In the blink of an eye, we are all suddenly homeschooling moms. I know, I know — this isn’t real homeschooling. I also know that I might be in trouble for making a color-coded schedule and trying to stick to it, because then I am the type of parent who doesn’t take the opportunity to live in the moment and just enjoy my children. But then again, I also can’t let everything go, because then I don’t care enough about my kids or their education and future, and I don’t want to be that mom either.
I’m not sure there has ever been quite this much pressure on parents. I have received so many messages from moms who, just days in, are certain they are failing. They see families enjoying every minute of this quarantine. Women are rediscovering motherhood! They are singing songs, playing games and having dance parties. They are teaching through doing and taking happy photos along the way. After a home-cooked dinner, story time and good-night kisses, they curl up to husbands who no longer have sports to take away their focus and reunite as a couple over quality conversation. The secret is out. Who knew school and sports and church and friends were just roadblocks to familial bliss?
But, my friends, let’s have a reality check. Somewhere between the beautifully staged photos and the “I’m giving away my child” memes lies the truth. We are all in this together. It is simultaneously easier and harder than we all thought it would be. Most of us are having small wins and big fails every single hour. Most of us have a kid or two who “gets it” and at least one who refuses to play along. Most of us are having moments of connection and togetherness we will never forget, mixed with moments of anger we wish we could take back. Most of us are being better parents than we ever thought possible about half the time, and spend the other half wondering how the one hour of screen time turned so quickly into three.
As mothers, every morning we put on that happy face, that calm exterior, that “can do” attitude, even though we are incredibly anxious and unsure. We are making the best of the situation and really, we are enjoying the moments, but we are also worried about jobs and money and school and the future. We aren’t sure how to navigate this next chapter or or how these few months just might change our forever.
We want to want to slow down and make changes, but we kinda liked that easy, hurried life that now seems so far away. The idea that we are not enough, will never be enough, is once again rearing its ugly head as we look at all the awesome free offerings we are not taking advantage of, and at the sub-par school work that is only partially finished. And boy, do we miss our village. We had just gotten comfortable with letting them fill in our gaps, and now they are suddenly gone.
So, I guess what I want each one of you to know is that it is okay. It’s okay that not everyone is enjoying social distancing. It’s okay that your teenagers miss their friends. It’s okay that your family doesn’t want to do a puzzle or have game night. It’s okay if you are trying to work from home, so you don’t have the time or energy to make it all as magical as you had hoped.
But it’s also okay if you are loving it all so much you might want to home school full time, or if your family feels happier than it has in a long time. It’s okay if you use the extra time to tackle huge projects, or if you are 100% capable of enjoying the stillness and non-stop togetherness.
If you need a minute or an hour or even a day, that’s okay too. We don’t all have to feel the same to be good parents. The coronavirus is not a competition to see who loves motherhood or her children the most. It’s not a race to be the most structured and productive, or the coolest and most laid back parent. It is not a contest to see who can educate the best or who can throw it all out the window without guilt.
What it is, is a pause. An opportunity to figure out how best to love your children in the way they need to be loved and a chance to understand how you find joy in motherhood. It’s going to look different than the way your neighbor does it, or the way your favorite Instagram mom does it, but it is going to be just right for you.
And if you have a surly teen or a spicy toddler who is ruining all your corona-memory book plans, take heart. Five years from now, they won’t remember the in between hours of Fortnite, forced quiet time, or a working mom. Instead, they will play a highlight reel, just like we all do, of the girls versus boys basketball game, the one experiment you did, the hike no one wanted to take but secretly loved, and the family dinners that were full of connection even if no one will admit it. And if you have one or two who refuse to participate or get off their phone or be a good sport, they will still remember how hard you tried to make them feel loved, and I’m not sure there is a bigger win.
So stop comparing, stop self-shaming, stop worrying, and start patting yourself on the back for wading through the unknown with grace and a little too much chocolate. Your children are watching you evolve, step up, and love boldly; how lucky are they? I want you to start feeling joy from the small victories, and start doing more of what makes you happy in parenthood.
We have been given the gift of time, so let’s use it to make our own definition of parental success, one that doesn’t include raising sports stars or musical prodigies or straight-A students, but does include having relationships with our children that we feel good about, even if that happens really slowly or a bit reluctantly.
Let’s use this time to figure how we can make the good stuff a bigger part of our permanent family story. Because one day, this tumultuous time will be a distant memory — but who we become because of it just might be part of an especially great forever.