We’re in Survival Mode — Don’t Feel Guilty for Not Giving Your Kids Your All Right Now

Woman working with child


Working Mother
Working Mother
May 25, 2024 at 9:18AM UTC
Apparently it was St. Patrick’s Day.
Because I was no longer physically in the office, there was no colleague I saw dressed in a green leprechaun t-shirt. Because I continue to be personally responsible, there was no happy hour where I could go sip a fun green cocktail. Because most of Jersey City is shut down, there was no parade to remind me either.
Then there were all of the preschoolers. They were quick to remind me.
All of the preschoolers. With their pictures posted in their “learning from home” designated areas on the school app and the Whatsapp and featured in text exchanges. Dressed in green. Some head to toe, others just a sprinkling. Green hair accessories. Green socks. Green shirts. And one, with a green hat. Their moms clearly didn’t have a #momfail moment.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day indeed. Now I was in search of a green cocktail. Or any cocktail would do.
“Mommy, can we check the app today?” my 4-year-old asked.
“Oh, honey, it’s down today,” I said putting my phone away. “See, not working, app not working,” as I shook my phone up and down and all around. Then distracting her with the next homework assignment we had to undertake.
Other than a cucumber, and a few unripe bananas, we owned nothing green for the moment. This would not end well.
In the COVID-19 era, so many of us working mothers are under pressure. Schools and teachers are doing their jobs, sending thorough lessons each day to be completed. Parents are sending along extra links to arts and crafts, additional worksheets, and ideas for exercising, including freeze dance, kids' yoga poses and meditation. All with the best of intentions.
Except the reality is I have to work. My husband and I both have to work from home. And I don’t have time to teach my 4-year-old and 7-year-old. I don’t have time to complete all the assignments, share pics on apps, send additional ideas, and then do it all over again. If I can get them out of their pajamas with their brushed teeth and sitting and eating breakfast quietly while we scramble to do a chunk of emails, well that’s a big win for the day.
And so I don’t know if my kids are learning. In fact they might unlearn how to read Sam I Am, unlearn how to hold a pencil, unlearn to sip out of a cup, unlearn how to count, to spell their own names, and God forbid unlearn how to use the bathroom on their own.
Here’s what I do know:
I can’t force them to do every assignment that was assigned for that day. If they skip an assignment that’s OK. If they only complete one, that works too. I tried to get my preschooler to finish the last three questions on the worksheet before we started lunch and that exploded into a 15-minute tantrum.
I can’t expect that their school schedule translates perfectly into a “learn from home” schedule. Because it doesn’t. Circle time with stuffed animals doesn’t work; naptime has disappeared; life skills means they watch another hour of Netflix and don’t clean up the stuffed animals that got kicked around during failed circle time. They aren’t in school with their friends and teachers; their normal has disappeared and they, like we, are in search of a new normal.
I can’t feel guilty for not participating in St. Patrick’s Day, crazy sock day, yellow day, animal day, mismatched day or (insert commercial made-up holiday here). I just can’t. It was a win when we participated in crazy sock day when they actually went to school. All bets are off while “learning from home.” And a picture to share? Not happening. Can I suggest a pajama day? Because that might work. With my luck, my kids will change out of their pajamas on pajama day.
Here’s what I do know. My husband and I will continue to take shifts during the day. We will read to them; we will make silly faces and talk in funny voices. We will draw some animals and some ice cream cones too. We will make lunch together. We will watch Netflix together. We will wrestle on the floor. We will go for a fake nature walk in the city (more than once). We will watch more Netflix. We will read again. We will cuddle. We will say good night. Then my husband and I will drink and work to cope with the madness. And start all over again. Until this madness ends.
So I won’t feel guilty for not teaching my kids while I have to work. I am in survival mode right now. We all are.
And if my 4-year-old has to repeat preschool, it’s going to be OK. And in the meantime, I’ll find a leprechaun shirt on clearance and stash it away. There’s always March 17, 2021.
— Mita Mallick

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Mita Mallick is head of diversity and cross cultural marketing for Unilever, and loves living in Jersey City with her husband and two young kiddos. This article originally appeared on Working Mother.

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