Who would have guessed just a year ago what 2020 would bring? It was only four months ago that people were dazzled by the promise of a shiny new decade. Oh, how the shine has dulled! Thanks to the Corona virus, aka COVID19, we are living in a strange new world where many people work from home, others work in a hostile environment, people are required to stay 150m apart, and recently someone pulled a knife at a suburban supermarket because of an argument over toilet paper. There is no doubt that everyone is having difficulty adjusting to the new rules. However, parents (who never had the “rules” clear in their minds anyway) are particularly burdened by the new regime as they try to make sense of it. Here are some tips for your survival.
Myth One. Unless I am an essential worker, or home is unsafe, my child has to stay home from school. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work that way. If you need to send your child to school because you need some time to do whatever it is you are doing (and I assume nobody is lying in a bubble bath while drinking champagne), then you send your child to school. I know other parents will tell you that you are putting your child in danger, or question your priorities, or say you are a bad parent. This is another one of those things that parents can make other parents feel guilty about. Seriously, nobody likes Judgy McJudgeface. If you’re not made to feel bad about not having the “right” shoes, or letting your child read the “right” books, or learn the “right” instrument, now you’re second guessing a decision you have made about your child, and whether he or she should attend school.
Myth Two. My child is home from school, so I am responsible for his or her education. The Department of Education in your state or territory is responsible for your child’s formal education. You cannot just step in and be a teacher and expect to be proficient at it. That’s because teachers undergo intensive university training to learn how to be teachers. At best, you can help your child with his or her home schooling and supervise what they are doing, but teaching is up to teachers. Side note: teachers are doing an awesome job of trying to replace face to face teaching with online teaching, given the few resources (knowledge about technology, strong internet connections, basic support, time to prepare) many of them have.
Myth Three. My child is disadvantaged by not going to school. Well, technically, that’s not a myth, because I think children are disadvantaged by not going to school, but they are probably no more disadvantaged than every other child not going to school. Disclaimer: this does not mean I am criticising home schooling. Children who are home schooled regularly are different in that the parents who conduct the teaching have the resources and forethought to deliver the curriculum. Parents of children who normally attend school were not prepared with adequate resources prior to being asked to stay home. It is possible that it will take some time and some very, very awesome teacher skills for children to catch up to where they might have been before COVID19. However, parents who exclaim that their child’s Whole Education is ruined are exaggerating.
Myth Four. I see on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter that everyone else is doing amazing things with their children, and I don’t have the time, finances, or other resources to do the same. It seems like everyone else is having fun and thinking of awesome activities, while you are lucky to remember to wipe the cornflakes from your chest in the morning. These worlds are not real worlds. Remember that social media worlds are the ones that other people want you to see. They are not necessarily the truth.
Myth Five. If I can just juggle my work, my other responsibilities and the children’s educational and social needs, I’ll be okay. Well, maybe, but not in the long term. The thing is, we don’t know how long this social isolation thing is going to go on for, and you can’t keep burning the candles at both ends. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Try to get some support, or figure out what can be let go (does the bed really need to be made, complete with hospital corners, every day?). The thing is that time is like pie – there’s only so much of it, and nothing you do will create more.
Myth Six. People with no children mocking us on social media for not coping with our kids 24/7 might be right. You know the posts I mean. People who never had children, or people with grown up children, or whoever, making snarky comments like “I can’t believe parents are annoyed that they have to look after their children 24/7, poor things….” News flash! Parenting has never been a 24/7 thing. Today we take our children to day care or other early learning programs, take them to school, and enrol them in after school care or programs like dance lessons, music lessons and so on. Before the modern uptake of day care and extra curricular activities, children were cared for by neighbours, aunts, uncles, grandparents, family friends, and so on. Bringing up children has always been a communal activity, the family hasn’t ever been isolated as a unit 24/7. It is no wonder, then, if you are going a bit stir crazy having your kids All The Time, because it’s never been that way. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them, or don’t want them. It means you are a normal person who needs some alone time.
The important thing at this time is that you be kind to yourself. Parents are always criticised for their parenting. Social isolation and COVID19 has just added another dimension. Do the best you can with the resources you have, and hang in there! Hopefully this nightmare will be over soon.