• Jody Kussin

#85 Bad Mom?

#85 Family Matters

In These Times by Dr. Jody Kussin September 6, 2020

I can’t tell you how many times a week a parent, most often a mom, tells me, “I’m such a bad mother.” Sometimes they say it in jest, but most often…it’s with an underlying sense of failure, despair, and sadness. I remind them that ‘bad moms’ do not wonder or reflect on their parenting skills and that no mom has a child and then wants to do a poor job. However, the task is so ginormous, it’s hard to keep perspective. And no parent, ever, can be great at every aspect of parenting. Maybe use the 80:20 rule…. during pandemic, maybe make it closer to the 50:50. Are we doing ok at least 50% of the time? And by what measure?

In these times, of taking on burden and task upon task, to be nurturing and kind, to be organized and efficient, to keep everyone healthy, to oversee and help teach, to master technology, to be frugal and adhere to a budget, to continue to make a living or support those in the family bringing home the income, to put together pods and bubbles but then dismantle them because of new phases or tiers or alerts or color warnings….it’s amazing any parent is at all efficient and that more are not staying in bed bingeing all the Disney channel has to offer!

I too find myself succumbing to this thought process. It’s a slippery slope.

I KNOW I’m a bad mom because in the last month, we took out the ‘guest beds’ in our house and substituted in desks and office chairs. There was no room for cohabitation of beds and professional space, so something had to give. My husband and I managed the first six months of the pandemic by working from a reclining chair (him) and from a large Costco folding table (me.) We continued to have faith in two things: We will go back to work soon. Our children will be able to come visit soon.

Turns out, we are wrong on both accounts.

UCLA is going back ‘maybe sometime mid 2021’ and my beloved small office space may not be safe for in person therapy sessions for a year or longer.

And, given health concerns and access to science and education, our sons, ages 33 and 28, are not traveling from DC to LA to hang out with us. They are highly conscientious regarding keeping themselves safe, and especially worried and careful to ‘not come to LA to kill the parents.’ It may sound extreme, but they study the Hopkins data, first-hand, and let us know it’s too risky. We are all behaving cautiously and judiciously and enjoying weekly zoom visits and more phone calls and texts than were previously part of our long-distance family norms. Our local daughter is also hard to see, as she is an essential worker, exposed every time she goes into work, which is at least three times weekly... so, no daytime guests and for sure no over night guests. Although, when they are our kids, they are not ‘guests.’ Which makes this decision seem more heart breaking than perhaps it really is.

While it is practical to not house beds when there is no indication of children’s sleep overs, it still feels weird. There has never been a time we didn’t have a house situated to accommodate children, even though we have been empty nest folk for at least ten years. We liked our house to be ready at all times (which is our excuse also for having so many treats in here – even though the kids are healthier eaters than are we….still – chocolate raisins from Costco in the cupboard, just in case an East Coast offspring suddenly moves in and craves the comfort food of youth!)

Parenting during a pandemic is hard at any age and stage, and I am in the easiest of all stages – post-kids in the house, pre-grand kids on the planet. I feel guilty and am well aware of my privilege. Nonetheless, my role as mom has always been of paramount importance to me, and the home we had during those first 25 years made it easier. The physical comforts of multiple rooms, swimming pool, band room, basketball court – they all were so helpful. They really raised up the kids. And now, here we are – not many bedrooms, no pool, no place (thankfully) for the drum set….and, it appears, no beds.

It makes me sad and nostalgic for a different time. Or maybe I’m just sad and nostalgic for a different time in general.. Maybe I’m missing the ability to hug children and do their laundry and take them to that most religious place of all – Costco. Maybe I’m missing ‘before the pandemic’ and somedays, it’s harder than others. Maybe maybe maybe.

I’m setting up these home offices now, organizing closets and realizing I somehow have enough supplies to supply the neighborhood. I keep looking through stacks of papers. And then I’m missing random things – for instance, how is that we do not own a stapler?! Is that even possible?

Despite the heat, I venture into the garage, where all kinds of things are sitting in boxes, waiting to be re-discovered. I cannot find a stapler to save my life. I find many empty mason jars awaiting granola production at Thanksgiving. I even find “decorations for Fall”, although, on the fence about taking that down. And then, low and behold, I find an old trunk. I open it up.

Turns out, we own tons of blow up mattresses. Who knew?

It’s clearly not the same but…. I feel deeply comforted to know the kids can drop in any time. I have beds. Just in cases.

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