“Mommy, can we watch another movie?” My boys look up at me with hopeful eyes.
I almost respond with: “No, of course not. You just watched one!”
But then, I’m-too-tired-to-function mom kicks in. “Yes,” I say wearily. “Yes, you can.”
It pains me to think about how much screen time my kids get these days. They, as expected, are thrilled. I tell myself that it won’t always be like this. My husband reminds me that TV won’t kill them, and I tell my guilt to leave me alone. But when my husband asks me for the tenth time what’s wrong, I realize what I am really feeling: I’m exhausted, depleted, and, if I’m being honest, I’m just fresh out of parenting.
I’m not the mother I was at the beginning of the pandemic when I still had some energy. When shock and fear kicked my mom instincts into high gear. I think about how I watched with disbelief as our lives slowly shut down last year. I cried as my kids stared out the window, watching a city worker tape off the playground across from our house. But then I squared my shoulders. My kids needed me. Cue supermom.
For a time, I rocked the quarantine thing. I homeschooled, crafted, arranged picnics, and invented indoor games on cold days. Between Zoom meetings and curbside shopping, I planned virtual trips for my kids to teach them about all the places we wouldn’t be traveling anytime soon. When they weren’t looking, I’d listen to news updates, watching the rising numbers with fear. I’d pour another glass of wine and think, how much longer can I do this, and carry on.
I realize now that it was the dangling carrot on a stick that kept me motivated.
I just have to get through the school year.
I just have to get through the summer. School will start again soon.
Ok, schools are closed. But only temporarily.
We just have to get to 2021. Life will be better then!
Ok, vaccines are just around the corner. Oh...wait. Variants? Really?
And so on.
Fast forward to one year later. COVID fatigue has taken hold and I no longer believe life will be normal anytime soon. I’ve stopped trying to grab that carrot.
A year in, and I’m fresh out of parenting. I’m fresh out of energy and inspiration and motivation to be the kind of parent I’m used to being. I’m tired of baking and crafting and scavenger hunts, and if I have to build one more Lego battleship, I am going to lose my mind. When one of my children asks for something, I find myself instinctively wanting to fall down face first on the floor. The words “can we play mom” used to bring me such joy. These days those words can feel like a burden. My kids feel it, I’m sure. They are clingier and more anxious, more demanding of my time and energy as they sense how little of it there is. They hear me say “Mommy just needs ten more minutes” far more often than they should. There are days when I feel like I want to be left alone in a room for three days.
I spend a great deal of time wondering when it will all end. I am tired of filling out questionnaires every day before dropping my kids at school. I am sick of answering the same damn questions every time I enter a building, of every runny nose locking us in the house for several days. And I don’t know how much longer I can answer every one of my kids' questions with “when the virus is over” and see the disappointment in their eyes.
My kids ask for more screen time now than ever before, and it has changed them in so many ways. My seven-year-old, who used to love painting and word searches, doesn’t bother anymore. The novelty of being at home has worn off completely. He wants to be out taking swimming lessons and playing basketball with his friends, not playing another mom inspired game with his little brother.
I didn’t sign up for pandemic parenting. None of us did. As if parenting wasn’t hard in normal times, we are now being asked to do the near impossible, day in and day out. Somehow, we keep doing it. We keep pushing forward on empty tanks.
I try to focus on the positives, like the extra family time we’ve been given. I tell myself that these are strange times and we as parents need to forgive ourselves and accept that parenting is just different right now.
I’m trying to keep that in mind as I let my kids start a
second third movie.