Disclaimer: This blog post is written entirely from my own perspective and experience with the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is not meant as a generalization, as I understand every family is different. My experience includes my personal reflection on having a baby during a pandemic, and what it is like as a parent of young children right now. It includes a glimpse into the interactions we have within our social bubble/social distancing, and the opinions of other mamas I am close with. It is a personal reflection.
The world is exploding right now. Each day I awake to news regarding COVID-19 numbers, mask orders, etc. alongside the ever important #BlackLivesMatter human rights movement that has woken the world up to the injustices being perpetrated. It is a frightening time to be human, as uncertainty is never our strong suit. It both seems like just yesterday, but also like 10 years have passed since wildfires raged across Australia in January. I watch in frustration as people dig in their heels against social distancing measures, and compare wearing a mask to having their freedom stripped 🤦🏻♀️ I am outraged by those who have shifted their perspective as if the danger has passed.
Historically, pandemics always have a second wave. But, we are living in unprecedented times: there is hardly anyone alive today who lived through the Spanish Influenza pandemic in the 1920s. We have no comprehensive history to look back on to help us decide what to do. Research and data are constantly developing and changing as we learn more: This is the point of science. To learn, to further our understanding of things, and develop preventative measures to help contain the spread of COVID-19. That’s the goal at this point: how can we minimize the impact of COVID-19? How can we protect the vulnerable?
The idea itself is simple: Wear a mask (if you are medically able) when you are in enclosed public spaces and when social distancing is a challenge. In my understanding, this approach applies the same concept as herd immunity does with a vaccine. If the majority of the population is “vaccinated” (WEARING A MASK) it will minimize the viruses ability to spread quickly, lowering our case numbers and protecting our vulnerable population.
No one is saying you are stuck in a mask 24/7. No one is stripping your freedoms from you – you are free to come and go as you please. Consider stores “wear a mask policy” the same as “no shoes, no shirt, no service” – no mask, no entry. No one is up in arms that they have to wear a shirt at the store…
GET THAT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH!!
Raising young children at any time is a challenge. Infants, particularly newborns have very little immune systems. They are still developing, and are not yet vaccinated for serious communicable diseases. In recent years, outbreaks of the measles have caused huge problems for those with newborns – and have created a ripple of fear in parents. The ability to chose to not vaccinate leaves our communities with large vulnerabilities. It’s a well known fact that children are tiny germ factories: it’s why we all know to expect a cold/flu to rage through our homes in mid September/October, just after the kiddos return to school – it happens every year. That’s why it’s so much harder with children right now.
When Charlotte was born, we were right in the middle of typical “cold & flu” season. We were extra cautious, and kept her visitors at a minimum to protect her health. One month later, the COVID-19 pandemic began – and the uncertainty swept over the country. Children were pulled from school. The country closed its borders and suspended international travel. Businesses closed and people began working from home in crazy situations, trying to kept some semblance of normal in lives.
Raising children during a pandemic is like trying to keep wild wolf cubs indoors. There’s a lot of pent up energy, and no where for it to go. There’s confusion, sadness, stress, and frustration. It’s a broken-record of “Don’t touch that”, “keep your distance”; “we can’t go to the hospital right now”. At 4 months old, everything that isn’t tied down goes directly in Charlotte’s mouth. It’s unavoidable: meaning – everywhere we go, everything we touch has to be disinfected. The people in our circle have been selected carefully, we don’t have a choice; We have to trust the ones who come into contact with Charlotte. We have to trust that they are diligent in hand washing, because it doesn’t matter how many times we try and stop her: ITS GOING IN HER MOUTH. Your hand, her hand, my hand, toys, car seat straps – whatever it is, it’s in her mouth. And that is a terrifying fact, considering how COVID-19 is spread. We have no control over that, but we do have control over who interacts with her closely.
“I live in a madhouse run by a tiny human army I made myself”
^^ the definition of being a mom. I thank my lucky stars each day for the two girls who walk this path with me. The age range of our children goes from 4months to 7 years – and we have many different experiences to share with each other. These girls are my sanity. My rocks. The ones who both laugh with, and cry with me. We get to watch our children grow together, and help each other raise good humans. Because that’s the goal: it’s not about “who is the best mom” – it’s about, raising children who are kind, loving, accepting – in a world that so often influences them not to be.
