It’s the first Friday of the first week of virtual online school. My 7-year-old is wandering around the house and I’m screaming at her to get back to her desk because school isn’t over.
My bedroom is also my makeshift office and her first-grade classroom. I’m trying to teach her independence but if I don’t sit next to her little plastic IKEA desk during class, she’s a bump on a log. I guess the plus side is that she’s not one of the little assholes who unmutes Zoom and blows into their mic. How can a generation that can self-learn iPads and televisions be so fucking dumb when it comes to class technology?
As a type this, the teacher is playing an American freedom song and the kids are trying to sing along to words they’ve never heard before. I’ve never hated other children as much as I do this moment.
I should be sitting next to my daughter as she works. Her desk is tiny and while I’m small enough to fit on the matching chair, it’s uncomfortable. Most importantly, I can’t get my work done. Out of the 40 hours I get paid in a week, I’ve accomplished 20 minutes of meaningful work. Not only am I a shitty parent-teacher right now during class time, but I’m also a shitty employee.
To stop me from stabbing my ears with a ballpoint pen, I jump on Medium to write an article about this shitshow.
. . .
Eight months. It’s been eight fucking months of this damn pandemic. I wear my mask. I socially isolate. My kids aren’t on playdates, unless you count the cartoons on YouTube as real children. I cracked last weekend and for the first time since March, I took my daughter and her mask along to Target. Now I feel guilty for bringing her and risking the spread of Coronavirus.
I’m an introvert. Staying in and avoiding people is my ultimate wet dream. Staying trapped with three other people is my nightmare. In April, I kept my cool thinking this was just going to last a few weeks. Eventually, I threw out my patience like rubber bullets into a crowd of peaceful protesters.
Interrupted this typing to jump next to my daughter and remind her of every answer she wrote on her All About Me Page she’s sharing with her small group. I did a shitty job teaching her to read this summer. Or maybe I succeeded at teaching her NOT to read. Perspective, right? So here I am, whispering to her the very answers she wrote down in the first place.
Gratitude is not my strong suit. My kids are healthy. My husband and I not only kept our jobs, but we successfully transitioned to a work from home model. We can afford high-speed internet, food delivery, and every video subscription service on earth. My backyard has a pool which we’ve used a whopping four times this summer. I’m a dick for not feeling #blessed every day.
. . .
So fucking tired.
My kids are too small to make their meals or do their laundry. They’re too young to do online classes without close supervision. My older son has autism (albeit high-functioning) so we juggle his insurance-provided behavioral therapy with the additional speech, behavioral, physical, and occupational therapies provided by his school IEP. I’m not sure what I regret more: not teaching them this summer how to type or not teaching them how to tell time. I should be #blessed that this realization allows me to jump on Amazon and buy wall clocks for both my kids.
Keeping track of my work schedule and two kids’ school schedules is mentally taxing. My work inbox is inundated with third-party emails offering therapy and “stress-busting” techniques. How am I supposed to do online therapy? I’m trapped under one roof, how can I bitch about my family when they’re right there and I have no privacy?
Had to stop typing to run to my son’s room, open his email, and find the invite for his online behavioral therapy session. He tried arguing with me that I had the time wrong. He insists today is Monday. No kid, it’s Friday.
Everything feels like it takes ten times more effort than it should. Every meal feels like I’m tasked with a five-course meal. I’ve given up this week; if my husband doesn’t order them food, they’re stuck eating Goldfish crackers all day. Within the first week of the pandemic, I switched to disposable cutlery and paper plates to make my life easier. The environment can suck it right now, I’m in pure survival mode. There’s no time for dishwashing during an apocalypse.
The exhaustion also comes from a lack of mental stimulation. I’m doing a million things and yet, I’m doing nothing at all. I used to be an arts and crafts nerd but those days are over now that the office is taken over by my husband and his hoarding tendencies which were previously hidden by keeping his crap at work. Every day used to have lunches with friends or coworkers; now my only social interaction is once a week for a walk with one friend. Zoom happy hours are few and far between since the novelty wore off by Month 2 of Coronavirus. I can’t even read a fucking book because my kids need constant attention.
If my kids aren’t doing school, they’ll opt for zombie time in front of an iPad or TV. I yell at them to play with real toys, but that’s only when I catch them in the first place. This house of four people has six laptops, three TVs, two Kindle Fires, three iPads, a Nintendo Switch, and dozens of cell phones that even without service, still have Wifi. Regardless if I take away one electronic device, ten more pop up.
When I manage to wrangle the electronic devices, they then whine and cry for me to play with them. They don’t understand that we’re still working. And our working days are much, much longer since we aren’t productive during the day because we’re stuck helping them with online school and homework. My kids are past the point of wanting to play with each other and they can’t go on playdates with other kids. Cue the parenting guilt because there’s just no time to play with them.
Even when I carve out time to play with them, I fucking hate it. There. I said it. I fucking hate playing with my kids now. Last night I was desperate to finally open the nine Amazon boxes sitting on my bedroom floor all week to declutter but I promised my daughter I’d play with her. We played Barbies but because I’m a shitty parent, I played “Barbie is so tired, let’s get her and Skipper into their PJs so they can crawl into their Barbie Dream House bed!” I’m not even taking the time to enjoy the precious free time I have with my kids.
It’s 10:35 am. I have twenty-five minutes to finally eat breakfast or take a shower. I’m choosing a shower because I can inhale a granola bar during the kids’ next classes.
. . .
This is where experts and you, the reader, tell me to be gentle with myself. These are unprecedented times, this is tough, I should practice self-care, blah blah blah. What I really should be doing is stop my online shopping and save the funds for my kids’ future therapy sessions. When they look back, I suspect they’ll remember mom as a fucking basket case.
I had the best of intentions. I really did. I did the mandatory baking when flour was as precious as toilet paper. I did the movie marathons. I went so far above and beyond with homework last year that my son’s teacher called him out for having the funniest assignments she’s ever seen. I filmed endless scripted videos (which still sit, unedited, because my kids refuse to give me the time needed to compile and edit that shit for their unreleased YouTube channel). I tried teaching them chores in hope of making my life easier.
I got burnt out.
The ultimate icing on the cake? During this lockdown I occasionally hired help. It totaled maybe four weeks out of the twenty-nine but still, I had four weeks of help. These helpers returned to work and school so I’m left on my own again. Plus, no one tells you that having a nanny or a mother’s helper is another level of work; being an employer on top of all my other roles is another level of complexity.
I failed even when getting help.
. . .
It’s finally the end of the school week. I messaged the teacher to tell her that I do normally have my act together but I can’t get everything submitted by 3 pm on a Friday; she’ll have to accept getting everything by 5 when I’m done work. My daughter and I sit down to complete two online tests.
I let out a huge sigh and finally focus on her for the first time today. I cheer her on as she answers correctly. She happily tells me about how she likes the test interface and I encourage her to tell me more. A language arts test is the first time today that my daughter and I are finally bonding.
. . .
Hats off to single parents out there. I raise my glass of nonexistent wine to parents of infants and toddlers who can’t use television as a form of emergency babysitting. If any of you have managed to keep a Mary Poppins attitude throughout 2020 with your children, then you are nothing short of a miracle parent who deserves an award.
My only coping mechanism has been my pool of other parents. So many email groups, Slack groups, and text groups to help us survive. It takes an army to raise a child and right now, my troop is virtual and at least 6 feet away from me.
Cheers to parenting and the new school year, my Medium friends. I wish I could fist bump y’all but you know…pandemic germs.
This post was previously published on A Parent Is Born.
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