I really wanted this post to be funny. And, a couple of funny things have happened over the past week. But mostly just the kind of funny where it’s actually so stressful that you just laugh because the alternative is crying you have already cried four times that day.
Like when you’re scrubbing dog vomit out of the carpet and your four year old starts screaming from the bathroom that they need to be wiped and then your phone rings and it’s a work call that you forgot was at 9am and you are still wearing the sweatpants that your toddler peed on an hour ago. If you consider that kind of thing funny.
But, mostly what I’ve done this week is yell, and cry, and then feel massive amounts of guilt about it.
I’ve already screamed at the girls more than once that if they don’t leave me alone for one goddamn hour to do my work that I won’t get paid and we’ll lose our house and be homeless and all die. So, now I really need to stay employed so I can afford all of their future therapy.
I know that sounds like a joke but I really said that and that’s where we’re at right now.
I’ve read a lot posts on social media these past few days about just doing what you can – you know, don’t worry about homeschooling and just read to your kids and go on walks and bake with them and build legos. But – when you are working full time, you can’t even do that. Like, not even close.
The math just does not work.
Even with getting up at 5am and working well past their bedtime – there still are not enough hours to complete an 8-hour workday and spend any amount of time with the kids other than feeding them breakfast, lunch, and dinner and letting them rot their brains on their iPads.
And then when I tell people this they say – you’re in survival mode – just do what can, the kids will be fine.
But that’s only a partial truth.
We are in survival mode 100%. And the kids will probably survive, yes. But just because we are in survival mode does not make us immune from its consequences.
Excessive screen time has been shown to have a detrimental effect on children’s physical and emotional development and that reality isn’t suspended just because we are in survival mode.
The stress that I’m feeling – that they are absorbing – still impacts them, whether I’m doing the best I can or not.
The fact that I don’t have time or patience to educate them while they’re not in school – it will delay their academic progress significantly, possibly even holding them back a grade – regardless of whether that lack of time and patience was justified.
So, you can tell me not to punish myself. Not to feel so guilty. But you can’t wish away the lasting effects of this pandemic – both physical and emotional.
And that is a hard pill to swallow as a parent.
So, I’m sorry this post isn’t funny.
But, it’s our reality right now. And if there is anything I’m still good at in survival mode it’s keeping it real.
So if you’ve yelled at your kids this week that they are ruining your life, or threatened them with homelessness or starvation – I won’t tell you that you aren’t totally fucking them up. You are.
But you’re not alone.
Often times when I would visit my therapist after Lucy was born and lament to him all of my biggest parenting fears and failures, he would look at me and tap his pen on his notepad and say, yeah, I hear that a lot.
And often, that was all I needed to hear.
But while this past week has totally sucked in so many ways – it has also surprised me, too. I’ve learned that I have the best coworkers, and employers, and friends that literally call each other every morning to make sure we are all doing ok. I’m crying again, writing this, because I am so grateful.
While our company is still doing well, the company principles are already suspending a portion of their own pay to ensure adequate cash flow so that employees can continue to be paid. My coworkers are constantly offering up home deliveries of toilet paper or wine or other essential goods to anyone who has run out. My friends across the country are FaceTiming the girls to read to them and help them with school work. Our neighbors just dropped off homemade maple syrup – still warm from being boiled. And we have two acres of backyard and a few dozen more of conservation land just beyond it at our fingertips for outdoor social distancing.
I also have a partner – that while he isn’t physically here to help during the week – he is constantly checking in with me and helping me find time to run and shower and lay in bed for an hour writing a blog post – because he knows I need it to process all my shit.
So this is hard, yes. Incredibly hard. But it’s also a good reminder of how lucky I actually am.
There WILL be lasting effects on the girls from both mine and our country’s failures during this stressful time – and I feel a lot of guilt about that. But as my amazing therapist likes to remind me – “All kids are fucked up by the time they reach adulthood, just all in their own unique way. That’s why I still have a job.”
And to that I say, “Good for you Dr. T. Just take all my money and please never retire.”