I’ve Become ‘That’ Mom
…and I feel so very bad about it
I’ve never wanted to be “that” mom. You know the one I’m talking about: over-protective, hyper-interested in every move my child is making, hovering at every turn. I used to hate mothers like that. “Let the children play,” I’d herald to whomever would listen. But life has a strange way of throwing curveballs one’s way. In my case, the unexpected curveball came in the form of a virus.
COVID-19, the vector that has caused pandemic of our lifetimes, has shifted our priorities and made us revisit what we think is important.
As a long-time advocate of “letting the children play,” preferably in a free-range manner, this latest turn of events has forced me to revisit my perspective.
Congregate in parks and street corners in every city, one will see multitudes of urban dwellers in their natural habitats. And age doesn’t seem to be a barrier. The younger set – ages eight through 12 are commonly seen strolling by, oblivious to the invisible threat that surrounds them.
So too are their parents. Apparently. For if they were aware and cognizant of the very real threat of the novel coronavirus, their kids would be locked up inside, sheltering in place as they had been told to do. Which makes it so very difficult for those of us who are following the rules, staying away and keeping our kids at home.
My children want to see their friends. They want to go out and play. They miss the playdates of what now seems like ions ago. Sure – Zoom calls, FaceTime and Skype can help, but they cannot and will not take the place of what is now a distant memory: face-to-face interaction and, perhaps some roughhousing.
Boys will be boys, they say.
My boys – twin preteens – are certainly typical in their boy-like interests and pursuits.
Thankfully they have each other and in so, a built-in playmate. I cannot imagine how much more difficult it must be having a single child who longs for the in-person experience of play with a friend or two. What was once a common occurrence and, likely, taken for granted, is now a memory that is wistfully recalled. The aforementioned roughhousing, the silliness, the constant movement – it continues. But only within their “bubble” of two; all outsiders otherwise verboten.
So it is for this reason that being “that” mom is even more so difficult.
Kids are busy these days. Some would say too busy, between school, extra-curricular activities, lessons and playdates. Their schedules are planned and programmed months in advance by their very organized and intrepid parents. After all, an old adage dictates something about idle hands and devil’s work.
The Guilt is Real
I want to grant my kids the ability to play and interact with their friends, but “play” post-COVID means something different than it once did. Play means risk. Play means potential illness, or worse. Like a mother bear, I, and so many other worried parents, forgo the mundane get-togethers of previous years in order to protect my children. In doing so, I’ve become that mother that I never wanted to be. This irony is not lost on me.
“That mom” in today’s world is the mom that insists on social distancing.
“That mom” in today’s world is the mom who says “no,” the mom who worries endlessly, the mom who insists on copious hand-washing and hand-sanitizing.
“That mom” today can make the difference between health and sickness and, in some cases, between life and death.
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“That mom” today can make the difference between health and sickness and, in some cases, between life and death. Add to the mix the reality of a parent being immune-compromised and the prospects for kids’ playdates diminishes even more.
The cold, hard facts surrounding the decision to hover, to Helicopter Parent and to just say “no” when presented with the opportunity to let the children play – well, those pesky facts make the decision to keep my kids close to home a non-starter.
And yet there’s an inherent and irrational guilt that all of us parents feel, in spite of our better instincts. This guilt is anchored in the all-too-common feelings that we’re not good enough to carry the title “mom” or “dad.” We know in our heart of hearts that these feelings are baseless and yet we let them crowd our respective psyches nonetheless. The emergence of COVID-19 just crystallized our worst fears of inadequacy, as we curtail our kids’ social lives for their safety.
Being a responsible parent is a thankless and stressful task at the best of times. During a pandemic, it’s torture.
Let me clarify something, however, in spite of this very real fact.
There is no denying that this new coronavirus is no joke, and one that I will not take lightly – ever. It’s a very sad and frightening fact that a seemingly innocent get-together between friends may result in a serious illness or death. No parent would want to willingly risk And while this reality is frightening in the worst way, it’s further underscored by the imperative that we, as parents, must follow as a result.
No means no, and never, ever has it meant it so absolutely than now. No playdates, no get-togethers, no childhood as we once imagined it. Yup. I feel so very horrible about this reality, but worse at the prospect of endangering my kids. Who said that parenting was easy?
It sure looks like the novel coronavirus that appeared in 2019 is here to stay. Unfortunately. In this “new normal,” we have had to revisit every aspect of how we live our lives. As parents, there’s a new reality in so many aspects – from school, to playdates, to work and more.