Parenting during a pandemic

Who was it that posted that very first school’s-closed-here’s-what-to-do-at-home schedule? You know, the one that had you getting up at 6 a.m., followed by 7 a.m. breakfast, 8 a.m. dressing, teeth-brushing and chores and one hour of reading at 9 a.m. and on and on it went with enrichment in every aspect of academic and social life.

Are you kidding me?

It was sent probably by a well-intentioned school-teacher or a school system with a goal of keeping kids on track.

OK, I’ll admit, I was TOTALLY INSPIRED by those template schedules at first. We immediately drew one up for our household. Hey, we’re in control. No problem!

It wasn’t just that I felt social pressure to be a stay-at-home-mom meets homeschooling-mom, which I did. It was that — heck, yeah! — I WANTED to spend extra time with my son. I wanted to be his home-school hero and teach life lessons as well as math.

I wanted to be everything. To do everything. That’s what I always WANT. And with a 12-year-old home indefinitely (easy, compared to toddlers), I had — for the first time in my full-time working life — permission to try.

And, boy, did I fail.

Of course, I did. I was still supposed to work my full-time job, which came with its own COVID-related anxiety and demands — never mind the personal toll of absorbing the new reality and the fire-hose of daily media updates, which sucked up a full-day’s energy by 10 a.m.

In the midst of everything — as I witnessed my own total failure of being a dream mom — I was trying to compile a list of things to help other parents survive the mental strain.

I wanted to help parents avoid the guilt of it all (especially the screen time); to entertain their kids, but keep the other plates spinning; to be those homeschool heroes; and to somehow also do all kinds of grown-up professional pandemic pivoting or, in some cases, unemployment applications.

But it became clear: It was just TOO DANG BIG.

So I did like I’ve done with all parenting: I just did the best I could until I exhausted my own resources and then fell into a puddle and tried to get enough sleep to start all over again.

I’m sure you did, too. That’s what parents do.

And now here we are, watching the world wheeze and stumble, and then spasm with signs of normal life, only to be told: It’s going to be awhile.

And that means, parents, that more than ever you’ve got to fight the idea of perfectionism (or anything even close to it) and settle into good-enough parenting. Boil it down to basics. Cut yourself some slack like never before and focus on what matters most to you.

For me, it’s letting go of all the things I want to do and finding deep appreciation in the fact that I’m getting to see my son so much more.

That’s a net gain. And that’s a huge, huge, huge silver lining — complications and all.

For you, it may be way different. Pick your battles. Put your own facemask on first (literally and metaphorically), and take time to bask in the good — wherever you can find it — before the mosquitos come.


 Sarah Jackson is the editor of Minnesota Parent magazine. She lives in Minnetonka with her 12-year-old son. Write her at editor@mnparent.com.