We Parents are Struggling, but so is Everyone Else (How to combat the pandemic blues)

Amanda Clark-Rudolph

We all are struggling, but how will we rise?

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When You’re my age, I hope the world is kinder than it seems to be right now. I hope the front page is not just a reminder of the way we’re letting each other down.” Lori McKenna

This song played as my toddler was having a meltdown, I was ignoring an incoming work call, the toast was burning, and I was jamming plates into the dishwasher.

But McKenna’s song stopped me in my tracks. “You’ll outgrow your shoes, you’ll outgrow your bed, you’ll outgrow this house, but you’ll still be my baby even when you’re my age.”

And that’s when the tears came, and I realized I hadn’t cried once since way before this pandemic began. I haven’t had time.

The reality that parents, especially those with small children, are having a difficult time during the pandemic is an understatement.

  • The Rapid Early Childhood Survey that polled 1,000 parents found those with young children show increased stress.
  • And as the New York Times article, How Burnout Became the Norm for American Parents” by Anne Helen Petersen observes: “You’re still managing the mental load of the household, while also making sure the masks are laundered, the Zoom schedules are followed, and trying to figure out how much kid screen time is too much…”

I get it.

And while sitting there in a bucket of tears, as McKenna sang about a mother’s concerns for her children’s future, I acknowledged that I was definitely struggling — a vulnerability that parents hesitantly say out loud.

Yet, I WAS struggling.

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I was tired of managing and worrying about a full-time job, a toddler at home, a child in school, a worldwide pandemic, and more.

But at that moment, I also had to take a deep breath and acknowledge my privilege.

As another New York Times article, “The Pandemic is a Mental Health Crisis for Parents” states, parents with kids under five are struggling. Still, those most struggling are “women who are pregnant or recently gave birth, and parents who are struggling financially to meet their children’s basic needs.”

Although my family is considered lower middle class, I am spoiled.

I am a Caucasian woman who lives in a three-bedroom house with a fenced-in yard. Although we budget, we don’t worry about where our next meal is coming from.

My husband and I both have jobs, one of which (mine) is a work at home one, which, although exhausting, makes it possible to look after our two-year-old asthmatic son.

I have a supportive family, a master’s degree, a minivan, and health insurance.

The truth is, I could go on about my privilege, and I recognize (and continue to identify more every day), it exists. Every day I thank the Lord for my blessings. EVERY DAY. But the reality is, I too, am struggling.

And fearing to admit that is a problem in itself. Because during that moment when I was sitting on the couch, after listening to a song about a profound hope for our future generations, all I could think was — if I am struggling and full-on accepting that fact despite all of my blessings, how are parents with less doing?

And then I thought of Plato’s Cave.

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When I was a teacher, I used to teach Plato’s Allegory of a Cave, a dialogue between Socrates and Plato, about a hypothetical group of prisoners chained to one another in a cave. They watched shadows on a wall while a fire, the only light around them, blazed behind them.

This is all they ever knew.

Finally, one escapes and finds out that the world full of sunshine and freedom is reality. Metaphorically, he becomes enlightened and discovers the truth. But when he goes back to tell the other prisoners, they don’t believe him. In fact, they threaten to kill him.

Why did I think about this story? Because I wondered what would happen if we reversed the allegory’s events?

What if a group had been living in the light, soaking up the sun and freedom unaware or lacking interest in the prisoners below?

What would it take to address such injustice and make a change?

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The pandemic, the Black Lives Matter Movement, the lack of affordable childcare — and so many other crises — have shed light on significant issues. But we’ve got a long way to go.

And the truth is everyone, in some way, whether it’s financially, physically, mentally, etc. is struggling, but what can we do about it?

  • I believe recognition is the first step to change, so here’s my recognition.

Our systems are broken.

  • Our societal expectations and invisible workloads placed on women are broken.
  • Our educational system with schools that lack funds for low-income students but offers top-notch institutions for those who can afford it is broken.
  • Our two-party system that pits people against each other and fails to work together for the common good is broken.
  • Our history of oppression is broken.
  • And in this post-pandemic world, many of us, regardless of our backgrounds, regardless of the weight of our struggles, etc. are feeling broken.

But you know what? Sometimes things need to be torn down to rise back up. Sometimes exposing all the horror is progress. Awareness is the first step.

My experiences and struggles are one of many, but they still exist. And as a mom with two boys under five, a full-time job, a working husband, a child at home, etc. I’m struggling.

  • But yes, my kids are healthy. My husband is pitching in, we are both employed, and we have a home.
  • These truths are always prevalent in my mind, even as I struggle.
  • And yes, I am concerned for all parents and their increased anxieties and stress exacerbated by the pandemic.

But I also recognize that I have more resources and support to get through it than many. Still, it’s essential to acknowledge and even announce that I am struggling, as much as it is also to recognize that others are struggling more.

The reality remains: I am concerned for us all

  • I am concerned for the elderly in crowded nursing homes or isolated from their loved ones.
  • I am concerned for the teachers who are struggling with teaching virtually or concerned for their safety while providing an in-person education.
  • I am concerned about our healthcare workers.
  • I am concerned for our neighbors who recently lost their jobs.
  • I am concerned for the families who have lost someone to the virus.
  • I am concerned for the homeless and those lacking funds for their next meal.
  • I am concerned for those with preexisting conditions, whether they be mental or physical.
  • I am concerned about the parents.
  • I am concerned for our children … ALL our children.

So now what?

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I feel like I am sprinting from when I wake up until I go to bed, and I admit I only have so much bandwidth available. But there are still things I can do. No matter how small.

Here are 4 that come to mind:

  1. Love. Teach our kids to be kind and tolerant.
  2. Give. Whether it be money to church or charities, food to pantries, or time to special causes.
  3. Acknowledge. Recognize privilege and how it shapes worldviews. Acknowledge biases and judgments — then strive to change them.
  4. Write. Awareness is power. And even though my truth isn’t everybody else’s. My truth matters and impacts others. It’s mine and deserves to be shared. I’ll always have my words.

I’m doing my best to take a step back. To prevent me from getting down, I’m choosing to do everything I can to find opportunities to do some good within this mess.

My calling as a 38-year-old mother, wife, daughter, woman, writer is different from yours. The compilations of our struggles are also different. But we all have a calling.

I’m working on finding mine.

What’s yours?

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Hi, I'm Amanda - a freelancing mama who writes about family, travel, holidays, and more! In addition to freelancing it up, I'm a Content Coordinator for neighborhood magazines. My favorite pastimes: Writing, slurping lattes, and playing freeze tag with my two sons.

Ocala, FL
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