We’re facing a pandemic in survival mode, so it’s OK to lower your standards and let expectations slide. Welcome to My Perfectly Imperfect Mom Life.
Life is perfectly imperfect, even on the best of days. I say that a lot. In fact, I write about it all the time in my syndicated humor column and my parenting books. And I remind my two daughters of it almost daily, because it’s true.
No matter how hard we try to ensure that life runs smoothly, especially as parents, the universe is always there to flick us in the ear to remind us that some things are beyond our control and sometimes we just need to do what feels right and comforting and grounding.
Kinda like now. Because if living through something as f’d up and epic as a pandemic with our kids isn’t the biggest ear flick of all, then I don’t know what is.
So cut yourself some slack.
In a matter of one day, we all went from being regular, ordinary parents sending our kids off to school or day care or strolling them to the park, to following a global stay-at-home order for an open-ended amount of time, socially distanced from family and friends, rationing rolls of toilet paper, and embracing TikTok as our new best friend.
Now our kids are home, we’re home, much of what we used to leave the house for is happening at home, and we’ve each taken on the role of parent, teacher, playmate, tutor, coach, therapist, and cruise director all wrapped into one human. And that’s a lot of pressure. Oh yeah, and just to clarify, none of us have a plan for that.
So cut everybody some slack.
These days, we’re living smack in the middle of The New Normal, in quarantine with our families and trying to navigate a world behind closed doors, with no breaks, and without access to the people and things and routines we’ve always been able to count on.
Overnight, all our tightly choreographed daily schedules and activities and to-do lists have imploded. Things like school and work and normal day-to-day life have been rearranged, and we’re just figuring out ways to manage our stress and grieve all the things we’ve lost. And we’re doing that while simultaneously helping our kids do the same.
Not to mention that parents everywhere are feeling this overwhelming guilt and pressure to keep our kids occupied and learning and moving and thriving and entertained every single minute of the day.
Plus, those of us working from home have the added layer of balancing all that with work and Zoom calls and FaceTime and virtual meetings. Not to mention those who are leaving the house for work are undoubtedly feeling the stress of keeping everyone safe while caring for their families and doing their jobs. And it’s a lot.
So cut each other some slack.
Here’s the thing, though — and this is key — while I know the urge is irresistible to parent the way we always have — with structure and routine and tons of activities to keep our kids active and stimulated, right now, we need to just stop. Just. Stop. And breathe. Then we need to hug our kids, exhale, and let it go.
Now is not the time to be the helicopter mom or the lawnmower dad, controlling every second of our kids’ day. Now is the time to let our kids be kids.
So let them make the forts and play the games and bake the cookies and make the mess and use the devices. Because the simple fact is, we’re all in survival mode, and normal rules for living life just don’t exist right now. They can’t.
That means, the only thing left to do is to what feels right, and that’s going to look a little different for all of us.
For us parents, it might mean scrolling through our Insta feeds a little more often to feel in touch with the world. For our older kids, it could look like extra time FaceTiming their friends to feel less isolated and more connected. And for our younger ones, it may be more hours in front of their favorite videos as a way of soothing their little souls. Because everyone’s world has changed and everyone’s rhythm is off.
So, if there was ever a time for self-care, it’s now. That’s the stuff we need to lean into until this is over. The stuff that fills our hearts and minds with the reprieve or the laughter or the shot of calm that will sustain us.
We need to give our kids the extra bandwidth to navigate social distancing using the technology they’ve got at their fingertips, because we’re lucky they have it.
Now granted, I’m not suggesting we let them FaceTime and watch Netflix 19 hours a day, but we do need to give them a longer runway to take advantage of those ways of connecting to help balance the isolation scales a little.
So cut your kids some slack.
Like the experts are saying, we’re living through history. So we need to acknowledge that this is hard. Reeeeally hard. And right now, what matters most is preserving everyone’s emotional, mental, and physical well-being, which is a pretty big challenge considering spouses and partners are spending more time together than ever before. Without a buffer. And because of that, tensions are running at an all-time high.
So cut your spouse or partner some slack.
The bottom line is, everyone needs permission to be a little aimless right now. We all need to be able to escape from the sameness of every day in whatever way makes sense for us. And if that means our kids are spending a bunch more time inside a book or in front of a screen right now, then so be it. Because that’s our survival plan.
So cut your family some slack.
Like I’ve said, these are weird, weird times, so give yourself permission to prioritize the things that spark joy for you and your family right now, and let the rest go. Just let it go. Because when we set the tone, our kids will follow.
We’ve got this, friends. Onward.
Lisa Sugarman is a parenting author, columnist, and radio show host living just north of Boston with her husband and two grown daughters. She writes the nationally syndicated opinion column “It Is What It Is” and is the author of “How to Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids And Be Ok With It,” “Untying Parent Anxiety,” and “LIFE: It Is What It Is.” Lisa is also the co-host of LIFE UNfiltered on Northshore 104.9FM and a regular contributor on GrownAndFlown, Thrive Global, Care.com, LittleThings, More Content Now, and Today.com. Visit her at lisasugarman.com.