Is it just me or is the mom stress and guilt out of control during this pandemic?
According to this article by the American Psychological Association, it’s not just me who feels this way. “American parents are, on average, feeling significantly higher levels of stress than adults without children.”
Believe me, I’m no stranger to mom guilt. As parents we are constantly being pulled in a million different directions. You have to find that perfect balance of nurture, discipline, and compassion.
But add all of that to the unprecedented time we find ourselves in? I’m talking off the charts mom stress.
Don’t get me wrong, this year has been extremely hard on a lot of people. I don’t want to minimize that. Parents are just one of many groups who are suffering.
I’ll be honest, I’m not even 100% sure why I’m writing this post today. I suppose part of me wants to vent, to get it off my chest. Another large part in me wants other parents to know they’re not alone in feeling this way.
Why Is Parent Guilt So Bad Right Now?
For the reasons why parents are feeling so much stress these days, let’s go back to that article by the American Psychological Association.
70% of parents said that virtual learning was “a significant source of stress”.
Yep, I feel that.
Distance learning is a struggle for kids of any age group. For young children the material may not be challenging, but their attention spans (or lack thereof) prevent them from being able to focus on a screen for an extended period of time.
Older kids theoretically have more maturity and are able to use technology better, but many teachers find it more challenging to effectively communicate advanced material.
And don’t even get me started about technology issues – muting, hardware, internet…
But what are some additional sources of parental stress during this pandemic?
Other significant areas were disrupted routines, meeting basic needs (food/housing), isolation, access to health care, and missing major milestones.
Moms Can’t Win
I think for me the biggest source of stress right now is the fact that, according to someone out there, I’m constantly doing things wrong.
Keeping your job and continuing to work in-person? You’re endangering your family.
Quit your job to help with virtual learning? You’re setting a bad example for your children.
Working from home after your kids are in bed? You’re working too much and not taking enough time for yourself.
Sending your kids back to school? You’re putting your family and the teachers at risk.
Keeping your children enrolled in distance learning? You’re depriving them of necessary social interaction.
Spending all day with your kids? You’re preventing them from learning to be independent.
Sending your children to a childcare center? You’re giving up the opportunity for family bonding.
Letting your kids stay on devices all day? You’re exposing them to too much screen time.
Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. We can’t win.
I think it’s also important to mention all the additional opportunities for mom stress during the pandemic.
For starters, there’s the guilt we feel about being at home but not being present and with our kids all day. Kids don’t truly understand when you’re home but unable to interact with them. It makes it extremely difficult to separate professional vs. personal time.
Schooling logistics, whether you’re fully in-person, hybrid, or virtual, is a nightmare. On a good day I get a combination of 5 messages from my kid’s teacher, school, and/or county. Yesterday I got over 30. How can you keep up??
Then in an attempt to relax I open up Facebook and I see people celebrating all the quality time they’ve been spending with their families. Or how they’ve managed to organize their entire house or build a new set of furniture by hand.
And finally it’s not only the parenting guilt. I also have work guilt and friends guilt. It’s hard not to feel that you’re failing your friends and colleagues by not spending enough time socializing and working.
Any of this sound familiar and relatable? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Re-Examine Your Balls
About a year ago I read a great analogy by Nora Roberts about working mothers. Although honestly, it works for all parents.
When asked about how she handled the demands of parenting and professional life she said, “the key to juggling is to know that some of the balls you have in the air are made of plastic and some are made of glass.”
The balls represent all of your responsibilities: the laundry, picture day at school, meal planning, dishes, date night with your partner, checking your kids homework, grocery shopping, finishing that scrapbook, sewing that button back on, finishing the time reports for work, etc.
Ideally you’d want to juggle all of the balls without dropping any. Realistically, that’s just not practical.
The key to balancing all of your responsibilities is to identify the critical ones that are “glass”. The plastic balls will bounce, roll around, and wait on the ground until you’re able to pick them up again. Glass balls, on the other hand, will shatter if dropped.
I used to treat every one of my tasks like they were fragile and imperative. One thing this pandemic has forced me to do is identify priorities in ways I haven’t done before.
That being said, dropping any ball (even plastic ones), is still incredibly stressful!
How to Handle Mom Stress During This Pandemic
Parents stress. We can’t help it.
However, here are a few ideas to lessen and help you cope with those feelings of stress and anxiety.
Stop comparing. Don’t compare your family’s current lifestyle to last year’s or your someone else’s life. This is an unprecedented time.
Relish the little moments. Rather than looking for a large, grand gesture – be thankful and appreciate the small moments. For example: laughing at whipped cream on someone’s nose, the whole family sleeping in bed together, or making a special breakfast.
Ignore social media. It’s all fake and not realistic. No one is happy all the time like social media portrays. Don’t let it get you down.
Know your friends. Identify those in your life that can encourage you, distract you, make you laugh, motivate you, and/or give you the hard truth. Turn to those people when you need a pick me up.
Maintain a healthy structure. It’s healthy to stick to a schedule of regular meals and bedtimes. However, it’s also healthy to go with the flow sometimes and not let yourself get stressed about staying up reading a few extra chapters before bed.
The Key to Helping Yourself (and Others!)
You know how on an airplane they tell you to make sure your own oxygen mask is secure before assisting others?
That’s because taking care of yourself first allows you to truly be able to care for another.
“Me time” is essential, not just nice to have.
I know, it’s hard to take time for yourself these days. Believe me, I understand.
Take time when you can get it. Spend an extra 10 minutes in the bathroom on your phone. Stay up late doing absolutely nothing or watching Netflix in bed. Let laundry and the kitchen wait for another day.
Give yourself time to recharge. You can’t be a patient or responsive parent if you yourself are completely depleted.
So now that you know you’re not alone, admit these feelings of pandemic mom stress and guilt to yourself.
Take the time you need to process things, change up what you can, figure out what’s essential, and don’t forget to recharge as needed.