Being a parent is the worst right now
Especially if you have kids under the age of five.
This is going to be very complain-y. If you aren’t in the mood for a bit of whining, feel free to look the other way and watch one of the many new Christmas movies on Netflix (which I fully endorse doing, by the way).
Here are some of the reasons it sucks to be a parent of little kids right now.
We’re stuck in an alternate reality compared to everyone else
A lot of people are back to living mostly normal lives right now–gathering with friends, eating in restaurants, roaming through malls, attending concerts. And this is great, and how it should be for vaccinated folks. But it’s hard not to feel like there’s a big chunk of the population who has moved on and forgotten about those of us who are still stuck at home, with our unvaccinated kids, whom we’ve been trying to protect for almost two years.
Sure, all parents have different comfort levels, and some may be choosing to take their kids to do some of the activities I mentioned. But I guarantee you, it comes with a whole slew of worries and calculations and risk assessments: Will there be other unvaccinated kids or people near my kid? Will my 2 year-old be able to keep their mask on? What are the case numbers right now? What’s this Omicron bullshit about? Is any of this worth the risk?
It’s exhausting. We’re exhausted. And it feels unbelievably lonely to feel like the world has moved on without you.
We have to continually traumatize our kids with Covid tests
Do you know a fun fact about toddlers? They are tiny germ factories. After the silver lining of last year when the world shut down and our kids stopped getting sick as a result, child illness is now back with a vengeance. My kids are constantly sick, and if there’s a blessed week in which they’re not sick, I usually just spend it riddled with anxiety that they’re going to wake up coughing and start the cycle all over again.
Anyone who’s ever been a parent to small kids knows how awful it is when they get sick under normal circumstances. But this pandemic-sick business is next level. Not only do you get to watch your kid suffer through whatever godawful bug they brought home from school or daycare, but you get to top it off by dragging them to a sterile assessment centre and shoving a stick up their nose.
My two year-old has been continuously sick since the school year began, and this past weekend developed croup. I stayed up all night with him, listening to his sad seal-bark coughing fits, while trying to catch his vomit in my hands so I wouldn’t have to change his bed again. I felt helpless and panicked while I listened to him wheeze and struggle to take deep breaths.
At 4:00 in the morning, I lay on his floor under a blanket, with my phone out, checking all the virtual doctor services to see where I could book an appointment for the next day. Long story short, I eventually got a steroid prescribed and gave it to the poor little guy (after a ridiculous struggle to get the prescription filled) which helped him immensely.
But then for the cherry on top: I had to drag his cute little tush to get his Covid test. I had to watch again as he panicked while he waited in line and whimpered, “I want to go home! I want to go home!” over and over, and hold him while he kicked and cried as the nurse administered the test.
When the pandemic started, I took comfort that my nine month-old wouldn’t remember any of this. Now I can’t help but worry that he’ll be having nightmares about Covid swabs for the rest of his life.
We are so, so, so tired
Parenting babies and toddlers and preschoolers has never been an easy journey. A lot of the annoying and exhausting things we deal with like sleep deprivation, tantrums, and picky eating just come with the job description. But when you pile on the trauma and stress and nonstop anxiety of the past 21 months, we are at the end of whatever rope we were already struggling to hold on to.
Every time we think we’re heading toward the end of this, some new variant crops up, or some new headline flashes on our phone screens about rising pediatric cases, and the wind is knocked out of us again. We are so tired.
But we can’t actually sleep. Or rest. Because we have kids.
Our careers and hopes and dreams have been damaged, possibly beyond repair
We’re all aware of what this pandemic has done to working parents, particularly working mothers. For many of us, it has destroyed career ambitions, forced us to give up exciting work opportunities, and caused us to majorly rethink the notion that we can somehow “do it all.” Working in any capacity while parenting through the pandemic has been nearly impossible, and devastating sacrifices have had to be made as a result.
I currently work part-time doing a couple different jobs, and write when I can, and I can barely keep my head above water right now. I couldn’t even write this newsletter last week because the time simply wasn’t there.
I have no idea how working parents are surviving right now. I think the answer is: they aren’t.
We are grieving the loss of what we expected our kids’ early years to look like
My two year-old hasn’t been to a museum, an indoor play place, or a shopping mall. He hasn’t been in a grocery store since he was practically a newborn.
My five year-old has never been to the movies. He's never had a friend over to play in our house.
There have been no vacations, very few outings, and a general lack of regular stuff that you expect to do with your kids. And yes, kids are resilient! Everyone loves to keep reminding us of this! We know. Kids are amazing. My kids are amazing.
It still sucks.
We’re afraid to complain about any of this
We are so lucky to have access to life-saving vaccines and to be debating booster shots, while much of the world continues to suffer from vaccine inequity. Life could be so much worse. We’re (relatively) healthy and safe. We have food, and shelter, and ample streaming services. It feels wrong to complain when so many people are facing far worse realities.
Unfortunately, gratitude can only get you so far. It’s kind of like saying, “Just be happy!” to someone who is clinically depressed.
To all my fellow parents with tiny kiddos, I’m giving you permission to complain and cry and whine with me. To shout into the void. When we chose to become parents, we knew it would be a challenge. But we didn’t know it would be a pandemic-level challenge. It’s okay to be angry about that. Ideally, not all the time. But some of the time.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll find out more about getting our littlest human members vaccinated. And it will be another hard thing that we have to put our kids through, in order to come out on the other side of this nightmare. Luckily, we've all gotten very accustomed to doing hard things.
I truly hope we can all cheers to this being over very, very soon. For now, we soldier on, because we have no other choice. We cry when our kids aren't looking (or sometimes, when they are), we commiserate with each other via texts and tweets, and we carry on like we have been doing since March 2020.
I hear you, brave parent, screaming into your pillow, wondering if you're the only one feeling this way. I hope you can hear me all the way over here, screaming too, wherever you are.
Stray thoughts 💭
I appreciated this piece in the Atlantic which summarizes a lot of what I and most parents are feeling right now: Covid Parenting is Reaching a Breaking Point
Another read I enjoyed last week, especially as a former teen who loved Blink-182: Well I Guess This is Growing Up
What's your favourite new-ish Christmas movie? Reply to this email or leave me a comment with your recommendations. I'm grateful for any mindless distractions you can offer me!