Learning How To Parent In A Coronavirus World

March 25, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has forced me to deal with my greatest fear:

That I’m a bad father.

Let me explain: I’ve been a dad since Oct. 2, 2018, when my son entered the world that night at 6:24 p.m. In the weeks leading up to his birth, I was consumed by a single thought: That I wouldn’t be good at being a dad. I didn’t have much experience with kids., I had never changed a diaper, and I could probably count on one hand the number of times I actually held a baby., And each time, I had to be corrected on how to hold the baby so that I didn’t drop him on her on the ground.

But my wife (who is an amazing mother and took to motherhood from the second my son arrived) often reassured me that we’d be OK because we were fortunate enough to have the means for extra help. And she was right.: With both my wife and I having full-time schedules, we employed two nannies and also had Grandma and Grandpa 10 minutes away. So just about every day of my son’s life featured some combination of a nanny and a grandparent.

And that was a huge relief to me, because it ensured (in my mind anyway) that if I did something wrong, with my son or if I didn’t know how to do something or if I just got overwhelmed in general for any reason, there was someone there to help. I felt like I could learn at my own pace. I didn’t have to feel like I was taking a crash course in parenting (although I did learn how to change, feed and burp my son pretty quickly). Now I was able to try and be the best father I could be, but with less on my shoulders.

And then the coronavirus came.

First, we decided that it would be best for the grandparents to stay away forrom a couple of weeks. After all, they were older and more at risk if they contracted the virus. And while my wife and I had no reason to believe we were carriers, we also had been out and about in the world like everyone else. So why take a chance, right? Plus, in the long run this was no big deal. While Grandma and Grandpa wouldn’t be around to help, we still had the nannies, who kindly agreed to take some extra shifts for a short time.

But the more we learned about the coronavirus and the more we were told about “social distancing” and “stay in your homes,” the more we began to realize that the only way to truly feel safe during this critical time was to limit the amount of people who came into the house. That meant just me, my wife and our son. So we put the nannies on indefinite paid leave.

And just like that, my help was gone.

Let me be clear: I’m not asking for sympathy. I mean, I know how lucky I am. We have the means for extra help and we have family close by who love to come and watch my son. So many people have no help and so many are doing it on their own (and how they’re doing it on their own is beyond my understanding. Single parents are truly incredible). But the coronavirus, for the first time, is making me be a dad without a safety net. And I fear I won’t be good enough and my son will suffer for it.

Now: Thankfully to this point in my son’s life, I haven’t done anything that would characterize me as a “bad dad.” In fact, I’ve been told I’m a good dad. But let’s be honest: It’s not hard for a father in our society to be considered a “good dad.” The standards for dads are absurdly low. My wife could simultaneously potty train our son and teach him to read in one day, and she wouldn’t get the praise I’d receive for changing a dirty diaper once a week.

But the fear of me being a bad father has always been there, lurking in the shadows. And it’s heightened given the fact that I have a son. At the risk of projecting societal stereotypes, when I found out I was going to have a boy, I couldn’t help but feel an added responsibility. Because when it came time to teach my son how to be a man, it was going to be up to me to do it. I’m his dad, after all. Mommies can teach their sons to be men. But daddies have to.

And now me and my fear are finally face-to-face. The coronavirus has taken away my protection. There’s no one for me to hide behind. For the first time since he was born, I need to guide my son.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about not striving to be a perfect parent during this time. Instead, just survive. And I’m all in on that concept. Being a perfect dad is the furthest thing from my mind. I’m just trying to get my kid from morning to night without screwing him up too much. On my first afternoon without a safety net, I told my son at 2:30 p.m. that he couldn’t walk around in the garage without putting his shoes on.

At 2:37 p.m., he walked around in the garage with no shoes. We then walked outside, also shoeless.

The next day, I couldn’t get him to eat a single fruit or vegetable. And when I tried to get him to cross the street with me while holding my hand (a very quiet street on my cul de sac where there’s no traffic), he would throw a tantrum in the middle of the street and insist I pick him up.

So now I’m convinced that my son will grow up never wearing shoes, never eating vegetables and refusing to cross the street unless someone picks him up at the age of 40 and carries him across.

Yeah.

In the end, I just want to keep my son happy and healthy. And if I can teach him a thing or two along the way, that’s gravy. I don’t know if I can do it, but I often think back to a conversation I had with my friend Jeremy (a marriage family therapist) months before my son was born.

“Do you want to be a good father?” he asked.

“I do,” I replied.

“Then you will be,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

Is it that simple? I’m about to find out.

Nevin Barich is the Food and Beverage Analyst for Industry Intelligence, which can help YOU better address your own industry challenges. We invite you to come take a look at our service.Call us today at 310-553-0008 and we’ll schedule you for a 15-minute demo.

* All content is copyrighted by Industry Intelligence, or the original respective author or source. You may not recirculate, redistrubte or publish the analysis and presentation included in the service without Industry Intelligence's prior written consent. Please review our terms of use.