The Superhuman Pressure Effect
Cooped up at home with young children? Desperately trying to find activities to occupy them? Finding that you can not concentrate on your own work? Guilt seeping from every pore as you try to balance that work/home life and still be the parent you wish to be. Perhaps you have fallen into the trap of thinking that you can be the teacher as well as cook, work, clean, stay fit, keep in touch, care for extended family, maintain the paperwork and walk the family dog? The pressure, the pressure!
Dare I say that you might be expecting a little too much of yourself? Maybe not – I myself have fallen foul of this need to be everything to everyone and when I did the feeling of being under pressure became simply overwhelming. It wasn’t during COVID but it was during an extremely stressful time at work that I had the dawning realisation that I couldn’t do it, that I was not a superhuman; that being human was enough.
Something’s Got to Give
It took me reaching breaking point before the idea that something’s got to give came to me. I had been working full time and was due in the city to help with a huge multi-school musical production being put on in the city hall. Having got up, made everyone’s lunches, dinner for the evening, run around doing domestic chores and then taught a full day, I came home to relieve the nanny and do the homework bath time routine. My kids were pleased to see me and wanted to show me their latest paintings or chat about their day. I was all chivvy chivvy, ‘Hurry up’ and generally not present at all in the brief time I was home.
Of course something had to give and it did. I ended up exploding in frustration with my daughter’s dillydallies and it was not a particularly proud moment but it is one that I still remember regretfully. Without rehashing the event what I can say that once I was at the city hall with the students I reflected. What I recognised crouched in the dark, smiling and helping all these other people’s kids was my own kids were at home and going to bed with a memory of a very cross mummy. By the time the curtains come down I had spent four hours feeling very sorry about it all. I rushed home to kiss them good night and as I kissed their sleeping little faces goodnight I made a promise to myself that this would not happen again. I had to change.
Which brings me to the current time when staying home, staying safe is all focus. Something nags away inside as I see all the outpouring on the topic of homeschooling, all the sharing about COVID lifestyles. Something bothering me; something I just can’t quite define but I think it stems from this time in my life when I felt the pressure to be superhuman. I want to shout out to all the parents of young children, ‘STOP! CHILL!’ and ‘It WILL be fine.’ Please move away from your screens, please don’t get stuck in the quagmire of curriculum objectives or whether your child will meet standards. They will get through this, you will get through this. You will all get through this and you will not have this time again so go easy on them, go easy on yourself and create some space for individual growth. Allow yourself to not be perfect, to not feel the need to do it all. Once COVID ceases to rule every aspect of the day new ways of living daily life will have to adjust again to the post COVID world and there will be catch ups, make ups, fast tracking and all sorts of other measures put in place to help children with their education.
So take this unexpected opportunity to be at home with your little ones. Make it a time of building relationships, make it a time of individual growth, make memories and give you and your children space to reflect and through that to learn. I know when I sat backstage all those years ago and took time to reflect on how I was only human I felt a wave of relief knowing that was enough and everything could wait.
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