We No Longer Need To Keep Up With the Joneses. They've Been Parenting In a Pandemic Too.
Prior to COVID, it was pretty easy to assume that the grass was greener for our neighbors: The Jones Family. The Joneses always seemed to have the best parties, nicest kids, and somehow their house was always clean. As parents, any time we feel someone is doing it "better" than we are, we immediately label ourselves as "less than"and tend to wonder why we're not able to make it happen like those people over there with their shiny outfits and Pinterest crafts (If this is your thing, you do you! But I'm an Amazon mom myself).
Truth is, we are all a product of the time we spend on the things we feel are most important. Everything we do is a decision, whether we are aware if it or not. Sometimes, we don't know that something is important to us until we feel a pang of jealousy towards someone who has it. Other times, we go on auto-pilot and realize we are spending time doing things that are not important to us at all, and once faced with exhaustion or burn-out we realize we need to rethink some things.
The Joneses Aren't Raising Your Child, You Are
I grew up in the American South where there is a strong history of dressing appropriately and minding your manners. If a child wasn't "acting right," well, that brought on judgmental looks and comments from others. Many of us were raised in a culture that has some version of this story woven into our upbringing.
After becoming a parent, who is in fact not 100% in charge of how her kids act, this is at times quite the challenge. Many parents I've worked with over the years have had to adjust to the idea that their child's behavior is not a reflection of their parenting success; their child is just having a hard time in a certain circumstance. Parents receive judgement from others, even their own family members, about how they parent, what their child eats, and what their child wears, all mainly due to the fact that their child is being misunderstood. Because of this, parents of children growing up with developmental differences get really good at not keeping up the with The Joneses. Reminder to all: The Joneses aren't raising your child. You are.
Enter COVID. Our energy is depleted because we are expending all of it on our basic need to remain physically and emotionally healthy during a very challenging year of parenting. Guess what? The Jones Family has been living through COVID, too. Due to everyone's limited emotional bandwidth, all families have been forced to focus only on those who matter most: Those inside our homes. There is no more energy to spend on comparing your kids or your family to anyone else. Trust me, you have better ways to spend your energy.
I'm Right There With You
One of the most challenging parts of being a therapist during COVID has been that I'm experiencing the same thing that I'm talking about with my clients. Psychologists are trained not to self-disclose too much. We work hard to keep our personal and professional lives separate so that we can stay focused on our clients while treating them. But, my clients are kind and caring people who keep asking: How are you? What are you doing with your kids right now? How are you doing this? There is no way to avoid the obvious: I'm experiencing parenting during a pandemic right along with everyone else. So is everyone else you have ever thought was parenting "better" than you. There is a lesson in this for us all.
Every Parent Is Doing Their Best
I have always believed that every parent is doing the best they can with the skills and resources they have at any given time. The difference is that we all have a variety of skills and resources depending on the moment. We are always learning more and wanting to find the best opportunities and support for our kids as they grow up. We are also always trying to take care of ourselves so we can continue to show up for our children and family.
During COVID, there is no keeping up with anyone. There is no one to be behind, because no one has gotten ahead during this time. So, there is no Jones Family. There is only your family with you at the helm. You will decide how to best take care of yourself. You will decide how to spend your time. And, your children will learn by watching how you value your time and care of yourself, your family, and your community.
**All content provided is protected under applicable copyright, patent, trademark, and other proprietary rights. All content is provided for informational and education purposes only. No content is intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological diagnosis, advice or treatment. Information provided does not create an agreement for service between Dr. Emily W. King and the recipient. Consult your physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to you or your child's symptoms or medical condition. Children or adults who show signs of dangerous behavior toward themselves and/or others, should be placed immediately under the care of a qualified professional.**