I saw the most heartbreaking scene this evening, while out for a bike ride with B. A 30-something mom with a baby strapped to her chest walked by, talking on the phone to someone. I noticed her hand was pressed to her forehead, which is the universal sign of distress, and watched as she wiped away tears and whimpered into the phone, ‘I know that for the one hour she was napping, I should have rested!’ She was obviously a mother of an infant at the end of her limit. I wished I could’ve given her a hug.
Being a new mom is already a ton of pressure and work, and must be especially difficult amid this pandemic. In years past, that sobbing mama surely would have had a support group of friends and family on her doorstep, able and willing to fix dinner for her, load the dishwasher, and entertain the baby while mama showered or took a nap. But due to fears of inadvertently spreading or contracting the virus, that support network is cut off for most new moms. It’s a shame because new parents need all the support they can get!
Since I don’t have kids, I obviously can’t know exactly how it feels to be a parent right now. But I have a pretty clear picture, which gives me compassion for them. Having worked with parents and children the last 15 years, I see how much pressure parents put on themselves to do their best, maintain work/life balance, and make their children happy. For many families right now, it’s just not possible to work and do nonstop childcare at the same time!
I have lots of friends who have kids (or are kids who have parents) who are feeling stressed and concerned about doing the best for their kids during this pandemic. M’s parents worry that he’s getting enough social interaction, as he’s an only child and can’t see the couple friends he started to make in 1st grade last year. BB’s parents have been self-isolating for 6 months, and want to give him a myriad of experiences, but are limited by those options at the moment. S’s parents are thinking of hiring a full time teacher for him, so that he can have someone to interact with every day instead of doing zoom second grade.
I truly believe that it’s an important time for those of us unencumbered by daily children – nannies, babysitters, teachers, aunties, grandparents, childless neighbors, and educators – to step up and support parents of young children by offering to watch the kids outside for an hour, while they take a shower or go take a nap.
Even in the best of times, parenting is hard work!
I keep imagining that woman, and wondering who was the person on the other end of the line. I hope that they did their best to reassure her that her baby will sleep through the night soon enough, and then got in the car and drove over to her house with some dinner fixings and a white noise machine.