Being a parent in the pandemic to young children can rack the body, mind, and spirit. What can parents do to take back control?
With vaccines now authorized for children aged 5 and above, it seems like the world is inching ever closer to “normal.” While many people are resuming pre-pandemic activities, parents with young children know the harsh reality that the pandemic is far from over. Parents are facing a chronic, nagging stress. One sign of a toddler’s sniffle or cough can turn your routine upside down, leading to stressful testing, quarantine regimens, and a lot of uncertainty.
1. Defend your physical health
Over 3.6 million people gave birth last year in the height of COVID-19 crisis without the benefit of access to a vaccine. It wasn’t until this September that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out an urgent recommendation that all pregnant and postpartum people get vaccinated. While this recommendation is more recent, the increased threat of adverse pregnancy and newborn health outcomes such as preterm birth, severe illness, and death attributed to COVID-19 has been a known reality. Vaccination against COVID-19 remains the best way to control the immediate health threat of the pandemic to you and your family, and it is especially urgent if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have young children in your home. Importantly, vaccinated and breastfeeding parents can pass their antibodies to their infants and toddlers, extending protection to the entire family.
2. Invest in your mental health
Almost 1 million mothers left the workforce in the last year. All parents have been stretched thin balancing roles as earners, educators, and caregivers. Whether joining Zoom kindergarten lessons or opening Etsy shops to make ends meet, mothers in the United States are taking on increased amounts of childcare and domestic labor with very little support and self-care. Black, Indigenous and other parents of color, especially single mothers, have struggled, seeing loss in employment, income, and home buying. For many new parents, the pandemic has meant isolation from friends and family, disrupted or chaotic daily routines, new sources of anxiety, and an overall lack of control.
The Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance finds that mental health conditions are the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth, affecting one in five birthing people during pregnancy and the year postpartum. Having someone to talk to about your fears and concerns during pregnancy and postpartum can be a lifesaver.
Destigmatizing therapy and mental health services — particularly for mothers, a population that has seen increased levels of depression and anxiety during the pandemic — is vital. While acknowledging that therapy can be a luxury that some cannot afford, supporting new parents can look like meal trains, daycare, or even a friendly face to vent to. For new parents, asking for help can be a surprisingly empowering way to take back control.
3. Nourish your spiritual health
Birthing and parenting during the pandemic has been difficult for all and there continues to be a greater impact of the pandemic on Black, Indigenous, and other families of color as well as the providers and community-rooted organizations that serve them.
To nourish your hearts and spirits in this time, deepen your practice and intention toward empathy and love. As the nation confronts political divisiveness and structural racism, there are small steps we can take. Identify and support the local organizations and businesses in your community that are caring for your neighbors, especially the ones led by Black, Indigenous, and other families of color.
Pregnancy, childbirth, and all that follows can be a time of joy, learning, tradition, preparation, connection to family and community support, and creative and cultural expression. It can also be incredibly hard. If you are a new or expecting parent in these times, know that you are not alone and that we see you in your struggles, challenges, and successes, big and small.