We finally made it. It is Spring Break! My children’s school district had a late Spring Break this year, and we have made it. No, we won’t be traveling. We won’t even be going to stay with my parents in the country, where we normally spend a week fishing, kayaking, and just enjoying family time. We will be home this year. AND we will have a week off from this new experience of online education that my kids are having to adapt.
And let me tell you, it is a struggle.
We have four children. Four different schools. And fifteen teachers that directly work with my babies... including gifted teachers, SPED teachers, switch classes.... I can’t even keep up with the titles. Can I just say how very grateful I am for these teachers?! I have always been incredibly thankful for the love that they show my babies every single day. I am also so grateful for the magical powers that they must possess to get these babies to actually get their work done and even learn. I can barely get two of mine to brush their teeth every day! And we live in a wonderful school district with amazing staff and support.
But y’all. I just can’t anymore.
You see, as a Therapist, I spend all day every day talking to people about their lives and their feelings. And for the last month, the predominant subject has been related to stress around the COVID-19 pandemic. I am probably working more now than my pre-Coronavirus life.
But now, I also have all FOUR children at home.
And the emails. Lord help me with the emails. I get emails from all. The. Teachers. All. The. Time. Like, reminders to login to ReadWorks, Clever, Epic, Zoom, Google Classroom, Google Docs, Dojo, and their own email accounts. My nine year old gets emails from his teacher about his assignments. He doesn’t even know what an email account is when I tell him to “check your email for your assignments.”
And don’t even get me started on the Zoom meetings. While it is a wonderful and amazing gift of technology that my kids can see their classmates and their teachers, it is also a major juggle for this working mom of multiple children to keep up with the assignments, messages, emails, and schedule of Zoom meetings. My three year old even had a Zoom meeting today! (Really this was super sweet and adorable, but was the 6th Zoom meeting this week for my kids aka ME.)
Meanwhile at “the office,” which has been virtual for a month now as well, I am talking to clients who have directly been affected by the virus, are worried about family members, are scared and anxious for their financial futures, scared of losing businesses or homes, stuck at home with unkind spouses, overwhelmed with their children’s behavior, some falling back into depression that they had made so much progress getting out of, and even some with suicidal thoughts. I sit with them and hold the space to remind them that it is ok to not be ok. To let them know that it is ok to feel overwhelmed. That we all feel that way. That this is HARD. And when things are hard and stressful, we often struggle with our emotions. Because they are a lot to carry.
And I hear from clients and friends who are teachers in many different districts and states, and they are under so much pressure. They are being paid, but are getting so much pressure from their districts to document and essentially prove that they are actually doing something to justify their pay. And I am certain that school districts push this based out of their own fears that the government monies might be taken back.
Some schools print packets of work to send home with students and hope for the best, and some kids haven’t even logged in once because they do not have computers or WiFi. And that is OK.
I have come to this realization, and want to be really clear:
We are not Homeschooling. We are at home, sheltering in place during a crisis. We are trying to give our kids reminders of a normal life during an abnormal time.
And you are allowed to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.
Maybe the next time you or I get an email from a teacher or administrator asking for a report or for a child to log in to something, we will just take a breath. And then another. And then let it go.
I will continue to feel grateful for the teachers of this world.
And I will also choose to let go of the pressure that I have been feeling to keep up with the schooling of my children during a world health crisis.
There are huge lessons in life to be learned from this experience that will shape our lives and history forever, but I am pretty sure that my kids won’t be learning about it by logging into their Chrome-books.
You know the ones you see scrolling through your Facebook feed, where we laugh hysterically at someone slipping on ice or tripping over their own two feet.
As a society, we seem to love these snippets where others are shown as flawed human beings. On one hand, we could judge this as “I’m horrible for getting this much joy from some other person’s misfortune.”
However. The other side of this (and the one I like to believe is more accurate) is that we identify and connect with others who err and fall flat on their faces. Literally and metaphorically.
As therapists, we work with people who grapple with the idea that they are supposed to meet some expectation set on them by various people and environments throughout their lifetime. Those with anxiety and depression in particular will beat themselves up for being unable to keep plans with friends or meet basic self-care needs everyday. The thought process for this is usually something along the lines of, “What is wrong me with, why can’t I get myself together? Everyone else around me seems to be just fine.” We compare and contrast our shortcomings to people who may not have the same setbacks or experiences as we do. We hide away physically and emotionally to avoid having our errors used against us by others.
Stop me if this is sounding familiar.
I stop here because before going through my own therapy, those self-defeating thought patterns ran rampant through my head. I would beat the hell out of myself for not being able to hold things together that weren’t even close to realistic for where I was in my life. The thought pattern specifically was, “If I can just be perfect for everyone and everything, then nothing can go wrong.”
I think about it now and imagine my Higher Power doubled over in laughter at my part of this cognitive fail video. Because I would guess that simultaneously the people around me experienced similar thoughts and wouldn’t share out of that same fear.
My favorite thing I’ve learned to share with my clients is the idea that the idea of “perfection” is a load of crap. Those expectations are not our own to carry any longer, and the goal is to set healthy realistic expectations for where we are in life and recovery.
Over the past two years, I’ve stumbled (haha punny) upon the work of author and researcher Brene Brown. One of my favorite quotes from her happens to be, “The last thing we need in the midst of our struggle is shame for being human.”
I want to offer others what was gifted to me as I became a therapist: the power of the phrase “I’ve been there, and I hear your hurt. I’m here for the healing too.”
Because in a social media run world of “perfect” bodies and lifestyles, what we really need to see to help us have genuine relationships with others are those failures and stresses. What helps get us through the rough patches is not being held to unattainable generalized standards, but rather to share in another’s struggle and know we’re not alone.
Even if it’s as simple as a video showing us we’re not the only ones who trip up now and then.