Debra-Lynn B. Hook Tribune News Service
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) From homeschooling to helping children to maintain healthy social lives, so many moms are overwhelmed with caregiving during the pandemic. As Debra-Lynn B. Hook reports, "We women, we’re pros at [the] perfection dance — both striving for it and beating on ourselves for our lack thereof."
The book “A Good Enough Parent” brought great relief to me and perfectionist-leaning mothers everywhere when it came out in the late 1980s.
“While we are not perfect, we are indeed good enough parents if most of the time we love our children and do our best to do well by them,” was the theory popularized by parenting expert Bruno Bettelheim.
Now if only I could apply this principle to pandemic household management.
To be sure and in the interest of full disclosure, there’s been much to forgive since the pandemic hit almost a year ago: My pandemic-era kitchen floor most often looks like the floor of a barn, as does my hair. I curl up with Netflix for hours, days, on end, unmoving, when I could at least sit on the edge of the bed and do chair yoga. I reach for chocolate instead of spinach, go for a week without showering; and the worst offense of all for me and my socially conscious cohort: I give way too much money to the evil empire Amazon.
“Every time I step outside, I see the Amazon truck in front of your house,” my observant neighbor proclaimed.
For these and other pandemic-related lapses, I have been known to feel shame and self-loathing; to apologize to whoever is within earshot and/or to pound on my chest murmuring “mea culpa” like the good Catholic girl I once was.
But then one day recently, I overheard my high-achieving compatriot Lisa, a just-retired college professor and widow, who takes care of two 90-something parents and a house, calling herself lazy for spending the day reading.
Are you kidding?
“You may be unmotivated and overwhelmed by the frightful conditions of this awful pandemic,” I said to her. “But I would never, ever all you lazy” — any more than she would call me a bad pandemic manager for, hello, eating chocolate instead of spinach.
Forgive Lisa. Forgive myself.
We women, we’re pros at this perfection dance — both striving for it and beating on ourselves for our lack thereof. This is especially so when the stakes involve our families, even within the impossibility of a pandemic. Being as two out of three caregivers are women, we are holding the bulk of responsibility for homeschooling children and maintaining healthy social lives while managing social distancing, jobs and safe consumerism, while also worrying about all of the above, says the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation, which recently asked 1,200 men and women in the United States how they are handling the pandemic,
“(Our) survey reinforce(s) much of what we have known about the impact that balancing multiple responsibilities – often without a safety net — has on women,” says Kaiser’s report. “Women are worried that they or someone in their family will get sick…They worry more about losing income and worry more about putting themselves at risk because they can't afford to stay home.”
This is echoed by Eve Rodsky, bestselling author of “Fair Play,” about the domestic workload between couples, in an interview with goodmorningamerica.com about the effects of COVID stress on women.
“Women in good times are diagnosed with anxiety disorders twice as much as men and it's because we’re holding the conception and planning of every household activity,” says Rodsky. “A woman's brain is a brain that doesn’t shut off.”
And yet if ever there was a time for shutting off our self-analysis, it would be now, when there is no consistent rule book and the goal posts keep getting moved.
We women can’t seem to get out of the bearing-the-brunt of familial responsibility loop, no matter how many Betty Friedan books we read. But we do have power over how we see ourselves.
Fact is, when I allow my 24-7 brain to be as objective with myself as I am with my friend Lisa, I see a pretty excellent citizen.
I might win the neighborhood award for most Amazon purchases made. But I might also win Best Safety Protocols Practitioner, as I faultlessly practice social distancing, even as I even wear a mask to bed sometimes, even though I sleep alone.
I may forget to run six miles a day. But I work hard at maintaining my mental health, going to virtual therapy twice a week; keeping meditative coloring books in a basket beside me on my bed; and allowing myself a variety of emotions.
The next time a friend criticizes herself for not knowing how to manage a pandemic, I should stand in front of a mirror as I tell both of us exactly why and how we’re not lazy, inept or clueless.
It’s highly likely we’re good enough.
Maybe better. ____ (Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since 1988. Visit her website at www.debralynnhook.com; email her at [email protected], or join her column’s Facebook discussion group at Debra-Lynn Hook: Bringing Up Mommy.) ©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC