COVID and Isolation in New Parenthood with Bryce Reddy
(Derived from an Episode of The Birth Lounge Podcast with Bryce Reddy)
Many of the resources that parent might have had before are just not possible right now. Before, we would go to the library, we would go to a breastfeeding class, or we would have many other opportunities to get out of the house at least. You could go roam around the store when you just needed to get out and see other human beings. And that isn't as possible right now. Maybe depending on people's comfort level they can maybe go to the grocery store, but who knows?
This isn't how it's supposed to be. We were supposed to be welcomed home by grandparents. We were supposed to have people coming by and dropping off food and holding the baby. So you could take a shower. There's grief in that this isn't what it was supposed to look like. Obviously, we can't change that right now. So, remembering that we're allowed to grieve this process. We're allowed to grieve what this looks like right now and find a way through it.
Really being able to just sit in that grief and say, you know, 'this is sad'. This is a loss, this is a loss for what this is, you know, this loss isn't just for the pandemic. It also might be, my baby was born premature and our newborn days were spent in the NICU. Or my baby was born and my marriage isn't doing very well. There is grief when things don't look like the picture we imagined in our minds and we're allowed to feel that and grieve it. That's really the only way through it.
We've been tasked with an extraordinary circumstance. This is not normal and I never want to normalize it. We are all in a survival state right now that we're just figuring out as we go along. So there is a lot of adjusting that happens. The rhythm of our lives has totally been shifted.
I think finding new ways to function within this role has been a process. So we need to be able to identify when something isn't working for us and opening up that conversation, which isn't always easy to have in person. Like we can't go to the park or we can't go to the store and asking for help in those moments or communicating to your partner that you don't want to always have to ask. There has to be some give and take here. Being open to these conversations is what we need to be flexible in these transitions.
We have to remember that the mental health of children is closely related to their parents' mental health. In many ways, parents are feeling left behind in this pandemic. It's very easy to look from an employer's lens and not quite get how intensely parents' lives have been. Especially parents of young children whose lives have been toppled upside down. We're taking care of children 24 hours a day, where we used to have these other providers available to us. I think that the more we can focus on and support parents- we can foster the mental health of the children and the babies involved. They're starting to look closer at the research for how this is impacting babies and small children, but I always like to go back to the fact that babies and kids are so resilient.
I've seen it even in my own kids when this all first started, but now 10 months in like they're focused, they're doing pretty well. They wear a mask to school and don't seem bothered by it at all. They talk to their grandparents on zoom, which isn't the same of course, but they're still connected in some way. I think focusing on the resilience of our kids is the best we can do. As well as tuning into ourselves and taking care of our own mental health so that we can provide a safe an grounded place for our kids to be living within. The more that we can help ourselves feel safe and grounded the more we can provide that for our kids and our babies.
Invisible Load of Motherhood
I think we've all been socialized to fit into certain roles within our families. Certain things are taken care of by one parent and certain things are taken care of by another parent. And it was invisible because it was just done and nobody talked about it. We're in a new generation now and a time where it has to be talked about because our families look different now. There are two primary workers within most parent relationships. Right? So the primary caretaker might have a whole lot more responsibilities than just the home. They might have a business or they might have a high powered job, or they might have a side hustle, whatever.
These kinds of norms have to shift as well, but they haven't because that's just what happens. We've been socialized to just take on certain roles. That's work. Those are all those decisions that we're making each day.
There is just so much that goes into everyday life. It isn't always visible, hence the invisible Motherload that we often talk about. And I think one benefit of this pandemic is being home together all the time might be opening eyes to that, or might be forcing these conversations to happen when they might not previously have been going on. Having those frustrations rise enough to verbalize our need for some more support. I think it's forcing some conversations to happen.
Tensions at Home
I think there can be sometimes a lot of pressure to have a verbal conversation. Otne thing I often recommend to parents is to even just to text each other, to take the pressure off because when we do an in person, it's very easy to get very reactive. We feel attacked or threatened by what's coming at us. If we're not in kind of a very regulated place and sometimes doing it over text messages, which is something my husband and I do all the time is if I have something that's on my mind, I usually text it to him first.
Then he knows there is something that bothers me. And then we can talk about it later. Finding these workarounds to being able to open and start facilitating these conversations. These conversations have to happen and tensions are rising. Of course they're rising because we're all under severe stress, you know? Prioritizing that with our partner on both ends of the spectrum saying like, ''Do you need a break right now?'
Acknowledging that this tension is going to happen. We're not talking super severe tension that would require a lot more support from a clinician, but really acknowledging that we're in survival state right now. Going back to self care, super basic stuff. Making sure you're getting showers and getting clean clothes on each day. Getting out for a walk by yourself. Maybe if you have 15 minutes or even just a drive to go get drive through coffee. Acknowledging we're in a tough spot. We both need to kind of focus on our self care and calling each other out on that. Acknowledging those unmet needs that are really deep right now.
Re-Kindling Romance While Stuck at Home
I always talk about at-home dates. Watching a show, putting your phones down, turning your phones off, you know? Cause I think that that can be a real area where we think we're spending time with someone, but we're also like scrolling Instagram or Facebook or reading the news. And we're physically next to each other, but we're not connected. I always recommend even something super simple like that- sitting on the couch with your phones off together watching a show or sometimes reading the same book as one another and being able to talk about it.
Finding those little things that we can do to maintain that connection. Maybe sending each other little notes and text messages, even though you're in the same house. It's very easy to have our blinders on and be focused and plowing ahead. When we have kids around us 24 hours a day and we're living in the midst of a pandemic, but finding those little moments to connect us as your couplehood. Even if it's only 15 or 20 minutes or an hour, finding those moments to connect.
What do you think people should know about getting back out into the real world slowly, but also protecting our mental health when all of this is over?
It's hard to unsee what we've seen and we've been kind of thrown into this trauma situation where we have changed everything about how we view the world. We're literally walking around in masks and standing six feet away from each other. It's changed everything for how we are relating. I mean, I know it's different around the world, but I know where I am we stand six feet apart at the bus stop. We all wear our masks. We have to wear masks outside walking our dogs. It's not going to be that easy to just like snap our fingers and say, 'That's all over. Let's forget about it.
We are going to live with this shift in how we're viewing the world and how we're engaging with the world. I think that it's going to be unique to each of us, how comfortable we feel journeying back out. Some people might want to keep wearing their masks or be hesitant to hug someone. We're each going to have to take this at our own comfort level. Acknowledging your comfort level and tuning into your values and feelings as to what it feels like to go back to some so-called 'normal'.
Connect with Bryce Reddy
You can find me on @mombrain.therapist on Instagram and Facebook, and you can always DM me there. And I love having conversations with people and connecting with the big wide world out there. So I'd love to hear from you if you feel so inclined.