There are few universal truths, but I think the one that most people can agree on is that parenting includes a progression of challenges, many of which you can't anticipate.
For me, the biggest challenge up until a couple of years ago was that my children both like pineapple on their pizza, going against one of my core beliefs. I was then abruptly faced with the vast and varied challenges inherent in being a single parent, some of which I was just getting to grips with, when the world took a nosedive into a 'what if' novel.
Benefits of lockdown
Don't get me wrong, I've seen some benefits from lockdown. Being deeply entrenched in the introvert camp, a quieter, slower world has been rather refreshing. Avoiding social gatherings is extremely easy when you don't tend to gather socially anyway. But the number one benefit for me has been childcare. I already enjoyed flexibility from CABA when it came to the arrangements necessary to look after my children. I can honestly say that CABA practice what they preach more faithfully than previous employers, both at local and corporate level. But since April, it's not been an issue at all and it's saved my mum a weekly 100 mile round trip to look after my son. When the schools closed, I could keep working full-time with no stress about finding someone to look after my kids.
Only, it turns out, it's really not that simple. It's a whole new barrage of challenges I had never anticipated.
I'm sure many other parents have experienced these challenges; keeping your children entertained, maintaining at least some form of education, trying to provide a varied and healthy diet, and so on. I confess that I've failed rather spectacularly at the latter as my son is a very picky eater. Quite frankly, the 5th day in a row of jam sandwich and quavers is fine with me, especially if it means I can get back to work. And that's the key statement - "if I can get back to work".
I understand my responsibilities as an employee - I am paid to perform certain duties during a certain time frame. It's not so clear cut to a 5 and 3 year old, however. I don't know how many times over the past 5 months that I've said "I can't right now…", "in a bit…", "I need to get back to…", but I'm fairly sure that it's more than I'd ever hoped to have to say to my children, ever. And I feel tremendously guilty about it.
Back to school
Sending them both back to school and nursery hasn't worried me. I'm satisfied that both places have taken measures to reduce the threat of COVID-19. I'm relieved that for at least 2 days a week they're 'someone else's problem' - not because it leaves me free to get on with other things, but because now they have someone whose entire focus is to provide an environment for them to be stimulated and entertained.
I didn't feel this guilty when we were all in the office. I did the best I could on the day I was responsible for them, and when I couldn't be present, I left them in the best possible hands. But when I was with them, I was with them. For the past 5 months, a lot of the time that I was with them, I was also somewhere else. They deserve better than that. Isn't that the paradox of parenting though? That no matter what you do, it should never feel like it was good enough, even though it clearly was good enough?
Written by: Paul Guess
Case Management Officer at CABA
Paul Guess is responsible for making referrals and maintaining contact with clients seeking counselling and emotional support, as well as liaising with our service providers. Paul has worked in a number of NHS organisations, with experience of programme management, governance, regulation, and clinical audit. Paul also has qualifications within the counselling field.