“I just want to cry,” I told my wife on Friday morning.
I had just gotten off a work call and my brain was ticking through follow-up items, adding to a long list of untouched to-dos. My wife, meanwhile, was multitasking an onslaught of work questions while also trying to manage “homeschool” time with our son — but he refused to participate.
Instead, he huddled in an increasingly secure couch fort, refusing to do anything — colour, read, go outside, talk to his teacher — besides sit in silence in the dark or watch his iPad. (Today, he opted for sitting in silence in the dark).
Things mums never say. Ever. Post continues below.
“Are we permanently ruining and psychologically damaging him?” my wife pleaded with me.
We both felt guilty for the work we were not doing — and aching for the way our son was struggling and needed us to be present and calm. But that’s exactly what our current schedule prohibits, as we run back and forth between work calls, requests, and parenting. (Later, as I took over the homeschool shift and he stormed upstairs to cry, he told me it was because I had stopped smiling at him. Knife, meet heart.)
This is really hard.
What’s amazing to me is how consistent this struggle is among every parent I talk to. The texts and social media posts bouncing around my circle all echo each other. We feel like we’re failing at both. Our kids don’t just need us — they need more of us. Our kids are acting out, abandoning the routines they already had, dropping naps, sleeping less, doing less — except for jumping on top of their parents, which is happening much more.
We’re letting them watch far greater amounts of screen time than we ever thought we’d tolerate. Forget homeschooling success — most of us are struggling to get our kids to do the basics that would have accounted for a Saturday-morning routine before this pandemic.
The particular struggle reflects the most privileged perspective — that of two fully employed adults, sharing the burden, without fear of losing our jobs. Put another way, I’m not worried about how I’m going to feed my family — I’m just worried about getting my son to eat something besides a doughnut for two days straight.