Parenting is tough. Add lockdown in, and it can feel impossible - something funeral pastor and mum-of-two Annie Willmot wants you to know is OK. Here, she shares her thoughts on parenting in a pandemic.
In some ways, it feels like lockdown has been really fast. While some people have lots of extra time, I feel like I’ve got less time than ever. I am at work – as a funeral pastor, taking funeral services and meeting families, while my husband continues his job as a full-time worship pastor, while also looking after our two young boys, a four-year-old and a two-year-old, at home. In the midst of all this, we’ve just been trying to figure out how to keep up our family routine, while I take more funerals and try to be in the headspace to support other people. It’s intense – and it’s meant we’ve had to be really intentional about prioritising family time. For us, we’ve made that Saturday’s focus when we spend time in the garden or hanging out together without distractions. It’s been useful to work evenings so we can make sure we have family time during the day, and we try and modify that day to day and week to week, plus we do bed time together so we’re all there.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy
It seems like we’re constantly juggling things around and it’s hectic. We shuffle our work and our family time and allow some things to drop while picking up new things – and it’s hard to explain why we’re staying inside and spending so much time as a family to my boys. Luckily for me, the boys, and particularly my eldest, say that they enjoy spending time together and he’s loving the family time, as well as being out playing with the neighbour over the garden wall. For them, this small world of having (almost) everyone they love in one place works. But many parents will be facing things differently and having to help their children get through a time that they’re hating. For those parents, I think the biggest encouragement – and one that I keep writing about – is that none what we are trying to do is technically possible. Parenting in a pandemic: working from home and having the children (putting them through school ourselves), it’s not our normal. Even for those of us who do work from home normally, like me, or have kids in the house, we don’t have our normal down time or escapisms outside of the home.
It’s OK to let things slip
We all need a break – and that’s OK. If you were to write out everything that you’re trying to fit in your week – it's just not physically possible for us to do it all. We have to be kind to ourselves as parents, and if things are slipping, know it’s OK to let them slip, because if you feel the grip loosening, it’s likely you’ll have to let go at some point anyway. I’ve got lots of friends who every day are doing lots of activities with their kids, which of course is great and for them it is working. They have a structure that they work around each day. But I haven’t got the headspace to be planning these kinds of things for my children as well as continuing to work, so my boys are mostly out in the garden getting filthy and playing, and they love it. For me, early on, it was important to recognise I would do some activities, but I wasn’t going to force myself to fit into a structure of these things if I didn’t have the capacity. If you’re struggling, know it’s OK not to do everything. Decide what you can and can’t do. While I couldn’t do all these activities, I knew that we could dedicate Saturday’s to sit down and watch a film and have popcorn and then spend time with the boys playing, and that’s one thing we’ve been doing every week. We count down and look forward to that, which has also been helpful for me to navigate the seemingly unending time in lockdown. Know you are enough As parents, we worry all the time about whether or not we’re doing enough or if we’re good enough - and it’s something I’ve struggled with too (in my book, there's a whole chapter about the word ‘enough’). The thing is with the word enough is that it’s a never-ending measurement. If we measured the stuff we do and are in ‘enoughs’, we’re never going to be able to reach the right value. It’s helpful to just take that word out. It’s simple to just remove it from questions we ask ourselves like these: “Do I love my kids enough? Am I spending enough time with my kids?” Take the time to stop and reframe the question in your mind, and recognise all the things you are doing; because even if that’s getting up and staying in your pyjamas while the kids are causing chaos, or having to frequently go into another room to get space from your children, you’re doing great.
Annie Willmot is mum to two boys, works as a funeral pastor, writer and for a local charity. She has written a book about parenting called Cold Cups of Tea and Hiding in the Loo and blogs over at honestconversation.co.uk.