We are navigating this crisis together .We stand alongside each other, as we try to determine what the right step to take is. Children are not the best at hygiene. Despite constant reminders, kids still touch things they shouldn’t. It’s not a conscious rebellion, just not something they’re used to having to consider. I watch as Sophie and Chael play together, and I am grateful they have each other to maintain some kind of normalcy. It is a strange time to live in. It’s a heartbreaking moment to watch Sophie, a kind and gentle (almost) 5 year old, skirt around Charlotte’s car seat when we arrive. It’s hard to explain why we can’t let her hold Charlotte, when her huge heart so desperately wants to. Last week, we let her touch Charlotte’s feet – and her face broke into a smile like I’ve never seen. Life is hard. Being a mom is hard. Being a kid is hard. It’s just hard.
It’s difficult to explain what’s going on it the world right now. Most adults don’t seem to understand the limited information we do have, and trying to explain it in a way 5-7year olds will understand is a challenge. It doesn’t make sense for them. This virus isn’t something tangible for them. They’ve been out of school since March, and at this point there is a lot of confusion and concern surrounding what September will bring. Explaining why they can’t see friends, teachers, or go to school is hard. They have no routine. It’s to be expected by now that everyone’s children are running a little wild 😜
The greatest gift we have received from this situation, is the time we have gotten to spend as families. Despite the stress this pandemic is causing, it has also allowed people to take a step back into the natural world, and focus on their family. We talk about “things getting back to normal” when in reality, our old “normal” was never working. We were an overworked, over stressed society focused on capital gains, sacrificing quality time for work requirements without flexible solutions. Suddenly, overnight – flexible work options have been created, so why would we consider our old normal something to strive for?
“Mama Bear is such a sweet way to describe the fact that I’ll tear you open and eat your insides if you hurt my child”
I laugh at the validity of the statement above: I am without a doubt, a Mama Bear. Chael and I often laugh when I remind him not to play rough/throw things near Charlotte. There’s a good natured joke that if something hits the baby, I hit whoever threw it. I would never actually do it, but sometimes being straight up and blunt is the best method – he completely understands the fact that there are consequences to his actions. And because of this, he adjusts his actions and is more aware in his environment. He is careful and slow around Charlotte, which is saying something for a kid who doesn’t sit still often.
You see, for me (and most mamas) our babies are our biggest treasure. Charlotte is a miracle – a surprise we didn’t know we needed. And I hold her as such. She is a precious gift we were given, in a time when the world had lost all colour. Losing Addison gives me, as a mother, an in-depth, and frightening truth that we are guaranteed nothing. So I hold my child like I only get today with her. I protect her and worry about her in ways that are sometimes a bit insane – but that is the truth in being a mama. I worry for her health and safety normally, and this pandemic is like putting a jet-pack on. Sure – COVID-19 doesn’t typically affect young children and babies – but the reality is, we really just don’t know that much yet.
It takes a village to raise a child – and we are building our village from the ground up – arming Charlotte’s corner with people who want the best for her, and are ready to help her navigate life’s challenges. In a world so focused on materialistic things, we strive to fill Charlotte’s life with experiences and love, rather than things. When we don’t fully understand situations, we seek out those who have better insight. We educate ourselves in regards to human rights, and understand that Charlotte is a little human in a big scary world right now. We are arming her corner with people who will support her. Dream with her. I never understand when people shame kids for having a meltdown occasionally. They are just little humans trying to navigate big feelings – and it’s our job as parents to help them figure out their feelings, and be the calm – not add to their chaos.
COVID-19 has definitely changed our experience with Charlotte – it is not at all what we expected. All those things we would take for granted, like family visits and support with a newborn – they didn’t get to happen as much. Hell, we still can’t get together to recognize her Godparents, because our base family unit is 12 people. Reality is such a strange and ever changing place currently. But we hold strong together. We laugh together. We vent, we cry, we clean, – wherever this pandemic takes us – we stand ready to help each other navigate the waves.
“Your kids require you, most of all, to love them for who they are. Not spend the whole time trying to correct them” – Bill Ayers
I feel that overall, this pandemic provides an additional challenge for parents – regardless of the age of your child. Whether you were a stay-at-home parent, or working shift work & using daycare: it really doesn’t matter. Uncertainty is stressful. Change is not something we enjoy. It is difficult to explain a situation where the “enemy” is invisible. But please remember: our children are watching. They are listening to us, and we are their cue on how to react. They already have their own worries: It is not the time to add ours. Be the calm in the eye of a storm. Discuss concerns and worries with your partner, but come united to your kids. They’re just as confused as we all are.