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Lockdown is taking its toll on long-suffering parents

Image: 123RF/ Jennifer Hogan

Nothing like the world being on pause to get you thinking and unpacking some of your favourite memories.

Like the time you started learning how to drive, do you remember that?

I remember my first lesson only vaguely, but what I remember from that time is a "lesson" I had with my dad. He wanted to measure my progress.

We were driving in Zone 3 (Seshego) past a place known as 'ma social-wekheng', where the social workers' offices are when he decided it was time for me to take the wheel.

He put me behind the wheel and we fought and shouted so much I almost drove us into a bus.

That was the last we would attempt a lesson and my very first lesson in knowing that parents aren't always meant to be everything to you at once.

I have thought about this a lot since the lockdown. I have also thought about the abilities we imagine we need to have as parents.

Parenting is a strenuous exercise, it permeates every aspect of your life and demands that you hand over every bit of who you are. The minute you become a parent, you can never just up and leave anymore.

Every step you take requires a careful and measured step. It drains you mentally and emotionally.

You want to divorce, did you think about the child? Do you want to quit your job and start a business? Have you considered the child?

To know that every single day when you wake up, someone is counting on you to keep them alive and to not f*** them up is a strain. This Thursday I turn 36, the exact age my dad was when he was widowed and left to raise three daughters alone.

My everyday attempts at adulting and parenting leave me in complete awe and appreciation of what he must have gone through at that time.

Before the lockdown, my daughter and I had already been social distancing now for about two weeks. Which means we have been at home alone and in each other's faces for a long time.

I have had to measure carefully the things I felt were my failures as a parent against my successes and this week I have given myself permission to stop.

My daughter is clean, she is completely off her normal schedule but she doesn't go to bed dirty.

She is fed, she even has the gall to let me know that she doesn't eat leftovers, and every single day she is clothed, warm and safe. And I have to accept that this is what is expected of me as a parent. And that I am doing alright.

In these past three weeks, I have tried to pick up educational activities for us to do, but she is unteachable and sulks when I correct her. On top of that, I find it very difficult to explain the smallest of details in a way that a six-year-old brain can absorb.

I have since stopped this effort. It is far more important that our relationship comes out of this intact and that we are both happy when she is sent back to school to be taught by a trained teacher.

We really cannot be expected to keep working from home and taking on teaching our children. I know that I am not the only one who feels this way. I have since written to the school to express this.

I have spoken to a lot of parents since the lockdown and most are really feeling overwhelmed by being confined in spaces with their little ones. And I think it is the expectation that we must stimulate kids, entertain them and educate them. That is not an ability that is carried by all of us well and parents need to relax.

Do the best you can while you try to keep yourself sane. No parenting gymnastics are necessary.