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Missing the feeling of missing my children

It has been 10 months now since the country’s many parents transitioned into working from home and not only full time parenting, but homeschooling too.

I won’t lie, I have never felt the worst of my mom guilt kick-in like I have in the past 10 months. How could I be so close in proximity to my children, but feel so much more over worked, exhausted and detached from them?

I have seen and read many parents lament over the closeness their families have felt over the lockdown and the hard lockdown, but I felt, in contrast, an overwhelming feeling of “I signed up for the part of parenting where I could have my mini escapes and pockets of being able to disappear to catch my breath every now and again, even if it’s just for a coffee date”, hence I found solace in my backyard garden during the hard lockdown.

I missed the feeling of missing my children during the day when they were at school and embracing them at the end of a school day – that excitement of them telling me what they learnt that day.

 

An unplanned transition

The worst part of the mom guilt I felt was realising the amount of work my kids did at school during the day and having to balance that with an increasing workload on my end as a digital strategist.

The kids went to school at 7am and were back home at around 2.30pm. They had no homework as their school had a no homework policy unless a child was not cooperative in class.

They would get home, have lunch, go to extra mural activities, play outside, bath and then be in bed by 8pm.

Now that all switched up literally overnight and we went from no homework to full-on homeschooling.

From no children in the house for most of the day, to children in the house the entire day and night (because they weren’t sleeping on schedule).

My work demands increased during the pandemic. My husband’s work with different time zones didn’t change, so he was handling a lot more of the homeschooling but even that made me feel guilty. Moms just don’t catch a break in the guilt department.

 

Survivor Syndrome

I have had conversations with a few moms who also expressed the increased demand of work and the ever-increasing deadlines and pressures, especially if you survived the job cuts, salary reductions and/or retrenchments – *Phiona Martin calls this The Survivor Syndrome.

The effects of it include:

  • Job insecurity
  • Resentment from perceptions that the retrenchment process was unfair or managed badly
  • Low morale
  • Guilt that you survived while your colleagues didn’t
  • Fear of taking risks in case you’re targeted for the next retrenchments
  • Feeling betrayed by the company
  • Distrust of management
  • Depression from losing your colleagues

Now imagine feeling that kind of anxiety and then juggling parenting.

 

Let’s stop guilting parents

This is no time to be guilting parents about not spending time with their children. This is no time to be guilting parents about family time when they are trying to prove their value and earn to keep their family afloat in this tough economy. But, this is the perfect time to check in with self as a parent on what your mental and emotional needs are right now. Happy parents make happy children. We teach them how to replenish within without taking from others.

I personally work around the clock and most mornings I oversleep, and the kids start school later than they should. Our routine has been a guide and not necessarily a be all for us especially in the later part of 2020.

What I did appreciate about the hard lockdown and having a schedule as a framework was the slower vibe of waking up and not rushing for school run (getting into the car and whizzing through traffic) but rather having breakfast or dinner together, though as Eva Mendez (my husband’s girl crush) put it: “Sometimes it feels like we are running some kind of bed-and-breakfast with very drunk and aggressive guests. We really do feel like we are working in a hotel, and the guests are angry and bossy and demand food brought to them. And by the time they go to sleep, we’re left to just clean up and talk about how they’ve treated us that day! When we feel like we’re just ‘in it’, like all parents do during these times, we remind ourselves that these are the good times, because we’re all together and we’re all safe.”

 So, if you are anything like me and have felt in any way that the pandemic has turned you into a “bad mom” and feel bad for feeling like you are in lockdown with some rather aggressive, drunk broke best friends… I’m here to tell you that you are not alone. We are all adjusting and struggling along in the adjustments when we have our own individual preconditioned ways of what mom does and how hands-on mom needs to be. We have a lot of demands on us.

Here are some strategies I have taken on in overcoming the overwhelming mom guilt I still feel:

 

  1. Journaling

Journaling has helped me process some feelings I have within. Putting them into works and talking to myself about myself in a journal seems to really help. Sometimes I write down how I am feeling and reason with myself. At times I write down what I am feeling and reread it to see if it makes sense to feel that way because I am sooo good at reacting with emotion to a situation that just needs logic and a level of sensibility.

