Sam Jockel is the founder and CEO of ParentTV, a mum to three kids, and co-editor of the new book Parents, this is the one thing you need to know. Here, Sam shares some of the lessons she’s learned from parenting in these strange and uncertain times.
Oh, 2020. We will not miss you.
You were a big old mess of a year, and we’re not far enough away from all the hard parts to have gained much wisdom about the experience, yet. How long does it take to ‘grow’ from these things, by the way? Asking for a friend …
As the new school year gets underway, I’ve been reflecting on the lessons from the past year that I’d like to take with me into 2021. While I may not feel like I’ve fully grasped all the learnings from parenting in a pandemic yet, I do have a few little insights that have emerged on reflection and in discussion with other parents and professionals. I’m not a parenting expert, although I’m proud to say all of my children have eaten something green this month and two out of three are currently wearing pants.
Anyway, as much as I’d like to pass off all these pearls of wisdom as my own, they’re actually the product of conversations with people who know a lot more than I do. That’s basically why I started the online parenting advice hub ParentTV – to ride on the coattails of geniuses. It’s worked out really well! So, here’s what *I, Sam Jockel, have learned from parenting during a pandemic:
- Our children are resilient
Wow, we really tested them with that whole lockdown thing, didn’t we? It’s like we got all the routines and structures that their lives had been governed by and just chucked them in the bin. School is not at school but at home, and Mum is at work, but that’s also at home. Mum is working but also teaching you, even though she’s not a teacher. Your bedroom is now an office. The office is now a room where Mum goes to do her screaming, and so on. You know what? They actually coped, through all of that, better than we could have believed. There were parts they found incredibly hard, but they made it and some of them even thrived.
- We were going too fast
I’m not the first person to say this and I won’t be the last, but pressing pause on everything was actually pretty great. I have three children, one husband and a few guinea pigs and they all have endless needs and regular maintenance requirements. They all have a bunch of hobbies and extracurricular activities and after-school sports and music, too, even the guinea pigs (I assume). What this meant for our family was that every day was a sprint. Or a marathon, whichever is harder. We were rushing all the time, going from one thing to another and communicating through increasingly frantic texts about pick-ups and drop-offs and not much else. When all that stopped, we realised how much of a toll it had been taking. Doing much less is underrated.
- The old ways didn’t work for us
I’m lucky in the sense that I had already conned my husband into giving up full-time work to support our family while I built my business. We shared parenting responsibilities and had a lot more freedom and flexibility than other families in which parents are bound by traditional business hours, practices and locations. What’s more, we both had working arrangements that meant when the pandemic hit, we could make our own decisions about how to keep our family safe – and we understand how lucky we were to be able to do this. In my conversations with parents and parenting professionals, there have been mixed reviews about the whole parenting/educating/working from home situation, but one thing that made it easier across the board was when there was flexibility in how it all got done. Flexible work practices are a necessity for families and should be a right, not a privilege, beyond the pandemic.
- Technology is not the enemy
If you search the topic ‘screen time’ on the ParentTV website, you’ll get dozens of results. We’ve filmed many, many videos on the topic on our kids and their affection for digital devices, because there are many, many parents who are pretty stressed about navigating it all. This only increased during COVID-19. My eldest daughter, who is thirteen (but with the world-weariness of an eighty-year-old) was deep in the world of TikTok and Instagram during lockdown, chatting with her friends and staying in touch with the world outside our home. She needed that, and I get it. But, I needed her to be a part of our family life and to sometimes speak words to us, too. Here’s the kicker: in a moment of parenting glory that I will never again equal, I realised that, rather than yanking her out of her online world, I could follow her into it instead. Haha, gotcha, kiddo! So, under her instruction, we made TikTok videos as a family, complete with matching shirts from Lowes and poorly coordinated dancing.
I love those videos, and I loved making them with my kids. I loved the time I had to enter their worlds and see what they looked like in a way I never had before. I hope we can hold onto all of these lessons in 2021, but at the very least, I’m certainly not giving up TikTok.
*And the entire team of ParentTV experts