I don't know who needs to hear this right now, but if you're keeping your kids alive and happy during a pandemic you're doing a lot.

By Melissa Mills
September 01, 2020
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Images By Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images

I've hit a wall. Working at home with my husband and caring for our 2-year-old is not working. I'm stressed and tired, and my son is crankier than usual—bored of his toys and the same walk around the block we've taken for the past six months. And we have it easy compared to others.

That's right, it's been about half a year since COVID-19 came into our lives, forcing families to eat, sleep, learn, work, play—and everything in-between—from home. But here's a reminder: even months later, none of this is normal. Families are not just living during a pandemic, they are doing what they can to survive as their worlds were turned upside down.

Rely on screen time more than usual to keep the kids happy while you work? You're a good parent. Sent your child off to daycare the minute doors reopened? You're a good parent. Bribe your toddler to get them to keep a mask on in public? You're a good parent.

A recent Reddit post completely hit the nail on the head: "You are not a bad parent because you didn't anticipate a global pandemic." The poster, u/theodore_boozevelt, goes on to write, "I have seen some people express the following idea, either thinly-veiled or overt: If you didn't want to take care of your kids 24/7, you shouldn't have had kids. What did you expect??"

We expected middle-of-the-night feedings, picky eaters, a noisy house, dirty diapers, and tantrums. But we also expected bonding time with grandparents, playdates with friends, and family vacations. One hour a day—or even a week—to ourselves to decompress. Date night with the partner. Birthday parties and grocery runs and back-to-school shopping.

"You did not expect that it'd be dangerous to go to the playground," the post continues. "You did not expect that you would have to be a working parent AND a stay at home parent at the same time. You did not expect that Lysol and toilet paper would become scarce in March and you'd have to explain to your recently-potty-trained 4-year-old that they can't pull down the whole roll. You did not expect to see them in their child-sized mask and you'd just want to hold them because a kid in a mask is so, so fragile."

Even while some parents are easing up restrictions, allowing the kids to play with a small group of trusted friends, seeing family again, or going out to eat, the "new normal" of 2020 is still weighing on us. More than 6 million Americans have been infected by the coronavirus and nearly 200,000 have died.

Nearly 300 comments on the post echo the sentiment: This is what parents need to hear right now. Though we may feel it in our gut, a gentle reminder that we're all in this together and doing the best we can does make a difference. It's OK to give ourselves a break—none of this is easy. As one commenter puts it, "2020 is officially the year of the 'lowered bar.' We’re keeping our kids alive, that’s the bar."

Until there's a COVID-19 vaccine, kids are fully back in school, and things are somewhat back to the way they were before March, it's important to be gentle on yourself. It's OK to feel deflated and overwhelmed. Get rid of the guilt and comparison to other parents. What's working for your family is all that matters right now—even if that means Pop-Tarts for breakfast, a clingier-than-usual kid, and Disney+ on all day long.

"We didn't anticipate this," the post finishes. "Being fearful and angry in a world we didn't anticipate doesn't make you a bad parent. You are a good parent. Believe me, you are. Stay strong."

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