Please Keep Your Unsolicited Pandemic Parenting Advice to Yourself
Let me speak for all parents when I say: Please keep the parenting advice to yourself—pandemic or not. Listen, I don't mean to come off as unappreciative, but advice from even a fellow Mom can be unhelpful when each kid is so freaking different. What works for my best friend and her son might be the last thing that works for my family, and vice versa.
And let's be clear, we're weeks into survival mode here, trying to figure out how to find balance when it comes to work, school, play, and everything in-between. We were different people at the start of this, but many of us are now running on fumes and coffee that's been reheated in the microwave three times over. With an energetic, almost 20-month-old running around, screaming "Mama!" as I type this, I can attest that some days I literally just have to figure out how to get through in 2o-minute increments. Sometimes that means reading a book, finger painting, or sitting down to enjoy an all-organic, healthy meal as a family, and other days—like today—it means giving in to a chocolate chip muffin, Goldfish, and Trolls at 7:45 a.m. Now there's my balance.
Moms and dads in this recent Reddit rant are feeling more than a little ticked off over the advice they're getting—from other parents, but especially from nonparents—about how to occupy kids stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Listen, you can offer up every activity under the sun, but if you think my toddler is going to sit down and participate for more than two to five minutes tops if he's not 100 percent interested, then you've got another thing coming. And, by the way, any activity you're suggesting for a young child is also an activity for the parents who have to participate (or at least supervise). That's not so easy when they're trying to work or cook or clean at the same time.
I'm all for sharing tips and tricks, but some days I just cannot hear that noise. Sometimes even good-intentioned advice is the last thing I need because I wind up feeling guilty if I can't muster up the energy to set up a Pinterest-worthy project. One Reddit user summed it up perfectly: "Their advice is actually good, in a vacuum. The problem is that you can't 'just find an activity' for weeks and months at a time."
Here are some doozies that Reddit users have heard recently:
10 Things NOT to Say to Parents Right Now
- “Have them run outside to burn off their energy.”
- "I got, 'Have you tried TV or iPad games to give yourself a breather?' today... Yeah, this is week eight in isolation with a 2-year-old. I started out hugely and painfully pregnant and now there’s a three-week-old baby to 'entertain' as well. I have definitely enforced strict no screen time until now..."
- "My company sent out a tone-deaf email asking us what fun activities we had found to do and telling us to enjoy our time off. Like it’s a f--king vacation."
- "I even get comments like this from my husband. He says, 'Why do you have to watch them? Can't you just let them do their activities? With two kids under 5, people don't consider how much your kids may want you to play with them and also need attending when they're playing."
- "I love the 'read to them' advice my friends have given me. Yeah ... read to a 2- and 4-year-old for 12 hours a day."
- "My S.O. keeps saying, 'just tell her to leave you alone.' Like, yeah, I'll just tell her I need space, and she'll respect that. What 4-year-old isn't good at respecting other people's space?"
- "My office manager: 'worst-case scenario you could always bring your 2-year-old to the office.' Umm ... I work in a professional office, front desk job. I wouldn't be able to survive 10 minutes with a 2-year-old in the office."
- "Every 'activity' people suggest is something that my kids would find interesting for about one-quarter of the time it takes me to actually set up the activity. Which ... no. Just no. I feel bad, but Minecraft requires zero set-up time. Minecraft it is. Filling the water table with the hose? 1-2 minutes. Done. Setting up an elaborate game of hide and seek or an obstacle course? An hour plus. Nope."
- "'Just let them play on their own, they have plenty of toys.' I have an almost 5-year-old and a 2-and-a-half-year-old. I'd love to leave them to play on their own, but I prefer to have a roof to sleep under, and to keep both kids alive. Neither is an option when two hyperactive toddlers are left alone in a playroom together."
- "Any proposed solution (to any problem, not just parenting) that starts with 'just' usually comes from someone without an ounce of experience. 'Why don't you just...'"
The Bottom Line
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade this time with my husband and son for anything. We're lucky enough to be able to continue working from home and we're healthy, and at the end of the day, that's all that matters. But, please remember, every family is in an entirely different situation and unwarranted advice can sometimes put extra pressure on an already stressful time.
So basically what I'm saying is: You do you. But keep it to yourself.