COLUMN | Longing for pre-COVID parenting

Why has this lockdown been so hard?

By Danielle Galvin

 In a teary conversation with a friend late one night last week, I confided that I did not know how to parent in lockdown anymore.

“I feel so ill-equipped,” I told her.

“That’s because you are – we all are,” she said in response.

As we shared battle wounds that night, I was struck by how quiet it was in my house for the first time all day.

As I sat on my couch, looking at the toys I’d put way for the millionth time, cradling a tea I’d been craving all day, I cast my mind back to the tears, tantrums, whingeing, demands of the day.

The day before that friend had reached out to me saying she felt like she was at her limit too – with parenting, work, everything.

Her children were the same as mine – waking almost hourly overnight and then during the day she works full time from home – trying to keep it all together and the wheels turning.

“I’m at my capacity,” she said in a text.

“I don’t know how much longer I can function like this.”

For many children, the foundation of their week is broken up into school or childcare, time with friends or family and play dates, activities, and plenty of time left to play.

When you take away those foundations – those building blocks that help provide a stable base for the life they have come to expect – you can expect this pandemic pandemonium.

This has been the most difficult part of lockdown, trying to pick up the pieces of this broken parenting puzzle.

Many of the parents I speak to say they are struggling so much more, that they are teetering on the edge of exhaustion, anxiety, stress.

Our children are missing all of the things that bring them happiness too – play dates, school, kinder, parties, parks and freedom.

They say that you can never be prepared for parenthood.

That’s true.

But parenting in a pandemic, it’s all just policy on the run.

It’s near impossible to pick up those around you (metaphorically speaking) during this time.

There have been moments during this when I’ve found myself thinking during a conversation with a friend who’s struggling too, how can I comfort you, when I can’t comfort myself?

Four-and-a-half years into the parenting game, there’s been nothing quite like this.

It’s even difficult to put into words why it is so hard. It’s not just the juggle, the fight for work life balance that existed in a pre-COVID world.

It’s that the cracks are starting to appear. And I think everyone is just a little over it.

Our children are more wakeful overnight, which I read is very common, experiencing night terrors and looking to us for comfort and consolation.

And the tantrums and meltdowns are more frequent – also very normal.

And then it’s the hours that blend together, those long and arduous days, and the constant, lingering exhaustion.

It’s staying awake for hours overnight, glued to every screen in your home and debriefing to friends/partners in hushed tones, careful not to wake the sleeping children.

It’s missing those outlets that normally keep us going – coffee dates, park meet ups, dinners out and drinks with a friend.

But we know tomorrow is another day and while we have had a few of those bad days, there is plenty to be grateful for.

And soon enough, there will be more to look forward to.

The different ways kids are impacted by lockdown, and how we can help