When You Feel Guilty About Struggling.
Just when I thought I had settled in to my groove with my five-year-old son and our now-month-long isolation, this past weekend was a real struggle. He was just being a real… five year old. Ignoring me until I was forced to yell at him. Pushing back on every suggestion. A solid pain-in-the-ass during every meal time. My patience was on a hair trigger and I spent those precious two weekend days aggravated as hell.
My wife went so far as to say to me, “If this were any other weekend, I’d ask what was wrong with you and why you’re so frustrated. But you’ve been alone with him for a month now.”
It was a nice bit of validation in an otherwise grumpy couple of days, but shortly after that I felt guilty about how badly I was doing.
As hard as this is, I have it easy. I have one little boy whose worst days are some kids’ best days. I’m in a position where, despite my modified schedule, I can still work from home. I’m not a single parent. We’re all healthy. My brain immediately compared my situation to how much more difficult some other parents have it during this pandemic, and I felt like I was failing on Easy Mode.
But that’s my problem, and it always has been. Comparing myself to others like everything is a competition is a hurdle I have yet to clear, despite years of my best efforts to kick this terrible mindset. Logically I know we’re not in the Suffering Olympics, but the logical part of my brain isn’t always in the driver’s seat. So I convince myself I’m not as great a dad as I should be, despite there being no precedent or score-card for this kind of situation.
These are strange and stressful times. There’s no one way to handle this and no one set of circumstances that applies to everyone. And if I’m beating myself up over it, that’s only adding to the strain and stress that is different for everyone.
I have to remind myself that I may stumble and make mistakes, but I’ve got this.