It would be easy if I could just simply say that mothers who have had babies during Covid times experienced more loneliness, isolation and anxiety compared to mothers who had free social reign. Or that Covid-era babies were finding it harder to socialise and go to other people or tolerate lots of noise or large groups of people compared to other peoples who had a full social calendar. But it’s not that way at all.
Covid-era mothers were, and still are, a mixed bag of lollies.
Covid-era babies are still likened to liquorice all-sorts, sometimes good, sometimes confused, not sure which layer they relate to, or how they want to feel at any particular moment.
What is true of Covid-era mothers and babies is that they do enjoy getting out when they can, and can feel uplifted, normal, and revived by the company of other mums and babies. The power of the shared experience can never be underestimated. And today this was achieved. There are few assumptions we can make about parenting in this time. Actually, when getting to know anyone or connect to another’s story, we should never assume anything. But it can be assumed that mothers of babies born during Covid lock down did not get the benefit from a mother’s group or parenting group in the early days of parenting. Social distancing meant they did not exist. So mothers enjoyed the quiet life and the opportunity to have uninterrupted time with their babies. Even if this was the case, they associated maternity leave with the beginning of a friendship circle to share the experience and the load.
Today, two of my Puddleduck 2019 mothers, Kelly and Lauren achieved the beginning of this.
A year ago these two beautiful mummas met at their local mothers group. About the same time, I started the Puddleduck Parent Group and they came along.
It saw them past the four week program of the government Child Health and Parenting Service and was a continuation of support and care. It gave them a sense of connection, belonging and comfort that others were going through the same thing. Having babies at different ages (ranging from new-borns to 10 months) meant the mothers could also learn from each other.
We also worked with the value that all mothers have the right to reach their full potential and in order to do this, they should be supported in all the decisions that are based around what is best for them and their family. This means we love breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. We acknowledge that not being able to breastfeed is not a reflection of your personality, motivation, or determination. It just did not work. But heaven forbid you just don’t want to do it anyway, it’s your call! And this goes the same for all decisions along the way. No two mothers or babies are the same.
Something I have learnt from talking to 2019 mums and Covid-era mums, is that even with all the time at home and extra time available for setting up good sleep practices, routine may still remain that thing you read about in books. A theory. Not a given. With all the time in the world, all the research, all the best of intentions, staying home all day, everyday, does not mean routine will be achieved, or more easily achieved. Once again, sometimes it happens, but most of the time though it remains an elusive goal. One that seems to be the foremost focus for establishing good long term habits and a happier sleep restored family, but again, don’t assume anything. Nah – some day are like diamonds, others are just the contents of the exploded nappy hitting the fan.
Something I do have to raise about mothers with babies born in 2019 or 2020 – they need a break!
Babies can be clingy and analysing. Why that is or deflecting it onto the parent as something they have or haven’t done, is not helpful. We can all remember what it’s like to have a little urchin stuck to our legs. Not being able to pee alone. Not being able to shower. Where not having clean hair, but just having clean underwear is a huge achievement for the day. Mothers need all hands on deck. And we all have a role to play. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can hold a baby, distract them with the blowing trees outside, with a lullaby or the contents of your handbag. Time to yourself is golden and can be the greatest gift you can give a parent. Drop in for half an hour. Tell the mother you are not there for chit chat. You are there to play so she can return phone calls, lie down or read a book. You don’t need to make it complicated or time consuming, small pockets of time here and there is a break in a routine day of feed, play, sleep (not in that order!).
And I am going to put the onus on our youth, our teenagers of today – please, if you know of a mum with a baby, use your youthful energy and spirit to care for a mum. Don’t be afraid to be confident. Don’t be afraid on intruding or not knowing what to do. Be yourself. Use what you do have, not what you don’t have, you have youth – playfulness, silliness, song, dance, carefree attitude. Please, we can all need a hand tapping into our youthful outlook – spread it around. Our youthful generation, we value your help and input in our lives. Just like the aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends, there is a place for youth in child rearing too.
One thing we could all agree on, is that changing the nappy of a newly mobile baby is a far greater challenge than any other work-related task assigned to us. In fact, solving climate change and creating world peace would be an easier job. A difficult nappy change requires throwing all rules out the door and giving a child anything they want – and can’t usually have – with the end result being a crying baby who doesn’t understand why they can no longer have the tv remote, mobile phone or car keys – but at least they have a clean bottom and mum has kicked a goal! One solution a mum came up with was changing the nappy with the toddler standing up. The mind game is to keep them standing while you grab the nappy gear so that their poo isn’t smeared around their bottom when they sit down avoiding a major wipe up. Speed and efficient wiping are tricks to the game. And you must always win!
After experiencing the wonders of our Puddleduck group last year, Kelly and Lauren decided to hold a morning tea to nourish the souls and babies of Covid-era mums who did not have a mothers’ group. They brought all these issues to light and let them swirl and dance around our circle of new and old friendships igniting the feelings of ‘knowing’, ‘getting it’, ‘I am with you’ and ‘me too’. We were not alone. And to be able to laugh about it was the spiritual WD40 we all needed. Thank you Kelly and Lauren for aligning our stars today and helping us sparkle!
The Puddleduck Parent Group has become the source of great comfort and reassurance for many parents. It is a place where post-natal feelings and depression is spoken about, the sensitive issues of domestic violence can be safely spoken about, where fatigue can be lifted by moments of connection, joy and laughter, and where worries are brought to light and dealt with.