The bag for my son’s first day of daycare was packed at least a month before he was supposed to start. I told myself that I needed to have everything ready because the closer it got, the harder it would be.
Instead, the closer it got the more clear it became that he wouldn’t be starting daycare when I had expected. I’d be learning to add work at home into my two-hour cycle of “eat, play, sleep.” Sure enough, my return happened to fall within Minnesota’s original Shelter-at-Home timeline.
As fate would have it, absolutely nothing I intended to write about has been close what I expected, and it’s almost comical how far off from “normal” returning to work has been.
Parenting, now more than ever, is an uphill climb.
I try to tell myself that it’s all par for the course when facing the expectations versus the reality of parenthood. In this situation, I think that would be a disservice to myself and every other parent. I try to keep sane by telling myself that I’m navigating this from a position of privilege. I get to work from home, I have an understanding employer, and my family’s income has not been upset by current events. Reminding myself of these facts doesn’t make participating in conference calls while my baby screams or immediately trying to be productive the moment I get him to sleep any easier. Regardless of the individual context, parenting, more than ever, is an uphill climb.
You don’t need to be perfect.
For the last decade, whenever a parent would express concerns about being a good parent, I’ve told them about my favorite concept in psychology: “good enough” parenting. The idea itself is simple: you don’t need to be perfect. What’s most important is providing a safe haven when your child needs it and fulfilling their basic needs.
Especially for those with babies and toddlers, this may seem a bit over-simplified. We are constantly under pressure to perfectly engage with our children because their futures depend on it. While it’s true that their physical and mental development is crucial, the mental health of their caregivers is also very important.
Even if they can’t verbalize it, kids know when something is up. We need to do our best to breathe through each moment and cut ourselves some slack. If not for ourselves, for them. Yes, parenting choices matter (as they always have), but the present is just a small portion of what we have to offer as parents.
The reality for those of us with small children: they won’t really remember any of this. Older kids will remember some. Quite a bit of their memories will probably be shaped by how we talk about the experience both now and what we later recall. Temporary changes in their routine are disruptive but ultimately won’t alter the course of their existence. These are the things that I’m trying to constantly remind myself:
My child is loved, my child is warm, my child is snuggled, and my child is fed.
I won’t lie; my first week back to work at home was rough. As I neared Friday afternoon, there was little relief in surviving my first week because survive was about all I did. ig
And right now, surviving is good enough.
Looking for more work-from-home tips with kiddos around? Check out our post here!