  1. Create time in your schedule for yourself and yourself ALONE

This is time allocated to something you love. Like colouring in, drawing, writing, a long bath, baking, a walk, a solo coffee run. This is to pour back into yourself and to relieve that burnout you may feel. Not to say this alone will aid the burnout, but self-care is an important part of relieving that burnout. Try find an accountability partner if you don’t have one – someone who you can share your feelings, anxieties and important changes happening in your life. This person should motivate, uplift, celebrate and also hold space for you without judgement when you need them to. 

  1. One meal a day together as a family

Try have at least one meal together as a family a week. Breakfast lunch or dinner, try get a check in with everyone during this time. Feelings are very important with the younger ones at these check ins. Are they happy, sad, frustrated? What are they happy about? What makes them sad right now and what are they finding challenging?

Try work through some things that happened. Was someone disciplined and didn’t understand why? Was there a fight that just fizzled out? Talk about it. I found that this helps teaching children about unresolved issues.

We were having an argument about something in the house and I was calling out Mikaili, he simply responded with “If you give me a chance to speak, I will tell you what happened.” A part of me wanted to hug him, the other part felt so shook at being on the receiving end of this call out. But I was so proud of him standing up for himself. This is what I’d always taught them – put forward a good argument and justify your why… you don’t have to shout or hold in your feelings if you feel you were treated unfairly.

  1. Ask your children to respect your space and your time 

There have been multiple occasions I have had to call my children to order for demanding me and my time when I was working or trying to catch up on work in lockdown. Their complaints are usually “you’re always working”. Yes true. My work is you, my work is this home and my work is my career.

I have responded on all occasions with the above and asked them how they could contribute to the home and also ensuring they bath on time and after eating washing their own dishes so I don’t need to. Then I don’t have to work all the time. They are 7 & 9 and they got it immediately.

Now to have them be more consistent about it.. LOL… I guess this comes with time and growth.

When I need my alone time or to just binge watch a series or even take a nap, I ask them to not disturb me as I’m tired and I have been working through out. They get it.

  1. Get familiar with lists and schedules

An essential part of our family is the Cozi App, as it helps us schedule the way our day should flow and maintain some kind of order in the madness. With the lockdown regulations eased, it gets quite easy to get caught up in every other flow but our own as a family.

The app has helped us keep tabs on the lists of things to do around the home and our grocery list.

My husband and I work together so this has also helped with those overlapping work and home responsibilities. We are also able to pick up on who is unavailable as a certain time and then try not infringe on their time. When working together as a couple one thing we need to respect is each other’s blocked off time. This is also important when we are in a lockdown, respecting each other’s scheduled alone time is super important. Everyone needs a refill.

  1. Being real with myself

Pre-pandemic I had a neat and clean house. We had already started with home renovations and that was progressing along well.

I had to learn to pick my points of sanity. If my room and kitchen ae clean, that’s enough. The lounge isn’t a priority… why would anyone want to pop into my house during a global pandemic?

I don’t feel guilty for having more than two (or three… or four) glasses of wine on a Friday evening and booking an extra pair of hands to come in and help me clean during the weekend. 

My garden is my escape and my solace so I have also learnt that a hobby can get hectic. My garden started growing weeds that I couldn’t manage alone, so I had to get in extra hands to help me.

And that’s the thing about any kind of growth. Being superwoman doesn’t mean you are built to suffer and take it all. It is evolving and being willing to get help and grow through all this mess we find ourselves in.

 

Mom guilt is a real thing.

We are conditioned as women to feel the need to do it all and when we fail to we concede that we are not enough. My power lies in delegating and letting go of that which I am not good at.

I will never be an amazing teacher… though I have been trying to read up on how to effectively teach them, I have let go of that feeling of wanting to be good at teaching my kids. I am not their educator who spent years in school. We just need to do our best (and maybe sometimes that’s not enough – that’s fine too). Everyone is struggling.

Knowing where your sanity and wellness starts getting compromised is extremely important on this journey too. At this point, I’m grateful my children are healthy and breathing. I am grateful to be alive to witness them grow. I grateful to teach them to be kind and loving. We are grateful to be able to provide for them. We are grateful that everyone understands more than ever that everyone plays a big role in contributing to this home.

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