Today was probably one of the worst parenting days I’ve had in a long time. My husband just accepted a new job last month and it required relocation so while we decide where we want to live for the next two years we are living predominantly in hotels.
We have four daughters ages 2, 4, 10 and 16 and right now we are staying in two attached double queen rooms.
Our girls are going into their eighth week of being quarantined and everyone is sick of streaming services, school work and being stuck inside. All of this coupled with the fact that their schools closed abruptly and their parents moved them a few weeks later is taking a toll on them.
Yesterday was a really good day. I remember sitting on one of the beds with my daughters as we all laughed and chatted thinking about how wonderful that day was. The two and four year old laid down during rest time, they didn’t scream the times I told them screen time was over and they ate the food that was presented to them. The ten and sixteen year old did all of their schoolwork and listened to me when I was teaching them without incidence.
I remember thinking that maybe we had finally settled into a groove.
I had confidently started congratulating myself for all the sleepless nights, the countless grocery trips, hours of food prep, homeschooling the older girls at the drop of a hat when the schools closed, giving our children consequences for their actions and standing firm with them, limiting screen time and all sorts of other things that I consider hard work.
Today, those thoughts were nothing but a distant and disposable memory as I counted to three for the thousandth time and chased my two year old around with underwear.
Neither of the youngest would keep their clothes on and they ran back and forth between the rooms getting into things and screaming. An hour into homeschooling I was ready to call it quits but I plowed through and only had to leave the room twice to get away from the complaining and crying over school work. The older two argued with everything I tried to teach them and then proceeded to either refuse to do their work or simply pretended to do it while doing other things.
Around 1:00 I stared in dismay at the clothing, snack wrappers and actual food from lunch strewn across the floor mere hours after housekeeping had visited us. I started to pick things up and remembered that I needed to start the slow cooker meal that I had planned for dinner or it wouldn’t get done in time. I dropped the pile of toys back onto the floor and moved towards the refrigerator to start dinner and immediately my four year old showed up wanting me to hold her.
Holding my daughter with one arm and pulling things out of the refrigerator to prepare dinner with the other I heard raised voices from the other room as the older two girls got into a fight over a white, fuzzy blanket. As I rushed towards the doorway to their room to break it up with the four year old on my hip I trip over the two year old who was looking for me to wash her hands.
I realized that the two year old was covered from head to toe in chocolate and silently screamed because it didn’t seem possible to me that the tiny, gluten free, toddler granola bar I had given her had enough mini chocolate chips to make the mess I saw then.
I put the four year old down and picked up the two year old to deposit her in the bathtub which caused the four year old to start screaming because I put her down. The two year old had also begun screaming because while she was down for a hand wash she hadn’t requested a deeper clean. Simultaneously, I heard screams coming from the girls’ room and registered that in my delay the ten and sixteen year old’s argument has escalated into a full on brawl.
Frantic, I picked up the crying four year old with my other arm and hurried into the room to break up the fight. In the midst of this the phone rang and it was the hotel asking if everything was okay and that they’d been getting some complaints.
The older two thought this would be a good time to share with me that Covid-19 and the resulting quarantine haven’t actually affected me and their dad because he has an essential job and all I’ve had to do extra is home school them. They went on to inform me that they and their age group/s are the ones who have been affected the most because they had to leave their social lives and friends.
I sat there in a stunned silence and wondered which of the things it was that I did wrong to raise children who would be so callous and uninterested in their parents’ feelings. I started to explain all the many ways my life has been changed and affected by social distancing and quarantine and stopped when I realized they weren’t listening.
Was it just yesterday that I was feeling a sense of camaraderie with them and that I was crowning myself parenting queen? How could yesterday be so good and today be so bad?
I started to remind myself that after every good day of parenting there are some bad ones waiting for us. I’ve been a parent for sixteen years and I know these things already but no amount of knowledge can make those feelings of being a failure go away.
Before I free fell into mom guilt, a panic attack or even a week of raw depression I had to remind myself that my children are probably proving to be more normal than anything by their recently shared perspective because the majority of children are self-centered. Children spill things and make messes, they yell and they deny good things like bubble baths for no logical reason.
There’s something about a bad day of parenting that can cause us to really come down on ourselves in an unhealthy way. It’s good to remind myself that the reason they are the way that they are is because they’re kids so that’s what they’re going to act like.
If I’m really being honest, the fact that I had one good parenting day this week is amazing and I can’t hold every other day to that standard.
Jordyn Armour is refreshing with her authenticity and honesty when it comes to parenting and writes about anything parenting related, using sarcasm and humor to tie everything together. She is a stay at home mom to four girls and runs survivingmommy.org , Instagram @surviving_mommy and Twitter @survivingmommy_