I won't parent the same way again after the pandemic is over

It's been a year of "wait and see".

boy kissing mom
lelia_milaya/Twenty20

How has it been a year already?

But, also, how has it not been five?

One year since life was "normal".

One year since I could run errands without remembering to pack a mask.

One year since my kids attended in-person school. One year since our first experience with remote schooling began, and now about six months since I took the nervous plunge into homeschooling.

One year since I've gone out to dinner with friends, met up with someone for coffee or enjoyed a date night at a much-anticipated concert.

One year since we squashed our potential Disney trip.

One year since going to a yoga studio was just a nice way to exercise or escape instead of a "will this class be a super spreader event?" worry spiral. One year since a trip to the grocery store was just a regular ol' shop instead of a strategically timed visit to avoid the crowds. One year since hugging someone you haven't seen in a while was a way to show them you've missed them instead of a way to give them a potential panic attack.

One year of living in some strange in-between. Where we are all trying to do our best, but at the same time—where we've never felt more confused or unsure at the "simplest" scenarios. And during this weird year, I've learned something about myself and the way I parent.


This year, I've had to get used to the gray area. I've had to sit with it, stare at it, be frightened by it, perplexed by it, and eventually, comfortable with it. The gray area is the place of the unknown. Where there are no definites, no sure things, and lots of different ways to do or interpret things.

The strange in-between.

And what keeps coming back to me is the fact that I'm pretty sure parenthood is one big strange in-between. In-between ages and stages. Babyhood and toddlerhood. Childhood and young adulthood. In-between teething and tantrums. In-between naps and meals. In-between movement and stillness, happiness and sadness, exhaustion and joy.

The in-between offers us dozens and dozens of gray area situations as a parent.

Not having a clue when your child will actually sleep through the night being one of the big ones. What a wild feeling it is to just go to bed unsure of whether or not the tiny human that lives with you will sleep through the night or wake up seven and a half times instead.

Not knowing *exactly* when you'll go into labor, or if you do know because it's scheduled, not knowing how long labor will last.

Not knowing when you'll get the call saying the baby you've been waiting for is ready to go home with you.

Not knowing when they'll stop crying or why they're crying in the first place. When they'll take their first steps or when they'll finally potty train. When they'll start speaking or when early intervention should be introduced.

Not knowing whether your kid will get good grades or take a walk on the wild side with a crowd you'd rather they stay away from.

Not knowing who they will be, who they will love, whether they'll be gay or straight or trans or cis or something in between. Not knowing if they'll go to college or join the military. Not knowing if they'll live next door or live thousands of miles away.

Not knowing if they will be safe and happy and protected at every single second of their precious, beautiful lives.

Not knowing if you're doing a great job or a crappy job at any given moment of any given day.

The gray area is the not knowing. The not knowing is the uncertainty. The uncertainty is parenthood.

This year, during the coronavirus pandemic, my belief that life is one big gray area has been solidified. Parenthood, especially. There's so much we don't know and we can't predict.

But, that's okay. Or, at least, I'm learning how to be okay with that. I'm seven years and three kids into my motherhood journey and while "going with the flow" didn't come naturally to me at first, it did get a little easier child by child. And now, after a year where "going with the flow" was the only thing I could do, I'm pretty good at it. I can handle it and I can model this skill for my children so they eventually understand how to do it, too.

It's been a year of "wait and see". Wait and see how the numbers are, wait and see what the schools are doing, wait and see when we'll get the vaccine. The universe has been telling me: Wait, wait, wait. Patience, patience, patience. The message has seeped in more deeply with each day that passes.

And I can't help but think of the "wait and see" in terms of the bigger picture of parenting. Wait and see who my baby is. They will show me, they will tell me. All I have to do is be there alongside them to support them and love them with my whole heart.

Because, after all, that may be the only non-gray area of parenthood—my love. The love I have for my children and my devotion to them is crystal clear. Now more than ever.

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