It’s okay not to have it figured out. It’s okay to not be productive. You’re allowed — I mean, even expected — to not be okay right now.
I have to say, It’s driving me nuts when I see people posting tips about how to “master homeschooling” or “make the most of this” or be productive or be efficient.
Even more, I’m boggled when people are telling parents how this can be the best sales or the most homeschooling. I get that these are most often coming from a place of good intention. And yes, we can definitely share helpful tips and ideas. And yes, we CAN make orange juice out of a tree of oranges that just got knocked over by a hurricane.
But also, tell the TRUTH.
For me, that starts with acknowledging that every single circumstance right now is uniquely different.
Parenting three year olds is different than eight year olds, and that’s different than twins, which is different than the challenges facing special needs kids. Having a newborn at home is different than having a self entertaining five year old.
Two parents who can work from home remotely is different than a parent who has a spouse who is a doctor or an ER specialist.
Divorced parents might be doing this different, and if you’re a single mom who is a teacher, that’s another story.
Some people have live-in nannies. Some people are still going to daycare. Some people don’t have any help whatsoever. Some people are pregnant and taking care of a newborn AND their parents are living with them and they also need help. Some people just lost both jobs.
Some people have savings, some people don’t have a dime.
Some people are completely alone. Some people have roommates. Some people would give anything for another human body or a cat or a dog or a child to hug right now, and being without a family is breaking their hearts further. Some people are relishing in being alone.
All this to say, your life is your own right now, and it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. It might not be possible for it to look like anyone else’s. Wherever you are is where you are, and I see you.
In the motherhood-entrepreneurship space pre-pandemic, there already was so much noise about what work-life balance should look like, with little attention to how much childcare help people had, or how different businesses and income streams and cost of living would affect these choices.
Now, more than ever, I think we need:
1: BE HONEST.
Honest with ourselves first, and with each other (if we feel comfortable sharing), about what our situations actually look like.
If you’re at home completely losing your mind because this shit is hard, I hope I can tell you that YES THIS SHIT IS CRAZY HARD AND I’M SO SORRY YOU’RE DEALING WITH THIS. There isn’t much I can do to help you right now. In fact, the thing that might help the most is if we look at each other and say, I see you, and I see that this is hard.
Also, if I can rant for a tiny moment, if you’re at home and you have a live-in nanny, or hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings, or a second home, please kindly acknowledge your privilege and do NOT tell people they can have what you have if they do not have that. It is unkind to the point of gaslighting. Telling people that they can simply push harder or self-care better when they are living through a catastrophe is fucking bullshit.
2: START WITH THE WORDS ‘IN MY EXPERIENCE.’
This is one of our core values—our FIRST core value—at my company, and it’s more important than ever right now. Some people might have kids at home and savings and other people might be reeling from losses across every facet of their lives. When you add the words “In My Experience” to the beginning of your sentences, you allow for nuance and complexity and generosity. Add it to your conversations like you would add salt to your meals.
3: ALLOW FOR WHAT IS.
This feels fucking impossible on most days, and is deeply painful when we’re reeling from losses. But what we’re going through is not a normal time, and this isn’t going to make sense for many of us for a while.
If you feel dazed, hungover, angry, foggy, sad, confused, or anything else, that is what is. You are ALLOWED to feel that.
Yes, if you need to drink coffee and get up and go to work and push through it all because your business is drowning and you need the income, I get it. I’ve been through similar times—when I was 26 I had a job and $100k in student loan debt and a fiancé who dumped me and I cried every day, and I wiped my tears off in the bathroom and kept pushing Autocad drawings around and I hated every minute of it.
Sometimes you keep going even when life is a nightmare.
But you cry, you say this fucking sucks, you do what has to be done, and it’s real. You are where you are.
4: KNOW THAT YOUR LOSS IS REAL.
I’ve been reading Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler’s work on Grief and Grieving, and in a recent podcast episode with Brené Brown, Kessler talks about how the worst loss is always your own.
“The worst loss is always your own.”
Comparing losses and diminishing our own losses doesn’t help. Saying, “well, at least I have X” or “it’s not as bad as Y,” is a means of diminishing your own experience and it takes us away from acknowledging that what we’re going through is painful or hard.
Now—if it’s not painful or hard for you right now, go back to #2 and #3, you’re allowed to feel joy and light and love right now. Just say IN MY EXPERIENCE before you begin and say, “I’m so grateful to be home with my kids right now, I love this and I know it’s not what everyone has but for me, there’s joy here and I’m so thankful.”
But also, your loss is allowed.
If you’re sixteen and missing out on getting your driver’s license and prom and graduation, you’re devastated. We don’t need to diminish that. That may be, as Kessler pointed out, the biggest loss of their life so far. That’s a huge loss. We don’t win by diminishing our own losses or by diminishing the losses of others. Comparison does nothing but hurt us all further.
Your loss of a client, of a project, of an expectation about the future, of whatever it is—your loss is real, and you are allowed to feel what you feel about it.
5: TRY TO TRUST YOUR OWN KNOWING.
One of the things that will matter here, I think, is being able to go into our own hearts and minds and really ask what it is that WE need, right now, today, in this moment. Only we can know ourselves.
Piece by piece, we’ll each put together a new habit or routine, a new sense of normal, a new rhythm. You’ll make sense of what’s happening and develop new habits. You’ll rage at the end of the day if you need to, because you hate parenting this much and you wish you had help.
The way out of this will likely be hard, but it will be made easier if we each look inside and ask what we need for ourselves, rather than trying to source our “knowing,” (as Glennon Doyle would say) from outside sources.
Thanks, everyone. I’m writing to make sense of things because that’s how I process. Right now I wanted to share that for me, other people’s advice is rarely helpful. I like seeing what other people are doing, but I put the filter on where I see it as helpful to THEM rather than immediately trying to force-fit it onto my life. Then I try it on and see whether or not I like it, and whether or not it’s applicable to my current situation.
Do the same with my stuff. What works for me might not work for you. That’s totally okay.
First, nuance. Context. There are so many intricate pieces to the parenting and business journey that one size fits all just doesn’t make sense. Add the grief and health journeys to parenting and business, and we all need to find our own knowing, first.
Use each other kindly to find your own path. Listen deeply. Send virtual hugs.
Here for all of you, inside all of this. I’m struggling, too. Some days are better than others. Writing helps me through it, because it’s what I do to make sense of the world.