When you become a mom, your whole world turns upside down. You may feel resentment, frustration and other emotions that come from embracing a new life while mourning your old one. The reality of 2020 is that you are not just worrying about being a good mom right now; you are also grappling with a pandemic that has robbed us all of control and security. Embracing the new normal of motherhood can be a struggle on a good day, but it is exceptionally challenging in the middle of COVID-19.
Here are five very common struggles for new moms. I also share why they might be extra challenging during this pandemic and tips to help you move through the struggles. If you’ve been grappling with any of these obstacles, just know that it is completely okay to have a “meltdown” while being a mom. You are still doing a great job! My goal is to show how not to be so tough on yourself.
1. Feeling Isolated
Many new moms end up feeling isolated after bringing a baby home. Once the initial excitement and visits from friends and family have died down, it is just you and your baby. Due to the pandemic, many new moms weren’t even able to get that initial support from their loved ones. Lockdowns and self-isolation measures have limited the number of visitors you might have had as a new mom, and people have had to be extra cautious of spreading germs, especially to newborns.
If you’ve been grappling with loneliness, know that you have agency. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if people can’t physically come to help you with the new baby. Help could be a cooked meal, or having family and friends check in on you more often. Push yourself to engage with loved ones who don’t live with you so that you don’t lose your sense of connection to them.
2. Lack of Community
Many new moms turn to other moms and family members for advice, support, and community. Under normal circumstances, you would be able to fill your day with play dates and recreational activities. Unfortunately, due to the isolation of social distancing, it’s easy to feel a lack of community and connection in this current moment.
There are so many online communities and groups for new moms and moms in general. If you’ve been feeling like you’re doing this alone, don’t be afraid to engage in these groups. You can even create a virtual group of your own with other moms in your network. Virtual recreational activities can give you the opportunity to meet other parents without leaving home. I have even seen some group activities like Mom and Me baby yoga being held in the park; with the proper precautions, some in-person events like these might already be within your reach.
3. Losing Alone Time
No daycares and nowhere to go means no “me time.” Typically, many new moms could leave the house to get their nails done, go to the gym, go out to a restaurant with friends or even just grab a coffee. Due to the pandemic, you are mostly stuck at home. Children know when Mom is still in the house. It is almost like their super power. There is no hiding from them while they are awake. With so many moms pivoting their careers to take care of their children, work gets pushed to the times when the children are down. When your free time becomes work time, your “me time” can quickly vanish.
One easy way to make sure you still make time for yourself is to take advantage of nap times. Don’t fill that hour or 30 minutes with house chores. Fill it with something that’s just for you. Take a longer shower, have a hot cup of coffee. Do a 15-minute home workout. Try to make sure that you are filling up your cup throughout the day. If you have a partner at home, ask them to take your baby out for a walk or to the park for an hour so you can have the house to yourself.
4. Expectations About Being A Mom
It is okay to struggle with unfulfilled expectations for this time, to think about what motherhood would have been like if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic. Reflecting on changes we couldn’t have anticipated and mourning the experiences we should have had is a necessary step, but it can also take a lot of energy out of us. We need to shift out of a mindset of loss and try to embrace the positives of these circumstances, and that is no easy task.
The feeling of disappointment is a hard one to shake. Try to find the light where you can. Start a journal or keep a daily time slot for gratitude. Get in the habit of naming three things that you are grateful for and one positive thing that happened every day. Holding onto what could have been or what used to be will just keep you from appreciating all that you still have.
5. Increased Marital Conflict
Couples go through so many ups and downs while trying to learn how to parent for the first time. You are trying to find a rhythm with your partner and trying to find time to reconnect. While everything is closed it can be challenging to have date nights. If your partner is working from home, it can feel overwhelming to spend so much time around them without having any space. If your partner has continued to work outside of the house, there can be some feelings of resentment towards them for having that sense of normalcy in their lives. How do we keep a sense of love and appreciation for each other when we’re under more pressure than ever?
It’s crucial to make sure you are communicating with your partner and asking them how they are feeling through all of this. Communication is key to feeling heard and understood. You can always plan date nights in, whether you are ordering takeout or making a nice meal. You can still get all dressed up and light some candles. You don’t need to leave your house to have a little romance. Plan a more elaborate movie night – did you know you can order popcorn from the cinemas?
The reality of motherhood is a lot more challenging than most expect. You sacrifice your body, sleep, social life, career, disposable income, eating hot meals, peeing alone, patience, energy and sanity. Remember that it is ok to have bad days and to struggle with your current reality during this pandemic. But know that there will be good days too. Be kind to yourself through this pandemic and remember you are not alone.
You can learn more about Lara and her “Embrace It Mama” conversation series on the realties of motherhood here.