I’m not always what I would call a good parent – even in normal circumstances.
After all, I’m a human being, not a robot. I have faults, plenty of them. I yell too much, I am too hard on my kids, I push myself and them more than I should. I love them fiercely but don’t always show it. I hug them when I think of it when I’m not too tired or distracted.
These are not normal circumstances.
What we are living through right now is anything but normal. We are trying to keep ourselves and our families healthy. We are making impossible daily decisions in order to continue to stay healthy. Many of us are trying to hold onto our jobs while also parenting. Many are staring down the beginning of the school year wondering how they will make it all work. This sort of balancing act is NOT sustainable and does not contribute to “good” parenting.
Many have lost their jobs. Many are now unemployed waiting for help to arrive. Some are not getting the state or federal relief that was promised. Many are going to be homeless and are already going hungry. This definitely does not contribute to “good” parenting.
Some are stay at home parents that are now getting more than they bargained for. Some are watching the kids all day everyday with very few options and places to go while the other parent is trying their hardest to work (maybe from home while attempting to ignore the wails from the other side of the door). This also does not feel like “good” parenting.
Maybe some of us had coping strategies that worked well in normal times. But, these aren’t normal times. Maybe we were already hanging on by a thread with our mental health. Maybe we wonder how long we can hold on with the strategies that we have.
Most special needs parents don’t have the support we once had. How many therapies are safe for your special needs kiddo during this pandemic? How many kiddos will cooperate with zoom therapy (mine sure won’t)? If your kid is already at risk, in person therapy won’t happen. But less therapies means less time to yourself and less goals reached for your kiddo. Less time to yourself means less self care. Self care is essential to parents but especially for parents with kids with special needs.
Maybe once the kids are in bed, this being the only time we have to ourselves, we spend that time being less than healthy about it. We eat too much (or too little), drink too much, stay up too late (just so we can savor time left alone), spend too much time on social media. Maybe we are isolating ourselves from our partners because we don’t have the strength to make the effort. Maybe none of what we do once the kids are in bed is working for us (and we know it) but we are doing it anyway because we don’t know what else to do. Maybe we use that time to get more work hours in, giving ourselves even less down time than ever before.
I’m not okay. And I do not know anyone, really, who is okay either. The standards by which I normally parent, partner and friend are not where they should be. Honestly, I think we are all in survival mode. Some days I worry about how long we all will last.
Hold Onto Hope!
I do know that we are all so much stronger than we think we are. I am starting to see a community of people that we did not have before. People that can support one another because we need it more than ever. I really believe the only way we will come out the other side of all of this is when we lean on each other and build each other up. Reach out to one person a day. Ask them how they are REALLY doing. REALLY listen to their answers. Be really honest with yours. On the days that you have a little extra energy, do something that you haven’t done before (I recently hiked up and down a ski hill with a few friends- ridiculous, challenging, but kind of fun). On the days you have less energy, give yourself permission to rest.
I know I’m not my best right now. But I will cling to the hope that there is an ending to all of this (even if we don’t know when). A few years ago, I had an anchor tattooed on my ribs just below my heart. I’m sure some may believe that I got it because my oldest son joined the Navy. I do not need a tattoo to remind me of my kid, but to remind me that, “We have this HOPE as an anchor for our soul.” -Hebrews 6:19. No matter your beliefs, find a way to find some hope. Cling to it, count on it. It is what we all need.