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COVID-19 has pushed parents to their breaking point—and their SOS signals are coming in the form of memes, TikToks, and viral Reddit posts.

By Melissa Mills
March 05, 2021
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Images of mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit: Getty Images (5).

There's pandemic fatigue, and then there's the millions of moms struggling from complete and utter burnout from trying to juggle the impossible. Chaos is constant, stress is the baseline, and life looks completely different than it did just one year ago. For parents, and especially working moms, COVID-19 has shifted things into a never-ending state of crisis.

These moms need support—from employers, from partners, from the government—but they're not getting it. What they do have? Virtual support in the form of funny memes, Instagram posts, TikToks, and Reddit rants. Venting online or sharing relatable social media content with friends is the coping mechanism of choice for parents, many of whom don't have the emotional capacity to communicate much more or maintain friendships in any other way.

Who can blame them? It's been one year since the coronavirus came into our lives and the only light at the end of the tunnel is getting vaccinated. But many millennial moms aren't even eligible yet and are spending the little spare time they have to secure appointments for their parents or high-risk family members. That's right, we're clawing our way out of this pandemic on our own.

Some days it feels like all we have is a shared feeling of hopelessness. As if the pandemic anniversary isn't triggering enough on its own, the fact that tomorrow is going to look much like today doesn't help. Sure, things like making time for self-care, seeking help, and limiting media usage can reduce stress, but finding social support online can also help with connectedness and ease anxiety. When that Zoom happy hour is just too daunting and therapy's not for another few days, moms on Instagram and TikTok and Reddit are here to say: We got you. We feel it, too. This is what parenting—and coping—really looks like right now.

1. Parents are heroes—but they don't have the option not to be.

"The next person who says 'I could never do it!' to me re: pandemic parenting is getting a VERY lengthy lecture. Oh, you couldn't do this? Neither can I!! No one can do this! Moms haven't been given special superpowers to get us through the pandemic! WE HAVE LITERALLY ZERO OPTIONS!"—@aubreyhirsch

2. No one's doing it all. No one.

"Young mom: how do you do it all?" "Me: I don't." "Young mom: but it looks like..." "Me: no." "Young mom: so..." "Me: I rotate things that I drop. Sometimes the dishes don't get done. Sometimes the writing doesn't get done. Sometimes I just never see friends..." "Young mom: oh."—@garonnevik

3. Mom needs to be checked in on, too.

"Hi. Now that we're alone—how are you? Did you get any sleep last night? I know you're worried. There's so much pressure on you right now. I know nobody checks on you because you are so strong, but I just want you to know that I'm here. I'm here for you, Sis. Keep going. You are amazing, and I appreciate you."—@swirl_life

4. The demands are endless.

"I just think everyone is asking for a little more than anyone can do right now."—@museummammy

5. Bad days can leave everyone in tears.

"This morning was a complete disaster for me as a parent. Long story short, both my toddler and my baby woke up in bad moods—which they're entitled to do, I mean, that happens to kids too. So no matter what I did they both cried … By the end, when I just put my baby down for a nap, all three of us were crying."—@emily.the.mom.nex

6. The love is real, but so is the stress.

"I have never felt so unbelievable grateful yet so unbelievably pissed off at the exact same moment."—@shittymommymoments

7. Pandemic or not, the trolls are always out to pile on the mom guilt.

"How long have I been trolling? I don't know, I think since '83,'84. I started with chain letters, telling people their lives would be over if they didn't pass it on ... And then the internet happened and I just went kaboom! "—@thedailytay

8. Simply being "tired" would be a blessing.

"Remembering when I thought I was 'tired' before I had kids."—@fruitsofmotherhood

9. Perfection is an illusion.

"If you still think there's such a thing as perfect parenting just know that I'm a pediatrician and parenting author and my toddler is eating strawberries dipped in ketchup for dinner tonight."—@rebekah_diamond

10. We need help.

"Me trying to work from home, watch my kids, stay hydrated, not be broke, stay quarantined, find toilet paper, wash my hands and stop touching my fkn face."—@idgaf_mamas

So if sharing a meme is all you can muster—and gives a moment of solace amid a pandemic many are struggling to survive—then so be it. Self-care takes many forms these days, and there's absolutely no judging what works. Just remember: You're not alone, mama.

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