To Each Her Own :: Commiserate, Don’t Counsel

This morning I woke up grumpy and unmotivated. We are a month into the quarantine, and though rules and routines have gone a long way in making this whole situation easier for my family, in general, I’m just over it. I’m tired of trying to balance working from home with entertaining my children. I’m tired of repeating the same thing every day, several times a day to my children. I’m tired of my 7-year old’s dramatic responses to everything, tired of my 3-year old’s refusal to sleep (like ever), tired of the constant bickering and the absolute refusal to listen. My girls need space from one another, and my husband and I need space from them, but we are only able to get so far away from one another at this time.

As I sat and drank my morning coffee, I logged on to Facebook and saw an upsetting post from a friend who is immunocompromised and whose wife is having to struggling through this quarantine with two small children on her own. I immediately chastised myself for feeling bad. I reminded myself that so many others are facing far more difficult struggles than I am and that I am fortunate to have the resources that I do to get my family through this time. But this self-reprimand only made me feel worse, and I realized it was because I was invalidating my own feelings. Yes, I have a great deal to be thankful for, and yes, there have been a few wonderful benefits of this situation, but it doesn’t make my stress and frustration any less real.

So often I see people venting their frustration about this situation on social media only to be met with well-meaning advice and perspectives from others. While these responses certainly come from a good place, and can be helpful, they often send the message that is not okay for us to have these negative feelings. In fact, constantly telling ourselves and one another that “things could be worse” and failing to acknowledge our own negative feelings is incredibly unhealthy. When I wondered in a post why my children were still waking up at 6:30 am even though they didn’t have to go to school, some friends with older children assured me that “this too shall pass” – well, yes, but not while there is a pandemic and I also have the opportunity to sleep a little bit later every day instead of having to get up and get ready for work (working in pajamas and no makeup is definitely a benefit of this situation). When I posted about being tired and cranky, an older acquaintance told me to go back to bed and try again later – sorry, I have a job and children to worry about, I can’t just go back to bed and neglect those responsibilities.  I am not angry at these friends for offering these bits of wisdom, but they simply weren’t helpful responses.

Since we are supposed to be social distancing, social media has increasingly become people’s opportunity to interact with others beyond the friends and family they talk on the phone with and text. People are looking for a sense of community and connectedness in the things they post and share. While sometimes they may actually be looking for counsel, more often than not, they are simply searching for commiseration. They don’t need to reminded that there are things they should be thankful for or that their situation could be more dire, they need responses like, “this is so tough, virtual hugs” or simply, “same.” They need to be reminded that they are not the only one whose kids are driving them crazy or they need a funny meme to make them laugh.

While we are all in this together, we also all seem to feel very much alone. The isolation can be overwhelming and the inundation of information and suggestions can be paralyzing. We don’t need more ideas of things to do or more reminders of the positives that can be challenging to focus on; what we all need is simply a reminder that we are not alone and that it is okay to be struggling. It’s okay to feel like getting through each day of being a parent-teacher-employee all at once is enough without feeling pressure to do more with the “extra time” you have. It’s okay to just wish your kids could go back to school and you could go back to the office without feeling like you should instead be thankful that you don’t have to work on the front lines. It’s okay to feel out of sorts and undone by your situation; you don’t need to compare your situation to others. It’s okay to feel all of the things without reasoning or justifying or diminishing. It’s okay to JUST feel.

Kelly Vollmer
Kelly first moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University, from which she earned a B.S. in Psychology and English and an M.A. in English. She quickly discovered New Orleans was the place where she had always belonged, and her high school sweetheart, Jeff, soon followed her here. They have now been married for 16 years and have two beautiful girls, Emma Jane (11) and Hannah (6), and 4 year-old pup named Ember. Kelly is a lover of all things nerdy, a proud fangirl, and she is a passionate high school English teacher.


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