the one child. I see you worrying that your child now has zero interaction with other children, it is a full-time occupation trying to be everything to that child, everything that you can’t be. You can not stretch yourself so thin to be parent, teacher, sibling, pal. It is too much, it is understandable that you worry, to be everything for one person is hugely overwhelming, but you are bossing it.
To the parent in lockdown with a toddler who needs constant entertaining, who doesn’t have enough space to be able to tire out the toddler so that they actually sleep and you can do what you know needs doing with the older children, to do what needs doing around the house, because everyone still needs clean clothes, and food and love and time. There is only so much of you to go around, and toddlers are renowned for their unnatural energy levels and ability to just keep going. It is so tough, and you are doing an amazing job.
To the parent who is trying to juggle a full-time job with educating their children, who by this stage can not be in the same room together without an argument. It is ok to struggle; it is ok to want to run away from it all. I applaud your resilience, and although I know you would rather be anywhere but here right now, hiding from the children so that you can do the job that pays the bills, whilst trying to engage the children in stuff from school that you don’t even understand yourself. I know that you read the funny posts about bloody fronted adverbials, and you laugh along at the ridiculousness of it all, yet even though you know it is ridiculous and they will learn this stuff you also don’t want to deny them this stuff, you don’t want the teachers to think you don’t value them and their teaching, so between conference calls and meeting deadlines you are googling the latest complex grammar task your 7 year old has been set, whilst trying to find simple and accessible art, science and music projects in the hope of stimulating their minds beyond that of grammar and arithmetic which is really only taking up an hour of their day, and you have to deal with this for roughly 14 hours a day, whilst working, and all the domestic demands. It is too much for any human to take on, yet everyday you are doing this, everyday for the last 6 weeks you have been thrust into this nightmare, and it is ok if you are not loving it, despite your nice house and big garden. It is ok, you are ok.
To the parent who can’t turn to a glass of wine to get through. To the parent who due to brave choices and/or health reasons does not have this simple crutch to cope because for them it is destructive. Never underestimate how strong you are. The situation you find yourself in right now is actually incredibly difficult, and every hour that you stay true to yourself and all the hard work you put into staying sober, I applaud you as should everyone else, nobody truly understands that struggle, you are a hero for your family and yourself.
To the parent who has their own internal battle with mental health challenges, for whom every argument, raised voice, negative comment feels like another crack in the scaffolding that keeps you together. Not being able to steady yourself in a moment of peace and solitude because everyone is around you all the time. No matter how understanding and giving people may be, those battles with your own inner dialogue are like an invisible way of self-harming but with no actual release. For the parent who dreams of running away from it all, know that you are loved and that you are enough. Nobody will ever truly understand that battle that rages in the mind of a person with depression or anxiety, but living and surviving every day in this situation is incredibly tough, and you are amazing, remember that every day.
To all parents who need to hear this, it is hard, not enjoying is doesn’t make you a bad parent, enjoying it doesn’t make you any less, our struggles and how big or small they are does not define us, working, not working, we all have our own struggles, and one persons difficult situation doesn’t make your experience or feelings any less or any more, it is only relative to your own experience, so stop giving yourself a hard time and equally stop sitting in judgement of yourself and/or others
To the media, and by that, I mean both mainstream and social, stop telling us we are shit teachers. You are wrong. We are not shit teachers, we are parents, not teachers at all and our role is not to educate our children it is to love them and to guide them. This is not the time to point out the great job that teachers do, to point out that what we are doing is only a tiny amount of what teachers do. Right now, we are doing more than should be expected of a person, we are taking on the role of so many whilst trying to also be the everything to everyone. Yes, I am sure that in normal times the role of the teacher can often stretch beyond that of educator, but they are trained and supported by colleagues, their working day is relatively ordered, and they have clear emotional boundaries and expectations. Also, when a role of the teacher is stretched beyond that of educator then that is a flaw in the system and in no way an indication of how awesome teachers are, but how awesome the individual is that chooses to go above and beyond. It is not only teachers that do that. As parents we have now been forced to go above and beyond, yet we are being told constantly what a poor job of it we are doing instead of how awesome we are for going above and beyond as the systems we rely on have crumbled and in some cases let us down hugely. During this time the work that is being provisioned for children is generally not good enough. The tasks are poor and heavily reliant on us having the same resources as a school does, the support is minimal and the teaching in a lot of cases non-existent with very little interaction or feedback. My children are impacted by this as I am sure many others are. I am doing my absolute best to provide them with opportunity to learn, to grow, to be creative, whilst box ticking what little the school sends to be done. I feel constantly guilty that I am not doing more, but I am not a teacher. I would not choose this for my children as I know my own limitations. My mental and physical health struggles with the responsibility of keeping them well both physically and emotionally, and it kills me a bit more everyday when I witness their struggles.
Even though it is not my fault that this is happening I feel constantly guilty about the fact I can not make it a better experience, I feel constantly not enough for them, so please be mindful of judgmental comments, of articles that tell us, even if it is tongue in cheek that we are shit but that’s ok. We are not shit, we are fucking awesome, but most likely feeling like shit. It is not only the heroes that we see that need applause, every single member of the human race right now needs applause. I speak from my role as parent, who right now is bombarded with articles and posts telling me just how inadequate and shit I am more so than any other sector of society but I recognise all across the globe people have their own struggles. Struggles of isolation, struggles of domestic abuse, financial struggles, health struggles, and we are all heroes, and should not be made to feel guilty by how we feel. Every feeling is valid, just don’t let the uncomfortable ones eat you up inside.
So, this is my Sunday afternoon applause for humanity, you are doing an awesome job, I send you rainbows of love because there is little else I can do right now. I am going to continue to hide from my children today, as this little tiny piece of space where I can process my feelings may well be what gets me through another week. Yes, I am blessed to have a loving family, a beautiful space to live in, a secure family income thanks to my husband, but it is ok for me to feel frustrated, worried, sad and insecure. I offer myself love, understanding and forgiveness, please do this for yourself too.