Parenting at a Distance

Article by: Nkatha Sylvia

Photo | ZME Science

You know that thing that happens when you first lay your eyes on your own child; like the very first time you hear them cry and see their tiny hands, pink skin, super tiny feet…and then your whole life changes from that moment going forward. You want to be everything to them and it is automatic that you want to protect them, love them, and give them everything in this life. It is priceless. Parenthood I mean.

I became a completely different person the moment I became a mother. Nothing has ever been clearer to me than the fact that I have someone on this planet that completely depends on me. It is a humbling experience. So imagine my shock when the sudden death of his father a couple of months later broke up our small family. My son and I had to go live with my parents, and fast forward to a year later, I land a job in the middle of a pandemic and I cannot take him with me.

Hell. It was and has been hell. This is not at all what I had in mind when I was carrying him for those 8 months. This is the feeling I battle regularly with distance parenting; guilt. Intense, consuming guilt as if it is somehow my fault that this is the way things have to be for now. Guilt that comes with the shame of failure as a person, and as a parent. You feel inadequate like you cannot do anything right. Like you are leaving your child to be raised by ‘’other people’’ when you are fully alive. Yeah.

And then there is this phase because it is a never-ending cycle of this thing. You cannot for the life of you imagine someone can tell you how to raise your child. You do not take advice so well. A few weeks ago, my mom, the most gracious human alive, who has raised my son for six months now, told me that the food I was cooking for my son would go to waste because he does not like that stuff.

I was gutted, and furious. Because what I heard was I am a bad mother. I was so angry, I locked myself in the room to cry. That is what distance parenting does to you. It makes you want to scream because you cannot forgive yourself. You want to overcompensate to your child/children thinking that somehow they do not feel your love for them. But it is all in your head. Why? Because you are a parent. My son blows a million kisses to me on video calls throughout the week. And when he sees me most weekends, he goes ballistic with the cuddles, smiles, wet kisses, and all that stuff.

But he no longer cries when I leave to go back to work. It used to be hard earlier on, and I started rocking him to sleep and handing him over to my mother, and leaving quietly. Now he says goodbye and hugs and waves. I am a wreck. I cry about it now. Every single time. Because it is like he has accepted the fact that he will see me on a schedule for the meantime, and he is ok with that. I am not. This is my worst experience. The fear that your child is going to be ‘damaged ‘because of not having his parents with him, is one of the worst things I have ever had to face.

But you know what I can say to every parent out there that has to be away from their kids for something they cannot control; you got this. You are doing great. You are being the best parent you can be for now. And that child/ children, they love you. I know, because I see it. I feel it when my son wakes up and plants a sleepy kiss on my cheek first thing in the morning. I live for those moments. Because I know I am doing my best. You will be ok. And so will your children. I only pray for one thing, that you get reunited soon. Selah.

SOURCENkatha Sylvia
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