“It’s not fair! Why are you being so mean? Please can we just go play outside with them? Mommy, please? We’ll be good listeners!” my six-year-old son cries as he watches me tell the neighbor kids that he and his sister can’t play right now.
It is heartbreaking. It hurts my momma heart more than I thought it would. I want to let them go out and play so badly but I know I’m doing this for their own good.
Their health and safety are on the line. Not only theirs but the other kids that they want to go play with and they’re family. My six and three-year-olds don’t fully understand why they can’t go out to play. They miss their friends, and I don’t want to be the mean mom.
Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one saying “no” to playtime with friends when we see others not practicing social distancing. Times are weird right now. It’s scary, and I’m so sick of hearing this, but yeah, we’re living in unprecedented times. We’re all learning how to cope right now. While it doesn’t feel fair to me either, I’m learning how to cope with being the “mean mom” during this time.
Here are a few things that I do or remember while trying to figure all of this out and cope.
1. I’m spoiling my kids. Their whole world turned upside down overnight. They can’t do so many things that they were used to doing. We’ve ordered games, things to create science experiments with and materials for fun crafts that I’ve had pinned on Pinterest boards for years. I’m trying to lessen the sting of them thinking I’m a mean mom by really connecting with them and saying ‘yes’ to fun things that they want to do while still practicing social distancing. They get to play in the sprinklers and the water table in the backyard. We planted a garden. We’ve had more popsicles and fun snacks more than ever before but I’m more than okay with that. To be honest, I kind of like thinking my children are going to get to experience a childhood that is so simple even though they don’t understand it yet.
2. I might be spoiling myself. I’ve always been a fan of retail therapy, so while I cannot go browse the aisles of Target, I order fun things for myself online instead. The new leggings that I splurged on have been amazing and make me feel good when I put them on. I deserve them so I deemed the price tag worth it! I’m giving myself permission to do what I need to do in order to keep that anxious voice inside of me from telling me that I’m a bad mom when I know I am not. But boy, it can really feel like it sometimes.
3. I’ve ordered books that I’ve wanted to read. I don’t’ want to get frustrated with my kids and mad when they think I’m being mean by not letting them play with their friends. So, I started reading books on mindfulness. The Whole-Brain Child by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and Dr. Tina Pane Bryson has been helpful in teaching me to keep in mind how my children’s brains work while navigating this crazy time. Extra love and empathy go a long way.
4. I starting teaching myself how to be a runner. Reading books or listening to podcasts by people that have trained for marathons have been helpful. I don’t enjoy working out but I know I need the physical outlet for my emotional (and physical) well-being. I’m not a great runner and I’m not fast but I’m learning. And the kids love to ride their bikes along side me while I push their baby brother in the stroller.
5. I remind myself that this is all temporary like everything else in life. They get to have more time at home where we are safe. We try to think of it as a time where we can really bond as a family and embrace a slow down. When all of this is over, we’ll be able to talk about how grateful we are to go to the zoo or to sit down at a restaurant or to go to school with all of our friends. This can be a positive lesson on learning not to take things for granted. I want them to grow up remembering this because life is so short and I feel like we learn that too late in life.
I’ve been the mean mom before. I’ve had different rules my children than other parents before, but this circumstance is completely unlike anything we’ve experienced before. This doesn’t come down to parenting styles or opinions. This comes down to protecting my children (and others) because that is what our health and government officials are advising us to do in order to prevent this sickness from spreading. I keep thinking about those times where my kids survived when they didn’t get to do what their friends were doing. They will be okay. They are resilient. Most of all I am trying to have grace. So much grace. For myself and for them. We have a new normal right now and while it’s not what we would choose we’re trying to make the most of it. So right now, I’m fine with being the mean mom if it means keeping my family safe and healthy.