Parenting During a Pandemic: Books That Can Help You Get Through This

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Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

If you’re a parent right now with kids home during this pandemic, are you okay? 

Believe me, I get it. I am a single parent to an almost-4-year-old. I love him to the moon and back, but I also love when he’s at preschool—and so does he. He loves his school, his teachers, his friends, the playground, the arts and crafts, the story times and songs…being at home with a mom who is still working full-time and then some is definitely not as fun. It’s tough on both of us.

It’s tough on everyone. People are working from home, parenting kids without the usual stress relievers of going to the playground or stores for a change of scenery or the occasional family member babysitting—it’s a lot. Add to that financial stressors, anxiety about when or if daycare or school will open back up, uncertainty about going back to school or summer camp plans, and anxiety about COVID-19 or getting seriously ill—and it is a whole hell of a lot. And then there’s the asking for a snack 90 million billion times a day.

It’s not easy on the kids, either. They don’t have their usual outlets for releasing energy, and depending on their ages, they may not really understand what’s going on or why they can’t see their friends or other family members or why they’re stuck in the house all the time.

Parents are stressed. We are worried about so much: our families, our children, ourselves, our jobs, our friends—and we’re also trying to keep our children safe, secure, and happy right now, along with any schooling we (or the school) may or may not deem necessary.

I’m usually not one for parenting books, but desperate times call for desperate measures, amirite? While some of these aren’t “parenting” books per se, they might be able to help you re-center yourself and take a breather. Here are some to check out that might help right now. As with most parenting book lists, these books skew very white and very heterosexual. Most assume that the reader has a partner and typical kids. These are things that definitely need to change within the genre, but in the meantime, these are worth checking out.

How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids by Carla Naumburg

I don’t love most parenting books. They make a lot of assumptions and can be exclusionary—most assume there are two parents and that a child is completely typical. Not this one. I found this one to be refreshing, with lots of practical, accessible advice, and it was funny to boot. The chapters are laid out in a way that is easy to read in small bursts and best of all, there’s no parent-shaming here. Highly recommend this one.

Weird Parenting Wins: Bathtub Dining, Family Screams, and Other Hacks from the Parenting Trenches by Hillary Frank

This is a great book with lots of tidbits and hacks from other parents. Frank is the creator of the podcast The Longest Shortest Time, and is refreshingly down-to-earth. Suitable for those with kids of any age, these hacks are tips that have worked for real parents—and while all of them might not work for you each time, you’ll find it might be worth a shot. Kids are unpredictable, and sometimes we need some unexpected suggestions or tricks to get shit done with them that we wouldn’t have thought of ourselves.

Toddlers Are A**holes (It’s Not Your Fault) by Bunmi Laditan

When my son was an infant, Laditan’s social media posts about parenting were some of the few bright spots in my otherwise exhausting, mind-numbing day. Her wicked sense of humor and approachability were evident in her writing, and this book is no different. Toddlers, man. Sometimes we just have to give in to the chaos and find humor in it. I hope this book resonates with some of you and gives you some much-needed comedic relief.

(See also Karen Alpert’s I Heart My Little A-Holes, which is also really, really funny and spot-on).

Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle

People might know Doyle best through her social activism work or her newest book Untamed, but this is her first book, based on her blog at Momastery. She writes about marriage and motherhood, and about not being so hard on ourselves. Honest and funny, this is a great book that reminds us to sit back and think about what really matters and what’s important to us—something many of us have been grappling with during this pandemic.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

This is such a great parenting book (for kids and parents both!), pandemic or not. When I read it, it inspired me to un-clutter a lot of my son’s toys, books, and other things that I thought were necessary. I’ve seen a lot of people take this lockdown time to clean and declutter, and this book may be really helpful with some of that if you have small kids, especially. It’s all about streamlining the home environment, finding a rhythm, and finding your routines. All done in a peaceful, non-judgmental way. It might be a good antidote to the uncertainty and chaotic feeling that so many of us are experiencing right now.

Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Healthier Children in the Process by Sheryl Ziegler

I can’t be the only one who has people on my Facebook timeline posting elaborate daily updates and lesson plans for their children who are barely old enough to go to school. There is a global pandemic. You don’t have to be a Pinterest mom or number one homeschooler mom right now—or ever, really. If it brings you joy and your child enjoys it, great. But for so many of us right now, working and parenting and working with partners to keep a household going—or being a single parent and working that much harder to keep it all afloat—living up to a parenting ideal is just causing extra stress. This book addresses social media traps, the “busy” badge we wear honorably, and so much more. It might be just what so many of us need to read right now…and a reminder that even when this is over, we still don’t need to be perfect.

For more books about parenting, check out this post and this post.