Family life has significantly shifted since COVID-19. People are working remotely, have been furloughed, or lost jobs. Childcare centers have closed. Schools have moved to virtual learning. Masks are a thing. Zoom meetings are booming. And screens are unavoidable. All the while, parents are frantically piecing together ways to keep the family and kids afloat.
While a father’s role in the family has undoubtedly always been important (which warrants another blog), for many that role has hugely changed. Presence and functioning for dads has increased tremendously with parent’s juggling working in the home, household chores, and parenting obligations. For most dads, this change has required more hands-on caregiving which scientifically has a positive impact on the lives of their children. But again, another blog about that. Dads have gone from working outside the home for 40+ hours a week to finding themselves sinking deeper and deeper into the parenting trenches with their spouses.
More than anything, I want to recognize and give kudos to all the dads that are doing their best to tread water without the same social and emotional outlets that we have as moms. In an earlier blog, I touched on the cultural and societal expectations of men to remain “masculine” and remain silent about most of their feelings. Take a second to imagine the internal battle and anxiety that many dads are experiencing today. The requirement to remain “strong” for the family while desperately trying to find a way to cope with the prolonged anxiety and uncertainty for the future. Ruminating and anxious thoughts about work/life balance, financial stability, childcare, parenting struggles, social isolation, etc. etc. etc...the list could go on and on. But the difference is that while dads inevitably have many of the same emotions that we have as moms, they are NOT given the same freedom to process them openly.
As moms, we have become familiar with the constant emotional tug that occurs when trying to balance all the things. Most dads have not had the opportunity to develop this same skill (if we can call it a skill) until now. One dad described feeling a brand new type of guilt trying to balance work and parenting, and finding he is unable to give 100% in all areas of his life. Which then in turn makes him feel as if he is falling short in each of those areas. “A stress I’ve never felt before trying to engage with my kids this much.” The constant noise, the constant battles the constant whining, the constant nagging, the constant touching; we all know it is hard, y’all! And until now, many dads have not had the opportunity to learn the significance of self-care and to have to consciously carve out time to recharge and reset.
Moms - I would encourage you to be mindful of the intense, extreme curveball that COVID-19 has thrown many of our guys. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them how they are feeling and just listen. Perhaps we can offer grace and compassion knowing the struggle and use this as an opportunity to support, encourage, and relate to one another on a whole new level.
And Dads - We see you. Your kids see you. We see you struggling to return an email or take a phone call while your son tugs at your pant leg so desperately wanting to play. We see you doing your best to navigate playing a more active role in discipline and parenting (it’s hard, we know)! We see you exhausted at the end of the night and still helping with the end of the day cleaning or catching up on work stuff that didn’t get accomplished during the day. We see you trying to keep it together when your world has been shaken; when you no longer have a sense of normalcy. We feel the prolonged uncertainty, grief, and anxiety that you do not feel comfortable expressing. We see you. We appreciate you. We love you.