On a good day, parenting is stressful. During quarantine? It’s a god-damn pressure cooker on which the dial’s been ratcheted all the way up. In other words, lids are bound to blow. Things will come to a head and parents will lose their cool. Home school, grocery pickups, social distancing, the constant disinfecting, the fear, the sameness that comes as a result of confinement, the millions other things that are swirling about, all of which mix into a weird slurry that we will fall into. This is to say that, it’s only a matter of time for parents to hit their coronavirus breaking point.
But parents shouldn’t feel like they’re alone. A lot of dads have lost their shit during quarantine. What’s interesting — and sometimes funny, sometimes deeply sad, sometimes both — are the things that finally cause it. We spoke to a variety of dads about their quarantine breaking point. From toddlers who glued the Keurig machine and madness brought on by the Daniel Tiger Ugga Mugga song to a broken printer and a grocery pickup line here are the moments that finally broke these parents. Remember: We’re all human and slip up from time-to-time. It’s how we deal with the aftermath that makes the difference.
The Daniel Tiger ‘Ugga Mugga’ Song
“Let me be clear – I love Daniel Tiger. He’s not the villain here. But it was his existence that made me snap. All the days had blurred together. My wife and I were both working full time, and splitting homeschooling duties. We have a five-year-old, and a two-year-old, so even on day one we were both just dumbfounded regarding what this whole experience was going to look like. Weeks after lockdown, our oldest just wasn’t wanting to listen, and our youngest was just being a typical two-year-old. And Daniel Tiger had been on TV for what seemed like six straight months. The Ugga Mugga song came on — again — in the midst of all this chaos, and that was the tipping point. My wife could tell I was on the verge of a breakdown, so she told me to go take a bike ride, God bless her. She probably saved our iPad that day.” – Barry, 36, Connecticut
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A Broken Printer
“Our kids are in kindergarten and second grade, so we’ve been getting a lot of supplemental worksheets sent home to keep them on track with schoolwork. For the first few weeks, it was actually going really well. Then the printer turned against us. Every morning, for about a week, something would break or malfunction when I was trying to print out those worksheets. I got paper cuts. I got ink all over myself. We ordered a new printer, but it took like two weeks to show up. I’ve never been so angry at a machine before -—I think that was the uniqueness of my breakdown. Every morning I kept replaying that scene from Office Space in my head. And, fine, watching it over and over on YouTube, too. Seems like a pretty balanced existence, right?” – Chris, 33, Virginia
A Math Lesson
“I had to try and teach my daughter the Pythagorean Theorem. She’s in eighth grade, and wasn’t really responding to the virtual learning, YouTube tutorials, or anything like that. She’s decent at math, I just think that the change of pace has made things difficult. So, I tried to teach it to her. And I failed, miserably. I don’t remember a damn thing about it, and what I was able to reteach myself wasn’t helpful at all. The worst part was when she actually asked me, ‘When am I going to have to use this in real life?’ I felt like a complete sellout when I said, ‘Never, sweetie. Literally never. But we have to do it anyway.’” – Jason, 43, Kentucky
Nothing Would Load
“We’ve coexisted as a family at home for about two months now. It’s me, my wife, and our three sons. Naturally, we all need to be online at some point during the day — my wife and I for work, and the kids for school and entertainment. There was one day about three weeks ago that I was in a Zoom meeting with my colleagues, and I just kept getting kicked off over and over. Like four times in an hour, because our WiFi just kept overloading, or whatever. I lost it. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, specifically, but it was my first taste of quarantine stir-craziness.” – Kevin, 38, Ohio
A Grocery Pickup
“It didn’t take long for me to snap. We signed up for an online grocery pickup about three weeks into the quarantine, and it was a disaster. I pulled into the parking lot, and there was a line into the street. People were honking, rolling down windows, yelling at the employees, cursing and arguing. Just the worst parts of humanity on parade, literally. My breakdown wasn’t very animated or anything. It was more contemplative. I dropped my face down on the steering wheel and time just seemed to stop. It was like, ‘This is the new normal, and there’s nothing we can do. People are awful.’ It was sad, and disheartening. And then I got honked at from behind.” – Ray, 35, Ohio
My Teenager’s Attitude
“Not long into quarantine, my teenage son started shirking a lot of his chores, saying he was too busy with schoolwork. I figured that was normal, given all that’s going on, so I let it slide. Then I caught him up one night playing Xbox until like five in the morning. I was pissed, and I went off. ‘You’ve got no time for family, or your responsibilities, but you can stay up bullshitting with your friends until dawn, and then sleep all day? No way. Not happening. Not anymore.’ He’s still pissed at me, and that’s fine. I don’t have time for quaranteenage attitude right now.” – J.B., 45, New York
I Stepped on a Beyblade
“I don’t even know what a fucking Beyblade does, except sit in the middle of the living room floor and make my foot bleed. We have two boys, and between them they have about 40 of those little things. They’re everywhere. Like little painful Easter Eggs hidden around the house. I was stressed, having a rough day, and I stepped right on one that had been left out. That might actually have been the first time my sons have heard me curse. I did apologize for my behavior —I don’t want them to think that’s okay — but I told them that any stray Beyblades are going in the garbage from now on. I think we’re all on the same page now. So, at least my breakdown ended constructively.” – Carson, 37, North Carolina
I Had to Wash My Hands 5 Times in 20 Minutes
“I’m a germaphobe by nature, so this whole thing already has me at a different level of stress than the rest of my family. There was one day where, I swear, I had to wash my hands at least every four or five minutes. First it was because I picked up a package from outside. Then there were two poopy diapers. The trash spilled on the kitchen floor. And the cat threw up on the carpet. It wasn’t all directly Covid-related, but I’m terrified of germs on a regular basis, and now I’m borderline paralyzed with fear. Once I finally got a minute to breathe, I went and sat in my car — after I disinfected the steering wheel — and just stayed still. I would’ve put my head in my hands, but I’m too afraid to touch my face.” – Jimmy, 36, California
A Smug Facebook Post
“I’m struggling with the home-schooling aspect of quarantine. So is my wife. It’s difficult, and it’s made me appreciate teachers so much more. One night, I saw a post from a friend of ours that said something like, ‘Eight year veteran of home-schooling. Want some advice? A schedule or routine will save you stress!’ There was a picture of her next to a tiny kids’ chalkboard, too, with glasses and a smirk. I don’t know what it was that set me off. Maybe the fact that I felt like she was throwing her eight years of experience in our faces like she was above us, or maybe it was just the fact that her ‘tip’ was just so obvious, lame, and self-indulgent. Like, no shit, Karen. You’re telling me scheduling helps with organization? Really? REALLY?! You’re a real Anne Sullivan when it comes to teaching.” – John, 35, Connecticut
My Toddler Broke the Keurig
“I hate to be one of those ‘Don’t Talk to Me Until I’ve Had My Coffee” people, but I can’t really function without a cup or two. That’s a difficult need to meet when your daughter fills the K-Cup pod with glue and glitter. She didn’t even say something cute like, ‘Look Daddy! I made it pretty for you!’ At least that would’ve been a funny story. But, no, she just destroyed it for fun. That was about a week and a half into quarantine, so my breakdown was more in the sense of, ‘Buckle up. This is going to be a long, strange ride.’ I wasn’t angry, so much as I was resigned to accepting my fate of eventual insanity.” – Ed, 40, Ohio
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