I’m the Mom Who’s Failing at Quarantine, Who’s With Me?  

mom failing quarantine mom failing quarantine

Before a few weeks ago, I was a person who operated with an average level of mom-guilt. Like, the low-grade, garden-variety kind that I think many moms often have simmering in the background of regular life. I should be reading more with my kids. I’m doing too many half-assed Trader Joe’s meals instead of actual cooking. Why do I need to be such a yell-y bitch about the balled-up socks all over the house?

But in the weeks since being homebound in our new Covid Life, I’ve been experiencing some next-level mom-guilt. It started the moment schools (and everything) shut down, which is when every person/ publication/ company/ organization in my life sprung into action and started sharing all kinds of useful resources and tools for kids. My kids’ teachers — whom I adore and appreciate deeply — are each sharing their lessons on Zoom as well as all manner of supplementary online programs that the kids can sign up for (different passwords for each one, kill me) and which all seem to have one-word names like freckle and epic and prodigy – for learning and exploring various subjects independently. OK! This is good! Hebrew school is sharing other online materials and has asked us to schedule regular one-on-one virtual tutoring so the kids can keep up the language study. This makes sense! My various mom communities are using What’s App and Facebook and email threads to share craft ideas, kid-friendly recipes, and spreadsheets listing all the educational companies now providing free subscriptions and product. Great! I’ve been alerted by several zillion people about author/ illustrator Mo Willems’ streaming lunchtime drawing lessons, kid yoga classes taught by superheroes on Insta, YouTube read-alouds, virtual dance classes, opportunities for my kids to write letters to folks living in senior care facilities, and a friend’s weekly cake-baking tutorial on Google Hangouts.

And all of this sounds amazing. All of it would be value-added. All of it would be adored by my kids. And I am doing zero.

It’s not that I’m not grateful to be on the receiving end of all these recommendations. Being looped in makes me feel part of a village, and without this, I’d be untethered. And yet. I just cannot take it in. I cannot execute. I’m overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it all and don’t have the bandwidth to absorb or implement any of it, really. For one thing, I’m working from home — which, as it turns out, is not the same as working from the office because at the office I don’t stop in the middle of a task to fold laundry or disinfect doorknobs or check how many rolls of toilet paper we have left in the closet. Plus I’m busy reading news, even on days when I say I’m not going to read the news, which these days is most days. I’m also spending a good deal of time thinking about what we’re going to have for dinner, since dinner is the epicenter of my family’s life right now and I really want to make it count, whatever that means.

Most of all, though, there’s just so much sadness taking up space in my mind. I am grieving. Like so many moms, I’m grateful for for our safety and plenty, but still brokenhearted not only about the state of the world, but also for what my kids are losing in the here and now. Yeah, yeah, they’re resilient and will grow stronger in many ways and will learn the art of something or other during this crisis (like how to coexist with grumpy family members under one roof for months at a time). But I’m not there yet. I ache that my 10-year-old won’t get to perform in her long-awaited musical or have that Big Woman on Campus feeling that comes with the celebratory final semester of elementary school. I’m sad my son isn’t getting to kill it in kindergarten where he was just finally coming out of his shell and starting to make friends at his new school. I know it’s not the end of the world. But, still, it’s our world and I’m not done digesting the losses, both those known and yet unknown.

So the emails come in, the dings and the alerts and the whistles and whatnot. I have no immediate plans to act on them, and yet: what kind of monster would delete this great stuff? IT’S FOR THE KIDS! The poor kids whose lives are being uprooted in so many ways! So… I don’t delete any of it, I simply let the messages sit there and pile up, inert, while my mom-guilt blooms. And make no mistake, this is not the pre-Covid type of mom-guilt, but a new, more existential kind. I wish I was doing better shepherding my kids through all the incredibly enriching activities being handed to me on a platter. But I’m not. And that’s fine, I tell myself.

Maybe next week or some other week down the line I’ll be able to make a little space. Like just for ONE new resource to try on for size. (I think it’d have to be superhero yoga, no? What even is that?). In the meantime I am going to create a “F*^%$ng Covid-19 Activities” folder in my email where I can calmly store all this wonderfully-curated biz until my messy head is ready for it. And to any other moms experiencing the plight of Covid-induced mom-guilt, I feel you — and I invite you to join me in doing the same and cutting yourself some much deserved slack.

Meredith Hoffa
courtesy Meredith Hoffa

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Meredith Hoffa is the Managing Editor at WhatsUpMoms.com and lives in L.A. with her husband and two kids. Her work has been published in the NYT, Entertainment Weekly, Esquire, Boston Globe Magazine and several anthologies, among other places. Send her funny videos of people falling (but not getting hurt!) at meredith@whatsupmoms.com.