Have you mislaid your parenting style?
Do you remember when you used to feel like you had developed a pretty good balance of parenting styles, part Cuddle Queen, part Boundary Setter, part Clown Mummy. But then came COVID and lockdown, and our carefully curated parenting styles appear to have been knocked off course into a less definable hot mess.
After the initial few weeks in which we home-schooled, enthusiastically joined Joe Wicks and bragged about finding bread flour in the shops, we have inevitably taken our eye off the parenting ball. While more of us than ever sipped a marginally stronger Gin and Tonic, wondering why 2020 had fallen apart quite so spectacularly, parenting became more about squirting increasingly larger blobs of hand sanitiser around and emergency hair brushing for family zoom sessions. Mentally forgiving our new lower standards with a 'It's a global pandemic, let them fall asleep in a corner / go to bed without brushing their teeth / insert other previous parenting fail here"'.
Following a column in the New York Times which traced the ups and downs of parenting during lockdown with two kids and two jobs, the paper was inundated with similar stories of burn out. One reader, Marie LaRiviere, summed this up perfectly.
“Our goal is to survive: no divorce, no getting fired and no children running away from home. If we can do that, I’ll consider us a success story,”
And she's right. Sometimes life happens and being an awesome parent just has to come second. If you still have a job, congratulate yourself, if you are still speaking to your partner, give him or her a high five, and if you know where your children are, give yourself a proverbial medal. Parenting is a journey, and 2020 is just a very, very tight corner we're all navigating as best we can.
The four main 'styles' of traditional parenting
Authoritative Strict (and sometimes a little scary) disciplinarian parent
Authoritarian Loving, but consistent boundary setters. This is generally considered the more successful working model.
Permissive A parent who is loving, but with very few boundaries.
Uninvolved or Neglectful Sometimes uninvolved parents lack knowledge about child development. Sometimes, they're simply overwhelmed with other problems, like paying bills, holding down a job, running a home or... trying to stop the global tide of pandemic panic getting in the front door.
So whether your parenting has seen you behaving more as a permissive mum or dad, or even at times uninvolved, here's how you might want to unpick it.
Don't be too' judgy'
First of all, don't judge yourself too harshly. Your instincts to loosen your control over your children over lockdown may well be proved right. Who knows if having less attention this summer won't result in a waft of future Einsteins or Beyonce? Late nights, TV dinners and the some missed teeth brushing may not result in anything other than a little bump in your child's otherwise typical childhood journey. The pandemic has hit us all hard, even Joe Wicks is 'feeling flat and bit lost' these days.
WHO says 'Give yourself a break'
Practical boundaries can ebb and flow as we need to adapt, but babies and children will pick up on our moods so it's aways a good idea to put some time aside for you. Parenting advice from the World Health Organisation echoes this,
" We all need a break sometimes. When your children are asleep, do something fun or relaxing for yourself. Make a list of healthy activities that YOU like to do. You deserve it!"
In terms of tightening back up those nuts and bolts of your parenting groove, (and you're probably already doing this), start getting bedtimes back on track, gently strip that screen time back to acceptable levels, water down the gin, or take a well-deserved break from that wind-down-the-world-has-gone-mad wine. Everything is available, and this is all temporary.
And remember, in any emergency, the parent needs to put their own oxygen mask on first.
You've got this.