I’ve never been a news watcher, but in the spring of 2020 I spent more time on my phone scrolling the news than I ever had before. There I was, 30-something weeks pregnant, at home with two kids four and under, in a stay-at-home order. I dreamed of getting out of the house and doing as many things as possible before the baby arrived, but instead I spent the final two months of my pregnancy at home.
And then, in May, she arrived — welcomed into a room of masked faces. My sweet, precious baby came into this world so wide-eyed and innocent, a bright light in the middle of what would be one of the strangest years of our lives.
Now 21 months old, she has lived her entire life in this pandemic. And she only knows me as a mom who parents in one. I haven’t changed entirely, of course. I still stay at home with her, and work from home with her, and love her so much, just as I did with my other kids — but I find myself more distracted.
I check my phone more often, as if it’ll make time go by more quickly, or that staring at it will suddenly make the news disappear. Since I’m not going out much, I try to find ways to fill my cup — riding the Peloton, watching TV, reading, writing — but sometimes I worry that I’m distracting myself too much and in turn, missing precious moments that are happening right in front of me.
As a family, we’ve spent more time at home than we ever have before. My other kids had the benefit of library story times, and play dates, and group fitness classes for moms with babies. This time around, my toddler knows the layout of our house really well.
I feel guilty that she hasn’t had the same experiences that my older kids did at her age, and guilty that I am a more anxious, distracted mom. I feel like I should have the energy and creativity to create experiences that are just as fun to do at home, but the truth is, I’m burnt out. The spring of 2020 was filled with homemade playdough and crafting and cozy, stay-at-home days, but the winter of 2022 is filled with a lot more TV time and “go play with your brother and sister,” and “let’s bake with mommy” (probably because she’s craving chocolate).
After a particularly hard day of parenting, and a few tears shed in front of my husband, he reminded me that no parent of young kids has ever done this before. The guilt that I feel is not necessary. I am doing the best that I can, and this is all my daughter knows. She doesn’t know what life was like before this time, so there’s no reason to compare. For every hard moment, the past two years have been equally filled with good times and special memories that wouldn’t have been made otherwise.
The best part about pandemic parenting, is the comfort in knowing I am not doing it alone. Millions of women have welcomed babies into this world over the past two years, and I like to think that when we all meet each other at kindergarten registration in a few years, we will share a bond that only we will understand. “We did it,” we will say. The pandemic mommies.