This pandemic is ruining my relationship with my kids.
“Shut up!” I scream at the top of my lungs. I look over at my two boys, who are suddenly frozen, staring at me with pained expressions.
I start sobbing, right there in the kitchen, my tears falling near their half-made sandwiches. My hands clench. Red hot anger shoots through my veins, along with the sting of regret.
The truth is, in this moment, my kids are just being kids—involved in some loud play that on a normal day probably wouldn’t bother me at all.
But nothing is normal anymore. The extra noise assaults my senses and pushes me past my breaking point.
When my oldest was a baby, I felt extremely guilty about wanting time away from him. Even though he was colicky and really challenging, all I could think was, “What kind of mother longs for a break from her baby?”
It took me a hot minute, but I was finally able to accept that wanting a break was normal, and it became a necessary part of maintaining my mental health.
In order to be the mother I want to be, I need quiet time away from my kids to recharge.
I need to spend time with friends. I need to focus on my own aspirations outside of motherhood.
Intentionally doing these things fills me up, so I can keep pouring myself into my children.
Along with so many others, my mental health has greatly suffered over the last six months. My kids have been home since they shut down school in mid-March.
We have tried to limit our time around friends and family in order to keep everyone physically healthy. Our normal summer activities were cancelled.
I wasn’t able to work my part-time summer job, which has strained our finances. My kids fight non-stop because they are sick of being around each other 24/7 and tired of being cooped up at home.
The pressure and tension I have felt on a daily basis over the last six months is unlike anything I have experienced before.
It is like a freight train, building momentum as it slowly picks up speed. And once it gets going too fast, there is no stopping it.
Every time I lose my cool, I feel the relationship with my kids deteriorating.
Because quickly unloading my stress usually involves yelling, or being sarcastic, or slamming doors, or saying something I instantly regret.
I try to be quick to apologize and ask for forgiveness, but I wonder what kind of permanent damage I am doing to their psyche and what kind of irreversible damage I am doing to our relationship.
And now, with my stress level already at an all-time high, virtual school has been added to the mix.
I spend my days in full-on nag mode—making sure they are on their zoom calls on time. Making sure all their homework is completed. Sitting next to my Kindergartner ALL. DAY. LONG. as I guide him through his many tasks for the day.
I see my kids struggle with this type of learning and my heart hurts. I feel every ounce of their frustration as it grows along with my own.
I feel anger and sadness that this is my 6-year-old’s first experience with public school.
I wonder every day if I should have chosen to homeschool.
Would it have been better for them? When will my boys have a chance to get back into an actual classroom? At the end of a long school day, I feel like I have nothing left to give.
I just want to be left alone. My kids deserve more than what I’m able to give them right now.
I try to fit in self-care when I can.
A 30-minute drive away from the house. Hiding in my closet for 10 minutes and having a good cry. Going on a walk by myself. Asking for more help from my husband. I’m back on anxiety medication that I haven’t had to take in years.
But all these actions only feel like band-aids on a gaping wound. I fear that the only thing that will “fix” me is a return to normal. But when will that be? Six months? A year?
What kind of damage will I do in the meantime? What will my kids remember of this time?
I hope they remember the times we snuggled together on a lazy Saturday afternoon, the moments of laughter around the dinner table, the times I told them I loved them as I kissed their foreheads and tucked them in at night.
I hope the happy times will overshadow the many times when too much noise, and too much togetherness, and too much stress pushed me over the edge.
I hope my love for them will erase any pain I cause.
We are all trying to get through an incredibly difficult time. I just hope we can make it through to the other side without too many battle wounds.
Editor’s Note: The author has chosen to remain anonymous for the purpose of this post.