The Secret To Successful Parenting In The Days Of Covid
How can it possibly be that this pandemic began in earnest almost eight months ago? And yet, here we all are, putting one foot in front of the other. Resources like Gal Pal have done an extraordinary job providing great advice for navigating this remarkable moment in time, tips for how to stay well, centered, and connected. Women tend to thrive when feeling connected and supported; today, more than ever, we need to be here for one another. Thankfully we have places to turn like this to help us stay on track.
Many of you share the extraordinary challenge of holding down a job while managing a home life in lockdown. There are some remarkable data on the percentage of working moms, with numbers increasing decade over decade since the ’70s. I’m somewhat confident, very few, if any, counted on balancing work with educating their children on lockdown during a Pandemic. And then for some, add to it caring for an aging parent as well. Yep, these are enormous challenges that so many are facing daily.
Regularly, I marvel at women I know who face these challenges. It was hard enough for me to balance parenting with child-rearing before my children left home, and I had every advantage for which a professional woman could have hoped.
Today, I have witnessed children popping their heads into the background of a zoom call, needing mom to come to the rescue for whatever issue has boiled to the surface. And I have witnessed colleagues and collaborators understandably meltdown in networking groups, wondering how they’re going to make it through another daily obstacle course of working, mothering, educating, partnering, contracting, bookkeeping, and more.
There’s a growing body of information, including best practices, tips, and tricks available to this new breed of a superwoman for how to manage the unique challenges of 2020. There’s a variety of logical ways to address the day-to-day vagaries, so many of you face. And there’s one genius tip and a common thread that I hear over and over again. But we’ll get to that next.
First, the most logical but easily overlooked best practices:
- Ask for help! How many times have we decided it’s our job in life to juggle an impossible number of balls? And in the end, we may well have kept all of them in the air, except for that one critical ball….ourselves. Eventually, we may find ourselves in a heap, a veritable puddle of exhaustion and exasperation. A big one for so many is the hesitation in enlisting others’ help before you get to that state. Friends are likely willing and able to jump in, as well as family members, school resources, or colleagues at work. Be proactive with your boss; let them know that you may be feeling overwhelmed. It’s highly likely that he/she is too. Communicate with your partner how you’re feeling, troubleshoot how you can share the load. Reach out to a trusted friend, if for nothing more than to say, “I need an ear to bend.”
- Whenever possible, unplug.
Ah, technology. How many times have we heard ‘can’t live with it, can’t live without it.’ And the truth is, we need it. Now more than ever. It’s how we work, how our kids learn, and in some cases, how we connect with the world.
However, there are times when we don’t. Unplug and step away to clear your head whenever possible. Unfollow people and pages that aren’t lifting you up. Stay away from news sources that are dragging you down. Ask yourself the question, is this time on a screen helping or hurting? Often the answer is quite clear.
- Have compassion for yourself.
Raise your hand, nod your head, or climb out from under your desk if you feel guilty about being a working mom. I love this quote from author and journalist Amy Westervelt, “We expect women to work like they don’t have children, and raise children as if they don’t work.”
Try to internalize the notion that you’re doing the best you can, in these unique circumstances, with the tools you’ve been given. The reality is if you can let go of your guilt, those around you will be better off too. We are not superhuman; if we show up every day with the best of intention, love, and authenticity, half the battle is won.
All this brings me to the real secret to parenting in the days of Covid. Get ready, because it’s a game-changer.
- Let go of perfection. Yep, that’s it.
Let it go. Francesca Gino, in her Harvard Business Review article “Lessons from a Working Mom on ‘Doing it All'” says, “I’ve come to believe that the difference between going to bed feeling content or disappointed at the end of the day has a lot to do with the expectations we set for ourselves. Let’s lower our standards. Better yet: Let’s use this moment to shift them to something more reasonable.” Let that sink in for a moment. Ladies, it’s ok to make mistakes, whether it be at home, at work, or in your community. Resetting expectations from perfection (completely unattainable no matter what the circumstances) to happiness can be everything. Isn’t that what we all seek? For ourselves and our loved ones.
If you’re feeling daunted, please know you’re not alone. Together we’re finding our way and often making it up as we go. Be kind to yourself, be realistic in your expectations, acknowledge the hard stuff, and try to notice the good stuff. You got this.