The comparison game was bad before COVID-19. You know the feeling: “I’m not matching up. We’re not keeping up with the Joneses. They’re at least two steps ahead of us, honey!”
Keeping up with the Joneses existed long before social media, but – man – it seems to have exploded, since. No one posts video of the toddler meltdown; the sulking teenage refusal to participate; the not-so-happy family dinner – and we do that to protect our family: it’s a good thing.
But we also want to put our best foot forward. Put the best face we can on a very difficult time. And – as parents – we have the most precious cargo in all of creation to ferry to the other side of this crisis: Children. A child is a gift from God. I’m never able to shake that feeling, even on the hardest days.
Add to this, that our society is competitively structured almost to a fault. Who would say to their children, now: “Hey buddy, no need to do your homework tonight – we all need a break, right?” Or: “I’m sure your dance instructors won’t mind if you miss one out of three Zoom classes every week – I mean, we all have Zoom fatigue, don’t we?”
We want to stay on the right track, so that when all this is over, we can hit the ground running. I know we do. And I’m not about to try to talk you out of that.
You (probably) can’t give up the essential, daily things you, your spouse, and your children are doing. But you can do these two things, to keep the Joneses out of your mind, and your family front and realistically center:
Ruthlessly reorder your priorities (every 2 weeks or so): You may have started this time at home with the best of intentions, and even created a weekly calendar of how the time would be structured, but now you’re experiencing serious drift – I know we are: Our best laid plans are like the Legos that have been sitting in the corner of the Family Room…. since last Thursday. So, sit down and write out your priorities again, and begin at the beginning: How are you and your spouse going to protect one another’s time, so you don’t go cray-zay? Consider giving your spouse 1 hour, every other day, when he/she is absolutely not available, unless the house is burning down.
The best parents are benevolent dictators: Because we are face to face, at home, together all… the… time… it is really tempting to get into this mindset: “Gee, that’s really not fair to _________________ (insert name of teenage son, here), so I’ll put off that part of my work – or time by myself – in order to give him more of what he needs.” I’ve done this, and I bet you have, too. And you’ve got smart kids: They know how to negotiate you down with a pout, a grin, or a little of both. Not gonna work – especially now: Your responsibility is greater, as a parent and a worker called to provide and produce. So practice it with me: “This is how it’s gonna be.” Outside the walls of your house is a sprawling, beautiful democracy; inside, is a benevolent dictatorship, that includes dance parties, dad’s corny jokes, mom’s amazing spaghetti (I mean, really, where did she learn to do that!), and clear boundaries about who’s the parent and who’s the kid.
You’ve probably sensed that it’s time to reset/reorder your priorities – you’ve felt the drift. What are your top 3 priorities during this time? I would love to hear from you, in the comments below!
You can read the first part of “Parenting in a Pandemic”, HERE
And the second part, HERE
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