With the holidays in full swing now, one thing is coming up in our circles that we hear repeated by many parents of young children and pregnant people: we are very much still living in a pandemic mindset and reality...and this is manifesting in tension with our families, friends and peers as we continue to live very different lives from many of those around us.
Maybe tension has arisen with family members with different situations than us that make family gatherings stressful. Maybe people aren’t seeing our needs and all the compromises and losses we’ve suffered over the past 2 years. Maybe people aren’t thinking about our safety in the same way that we are.
This intentional invisibility can manifest in hurt feelings, resentment and anger. At its base, though, what makes it so frustrating and hurtful is that it further isolates us as parents. New parenthood can already be so incredibly isolating in our culture. Having a baby or young child in a pandemic adds a double (or quadruple) layer of isolation. We might feel left out, invisible, forgotten and perhaps even abandoned by our communities.
Another place that this is playing out is in the workplace: I heard from one mother who relayed that her employers were abundantly understanding about her having to juggle kids and career with the chaos of the pandemic for about 4 to 5 months. Then, it was back to business. This mother said to me that literally nothing had changed on her end: she still had ongoing childcare challenges, and since school had started up, she's now waiting for that phone call that could come at any moment; the phone call that meant days off of school, covid tests and massive juggling and exhaustion for her.
Many of you have expressed that you are having to pull back at work and having to have hard conversations around that with partners and colleagues. Another parent I know is fighting for her au pair to be allowed into the country so she can get through a steady flow of upcoming trials. She, like many of you, describes being stretched so thin and so overwhelmed.
By now, many of us feel like we’re always at the ready to respond to a new threat. And so many of us feel like we are failing. This is fight or flight mode on repeat for two years…
In a recent motherhood circle, we talked about how we are processing all that we've been through while preparing for another winter and whatever it may hold, all while walking on pins and needles at what later today might hold. While life has kept going, we parents are still grappling with the chaos and vacuum of support that the pandemic has caused.
The phrase "just hanging on" is one I hear from women over and over again these days. The cascade of impact on parents of young children feels like a game of Jenga where the structure has lost almost an entire row of blocks at its base as it teeters on one block that might be pushed, every so slightly, to have the whole set come falling down. This is the image I think of when I hear from many of you.
This all said, I have to say that when I see pregnant or new parents get together to connect over their experiences, I see a rush of warmth in everyone's eyes and bodies, emanating from the connection, understanding, support and solidarity of the community. The nods say it all. They say "thank you for sharing your experience. I see you. And now I feel like I can share my experiences."
Thank you for sharing with us and for coming together for each other.
What is coming up for you as you navigate this stage of the pandemic, where you are making compromises, adapting to news and data, responding to needs and demands on all sides of your personal and professional lives? How many Jenga pieces do you have beneath you?
Whether you feel like you have hit solid ground and are finally cruising (or thriving!) or are just hanging on, we’re glad you are here.
Thoughts on pregnancy, birth and motherhood.