Parental guilt in a pandemic


To be a parent is to feel guilty. For everything, for nothing – but all the time. It’s that little bitter taste, constantly: this feeling of failure, this feeling that we could have, that we should have done better. And being a parent in the midst of a pandemic means discovering lots of new reasons to feel guilty.

In advance, we do not cut it: it is surely my fault. I should have been more patient. I’m probably doing it wrong. Maybe I should have made some other decision. We love these little humans so much, we want to take them as far as they can go that we never want to go wrong and offer them the perfect parent they deserve.

But as if this were not already enough, to all these unjustified reproaches that are addressed on a daily basis, since last spring, a host of small blame has been added to hitherto unseen.

© Provided by TPL Moms
Credit: August de Richelieu / Pexels

In the spring, there was the guilt of working taking care of the children; the guilt of doing two things at the same time and therefore, necessarily, of doing each halfway. The guilt of resorting to screens to meet a deadline and of pronouncing the words “not now” far too often to children who often only demand crumbs of attention. The guilt of no longer being a particularly efficient or reliable employee, of always being a little distracted and having to whisper during a meeting because a child is sleeping on our knees. In short, the guilt of neglecting both children and work.
In the summer, schools, daycares and day camps reopened. The guilt split in two, and we had a choice. The choice of feeling guilty about still keeping the children at home when we had to work, of depriving them of their social life and their friends when there were other options, and of depriving them send back to their environment blindly, without certainty, with a small impression of sacrifice.
In the fall there was the guilt to send the children to school as if nothing had happened (or almost). To send them to spend their days in full classes, without distancing, and not being able to promise them that everything would be fine.

In the winter, in our case, there was an outbreak of COVID-19 at school. Overnight, the school closed, the children were collected in isolation, and screening was highly recommended. There was then the guilt of having sent them to school despite the risk. The guilt of not having been able to prevent the inevitable. The nagging guilt, the one that twists inward, of seeing the tears rolling down their cheeks as they were thrusting a swab into their nose. I’m still gluing pieces of my heart that broke that day; I believe I have misplaced some for good.

The holiday break has come to an end, and since then there’s been the guilt of sending the kids back to this school ignoring the fact that, probably, the second episode won’t be long in coming.

To be a parent in a pandemic means having to make groping decisions in a world of chronic unpredictability and hope not to regret them. It is only being able to assess each other’s desirability after the fact. It’s not obvious, and it’s not over yet.

We still have a long way to go, and it will continue to be difficult. But, with a little luck, when we return to our little guilt of the past, they will seem to us by comparison very futile.

Credit: Keenan Constance / Pexels

© Provided by TPL Moms
Credit: Keenan Constance / Pexels

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.