The Pandemic Made Me Do It

No one in our household has gotten sick with Covid-19, but in the past year I think I’ve come down with something else. Symptoms include: lax screen time rules… more takeout dinners than normal… putting off doing battle with my daughter over hairbrushing… making excuses for why my house is a mess all the time… the general lowering of expectations surrounding everything. I’m calling it “Pandemic Justification Syndrome” and I’m discovering it’s very easy to diagnose but much harder to treat.

Pandemic justification syndrome started last March when my husband was deployed and it was just my kiddo and I staring at each other in the house day after day. Amazon Prime started providing us with diversions to take the place of preschool, or trips to the local children’s museum, or a playdate with friends. There was always a simple explanation to soothe any concerns I had. We’re supporting local restaurants every time we order in. We’re not spending money on travel so it’s okay if we buy another Lego set or art kit to keep busy. My daughter is bummed that her dance recital was just cancelled, so we’ll cheer up with popcorn and a movie night (…for the second time this week). We’re handling this unprecedented time as best we can. We’re surviving.

The pandemic was and is a very legitimate way to justify many things that in the past we may not have considered. A girlfriend relented earlier than she’d planned and let her daughter join a social media platform in order to keep in touch with friends. Another friend wondered if she has been using the pandemic to avoid trying to even look for a new job. Other friends have lamented overdoing holiday gifts, abandoning bedtime rules, or lowering the bar in nearly every component of parenting because it’s just all been too much.*

All of this is swirling around in my mind more as we’ve hit the one year anniversary of living life in a global pandemic. What was easy to give yourself grace for in March and April of last year might be harder to do when it’s the second “no large gatherings” Memorial Day. Another round of spring holidays and end of school year events and summer vacations that may not happen, or will still look vastly different than normal.

How much grace can we extend ourselves during a pandemic? What’s the line between having realistic expectations and acknowledging that life still isn’t normal… versus using the pandemic as an excuse or as a fallback for everything? Does that give the pandemic too much power? On a personal level, would I feel better if I continue to take reasonable precautions and follow the health and safety protocols, but no longer let coronavirus drive every single decision that I make? Or is that impossible?

I wish I had good answers to any of these questions. Hopefully people smarter than me do. The vaccination news is uplifting. It feels like it coincides nicely with the spring weather of the past week. Covid-19 hasn’t disappeared like the snow, but things seem just a tiny bit better, which is inspiring me to start looking closer at the story I’ve been telling myself since last March.

So if this optimistic mood continues, perhaps the way back is like any other time in life when you need a reset – one small step at a time. Change one thing. Decide today is the day we will break the habit of allowing two episodes of My Little Pony before even getting dressed in the morning. It will be tough, but it might feel good to take even a few small steps towards regular life and back to the responsive, authoritative parent I aspire to be.

*Let’s be clear – over 500,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 and countless others have suffered greatly healthwise, or in terms of their employment, or in myriad other truly awful ways. In no way do I think my daughter not getting a dance recital is equal to any of that. These are simply my thoughts and experiences as a stay at home mother to a young child.

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