Emily looks back at the parenting pressures she put on herself during lockdown and areas she’s planning to ease up on as lockdown eases.
I’ve had to catch myself a lot lately. As lockdown’s eased and we’ve started seeing friends again, the inevitable first question is, “So how was your lockdown?”
I’ve worked throughout, have had two children at home and a mum living on her own and two in-laws unhappily locked down in a care home so it has – in short – been insanely full on with multiple challenges on multiple fronts.
I find myself answering the lockdown question with comments along the lines of “It’s been hard. I’ve been rubbish at everything. I’ve been doing a rubbish job at mothering as I’m tired and ratty, rubbish at work as I’m distracted by schooling, rubbish at wife-ing because I’m an emotional rollercoaster and rubbish at daughter-ing because I’m not there enough for them.”
As a formerly trained chef, I’ve even shocked myself that I barely cook properly anymore – so I even feel rubbish at that. In short. I quite often feel I have failed at everything.
But after the first few times of saying this, letting my inner-pre-covid-critic lead the conversation, my husband picked me up on it.
“You’re being way too hard on yourself,” he said. “Juggling so many balls at once, it’s impossible to do them all perfectly, you’ve managed it all really well and you need to be kinder to yourself.”
Looking back on my conversations with friends, I think there are perhaps more of us out there – not being kind enough to ourselves about the way we’ve got through this situation. Perhaps it’s that old perfectionist-control-freak side of me rearing its head again - and I know I’m not the only one with that going on.
Lockdown may have kicked off as some sort of bizarre challenge in my head which required a “Bring it on – I can cope with whatever you throw at me,” type response. But now I just feel knackered. Exhausted. Burnt out, even. The constant pressure of pushing the school work at the table, the daily ‘walk to school’ or exercise, the healthy meals, the sensible bedtimes, the tech battles – it’s all just too much, for too long.
As we enter the next daunting phase of this journey, the long summer holidays – which will require yet more juggling and negotiating with my teenage children - I feel utterly exhausted at the mere thought.
So I’m making a list of rules for myself and my family to help establish some, more realistic, parameters for expectations to preserve my sanity and my self esteem.
“It’s simple mum, every parent is going through the same thing. Just ask your friends – they’re all going through similar situations and failings. All my friends’ parents are always talking about too much tech and stuff, so it’s the same issues in every family. Just don’t worry so much.”
And that, possibly, sums it up better than anything.