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No, I Didn’t Sign Up For Parenting Through A Pandemic

Jun 3, 2020

I can feel the sweat dripping down my back as I crouch over my second grader, who is looking at her daily assignments on our laptop. It’s an impossibly hot day in May, and I’d much rather be drinking iced tea outside while my kids run through the sprinkler — or better, I’d rather my kids were in school and I was working in a blissfully quiet house. Instead, I’m trying to teach math to my eight-year-old, a kid who is already better at math than I am.

After I attempt to explain fractions, my words jumbled and confused, my daughter throws up her hands in frustration.

"Once the pandemic hit our lives turned in chaos."

“I hate schoolwork! I hate working on a computer!” I feel the same way, and for a moment I consider tossing the computer and stretching out on the couch. Instead, we push through. And by the end of her daily lesson, she understands her math. At least, kind of.

When I found out that I was going to be a mother, almost nine years ago, I never imagined that I would be mothering through a pandemic. I slogged through the endless toddler and preschooler years, and had finally reached a point in my life where we had a semblance of order and peace. My two oldest kids attended school all day, and my youngest daughter attended a preschool co-op for half the day. I’d work peacefully all morning, and then pick up my preschooler and enjoy an afternoon of quiet bonding with the baby of the family.

Once the pandemic hit, our lives turned in chaos. My husband made a makeshift office in our finished basement, and I set up shop in our bedroom. Eventually, we realized that two working parents and three young kids was turning into an impossibility. The decision was made clear when I earned 75 per cent less in April than I did in March. I applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and scaled back on the number of freelance assignments I took on. This opened up my schedule to allow me to parent my children once again, but things still aren’t easy.

I don’t know any parent who is sailing through this time. Most of us are looking longingly at single people, or people with grown children, wishing we could spend endless hours reading, bingeing TV or taking up bread baking.


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Parenting through a pandemic is nearly impossible. I did not sign up for this and neither did my children. Every single day feels like a test in endurance. Can I feed my family, educate my children, keep the house somewhat tidy, create space for some joyful moments while somehow allowing myself a breather? The answer is a resounding no. I cannot do it all, so I pick something to focus on each day.

Some days we get schoolwork done, other days I tackle the laundry pile while my kids watch endless shows on Disney+. Sometimes we go outside and enjoy a long hike, and treat ourselves to sticky popsicles in the backyard. Rarely do we get around to all of these things in a single day.

As a writer I’ve been thrown all kinds of vitriol and received plenty of hate mail and unhelpful commentary over the years. Eventually, I’ve learned to let it roll off my back, kind of like the beaded sweat that dripped down my back while I attempted to become a math teacher. During this pandemic I’d hoped commentary would become a bit gentler and softer, but instead I’ve noticed many folks saying that parents who are struggling with pandemic parenting should pull up their bootstraps. They signed up for this, after all. Except, I didn’t sign up for this, and neither did any of the other parents who are dealing with a terrifying pandemic while attempting to create a safe and peaceful environment for their children.


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These last few months have taught me that parenthood will never be easy, and during this time I can expect life to be particularly grim. I’ve learned to extend myself a bit of grace, because when I do, it benefits our whole family. A quiet walk by myself clears my head. Some extra screen time for my kids means I get to empty the dishwasher and fold some laundry or maybe read a book.

When my daughter says that she is sick of looking at her laptop, we toss it in a drawer and head outside for some time in nature. We do our best with what we have. And on days when we fall short, we remind ourselves that tomorrow is a new day.

A new, impossibly long and exhausting day.

Article Author Brianna Bell
Brianna Bell

Brianna Bell is a writer and journalist based out of Guelph, Ontario. She has written for many online and print publications, including Scary Mommy, The Penny Hoarder, and The Globe and Mail.

Brianna's budget-savvy ways has attracted media attention and led to newspaper coverage in The Globe and Mail and The Guelph Mercury.

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