I don’t think parents will ever be able to explain their feelings of pandemic guilt.
Jer often works until 7 or 8 because distance learning for a non-literate 5 year old is just really a mess. It's not possible to feel productive until late in the day. It doesn't feel acceptable to make excuses. Meanwhile, I'm at school part-time and still working. It’s heartbreaking to ask my kids to go figure something out while I try to make a deadline, and every minute of every day is about 50% as productive as it should be because I have this constant feeling that, no matter what I’m doing at that moment, it’s the wrong thing to be doing at that moment.
I’m haunted by the bullshit meme from a year ago, which urged us to spend our together time teaching kids how to do oil changes and become better people or whatever. “We’re building our kids’ personalities brick by brick, day by day,” I say to my husband, and I wonder if today’s brick was good enough.We steal time when we can. After eight, Jer and I try to recover from the day with some “us” time, which generally involves something lazy like watching a show or playing a computer game until we run out of steam during these stolen hours. Or I try to talk to him while he stares at his phone and wishes he were somewhere else. The next morning, we wake up tired and begin again. Could we make better choices? Probably!
We don’t complain - not much anyway - because we’re the lucky ones. We have our health and our security and want for little. Our babies are growing and learning and they’re happy and bright. They’re adaptable, and they're going to be just fine. But there’s a kind of learned helplessness of denying my grief because we’re not suffering enough.
It’s possible to feel gratitude and despair at the same time. But it doesn’t feel right so I’ll go ahead and feel guilty about that too.
And then we see the people who went on with their lives anyway, either because they needed to or they wanted to. They put their kids back into activities and events; they travel; they’re among the 50% of MPS parents who said, “sure, I’ve had enough of this” and sent their kids back to school 2 weeks ago while we restarted distance learning with new teachers and schedules. Maybe they’re right and we’re overprotective. Maybe we’re crazy! I’ll add that to my list of things to feel guilty about.
Well! I’ve clearly needed to vent! I know we’ll all be fine and I’m optimistic that things will get better soon enough. I hope that we can see some of you this year because I really need that.