TO: My Friends on Facebook:
RE: My Posts During the Covid-19 Outbreak
Maybe you’ve seen my recent posts. You know, the ones chronicling the slew of things I’ve been doing with my kids since this dreaded lockdown started: the arts and crafts projects, the home science experiments, the sidewalk chalk mosaics.
Maybe you’ve seen our silly family pictures—the ones where we’re crowding the camera frame, all close-up faces and goofy smiles—the photos screaming, “See! We’re doing great! Look how much fun we’re having!”
Maybe, because of these posts, you think our days are filled with Pinterest projects and dance parties—and that I’m actually good at filling this gaping hole of time that is every day in lockdown.
I’m here to tell you that I’m not.
Sure, we’ve done the arts and crafts, the science experiments, the chalk mosaics. And we’ve had fun in those moments.
But they’re just moments. And honestly: They’re such a small fraction of our daily experience that every time I post the pictures, I know it’s just to keep up the illusion that everything is OK. That I’m OK.
But I’m not.
The truth is, I’ll spend hours conceiving and setting up most of our art/science/ you-name-it projects—and I’ll be lucky if my kids engage in any one of them for more than 20 minutes.
Really, I post the pictures for encouragement. Those “likes” you’re giving me? They make me feel like I’m doing something right. They’re like the silent voices cheering me on:
You’re such a good mom!
Because don’t we all feel like we’re doing it wrong most of the time? I mean, nobody told us the right way to parent during a pandemic. (Newsflash: There is no right way.)
Consider: I’ve spent hours scouring Google to find homeschooling ideas, certain that by controlling these small parts of our day—by playing the perfect teacher, the perfect mom—I can control how my kids experience this gargantuan event that is happening.
But I can’t.
My youngest, newly five and full of life, is up for anything. It’s my older boys—both introverted 8 and 10-year-olds who just want to play video games or watch Youtube (where they watch other people playing video games)—that I just can’t motivate. At least, not longer than the few minutes it takes to do a quick activity and snap a picture.
And that is what you see. You see that brief moment where it is working. That moment when they are playing the game or doing the craft or or wearing the costume. (Trust me, you don’t want to see the other moments, most of which are spent either desperately trying to prod my boys to “GO PLAY A GAME OR SOMETHING!!” or lamenting the fact that I can’t and retreating to my bedroom for a moment of teary-eyed silence.)
It’s not just me. Even the professionals are struggling.
“I see other moms posting pictures of how peaceful and accomplished their quarantine days have been with their children,” said Lori Campbell, PhD, a Los Angeles family therapist and mother of two. “For a moment, these posts make me feel inadequate, because although I do have some of those amazing times, a good portion of the day is challenging.”
So why do we continue to post these pictures that don’t show the whole truth?
For me, it’s because I want to remember that there were moments where we played together. (We did, after all, have a pretty epic indoor “snowball” fight with stuffed animals. That happened.)
I want to remember there were times when it worked. (All three of my kids did enjoy the obstacle course we set up throughout the house. Even if it was only for a few minutes.)
I want to remember the stories behind the art collection that now covers the walls of our kitchen. Or that the reason we all dressed as trolls that one night is because it’s when “Trolls World Tour” premiered on-demand in our living room.
Because, when all of this ends, I want to remember the good parts. Not the hours I spent arguing with my kids about screen time, but the moments of togetherness we shared.
Because I know there will be a day that I’ll look back and realize that I did OK.
(If not, the pictures will help.)
“I think that some people need to show pictures of their best moments as a reminder to themselves that they really are doing a good job,” Campbell said. “We all need to feel validated, especially in this madness.”
So to all those who see my posts on Facebook and wonder whether I’ve got everything under control, I want you to remember this:
None of us has everything under control. And that’s OK.
So go ahead and post the good stuff. We’ll cheer you on.