They say, “it takes a village to raise a child,” but the village is social distancing in this day and age. They say, “don’t be afraid to ask for help” after bringing a newborn home, but the health officials are warning everyone to stay in their own households and avoid COVID-19. The world keeps turning, and babies keep arriving, but the support options keep decreasing, and isolation keeps increasing.
Believe us, we are two practicing pediatricians, and we are personally witnessing what this new challenge is doing to parents. As if it wasn’t hard enough to get pregnant and raise children before 2020, and its equally daunting successor 2021, are making the newborn stage and parenting that much harder.
How to Handle the Newborn Stage Without Your Village
So what are parents to do? Here are tips for how to survive the newborn stage without family support.
1. Prepare yourself.
The newborn stage is hard. Babies take time to get into a routine, and sleep will be scarce. It’s going to take a few months before you feel like you have your bearings. Your partner may be overwhelmed with work, and your extended family may not be able to help like usual. Set your expectations low for what will likely be a challenging time, so you’re mentally prepared for what is to come.
2. Cut yourself some slack.
You were a pregnant mom during a pandemic. You’re now a new mom during a pandemic. That in and of itself deserves recognition, so make sure to be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack. Now is not the time to add more to your plate. You may not be able to have the perfect diet or a Pinterest-worthy house. You may not be able to shower somedays or reply to text messages, and that’s okay. This time is all about survival and forgiveness. You’re doing a great job just by making it.
3. Hire help or delegate if and when possible.
If you have the funds and can find a way to safely do so, hire a sitter to help you out. Even a few hours of reprieve can make a huge difference. There are also many people looking for odd jobs now, so consider hiring someone to run your errands, or get your groceries. If you cannot afford to do that, consider delegating more home tasks and chores to older siblings or those in your social circle. Chances are they can use the screen break and added responsibility! Remember the latchkey kids? Well, they all turned out alright. Let’s make the quarantine-kids the next emotionally intelligent and helpful generation.
4. Tell people what you need.
One common trait many moms have in the newborn stage is the inability to ask for help. There can be many reasons for this: fear of burdening others, fear of rejection, or feeling like admitting this would make them a failure somehow. If you’re overwhelmed, tell someone. Admitting vulnerability is actually a big strength, not a weakness. Tell multiple people. You may find support in untraditional ways, but at least you’ll feel less alone.
5. Reach out to your doctors.
Consider talking to your medical professionals. Not only are they full of resources, but they can remind you that you’re not alone and that most other moms feel this way. If you’re feeling emotional or down, consider talking to your OB so they can let you know if you may have postpartum depression. Before COVID-19, depression and anxiety affected one in seven women during the perinatal period. Data is still lacking to know the pandemic’s full effect on postpartum women now, but it’s safe to say moms are not okay. Use your resources and prioritize yourself as much as possible. There is nothing easy about this.
6. Surround yourself with online support.
Although people may not be able to come to help you out in person, remember there’s an entire online world that has your back. Whether it’s video chatting with your family or friends or joining online mom groups like Baby Chick, the possibilities are endless. Expand your social media stream to provide you with content applicable to your situation.
In conclusion, bringing a new baby home and the newborn stage are challenging for parents, and the pandemic only adds to them. In the end, it is always worth it because parenting is one of the most enriching experiences a person can have. Still, the fatigue and isolation that comes with parenting can sometimes be surprising and unexpected. They say, “it takes a village to raise a child,” but in this day and age, that’s just not possible, and we need to acknowledge how hard that is. It’s time to come up with a new and more modern expression. How about “it takes a family to raise a child, no matter how little or small that may be.”