"As we hide in our homes waiting out this virus, I’m worried about another, silent, pandemic."
By Lindsay Springer| June 12, 2020
"On any given day, I make 17 snacks, change 12 diapers, listen to 957 complaints, constantly remind everyone to wash their hands, and burst into tears at least three times.
Yes, this is life with young kids. It’s what I signed up for and no, it’s not glamorous. Being a mom doesn’t come with “me” time. Showers are forever getting interrupted by preschoolers and their endless barrage of nonsensical questions. With three kids aged six and under, including a newborn, sleep is segmented, at best.
Before COVID-19, the tantrum-filled, sleep-deprived whirlwind was mostly relegated to the weekends—but at least they were also filled with park visits, lunches with grandparents, playdates, dance, art and swimming classes. And back then, there was actually an end in sight—back to work/school/childcare on Monday, huzzah!
But now, 82 days into the longest weekend ever lived, and I’m so, so tired. Tired of living the same day over and over again. Tired of making toilet paper binoculars and watching Paw Patrol. Tired of Lysol wiping the groceries and Amazon boxes. Tired of staying home. Tired of being scared of COVID-19.
My four-year-old has developed a propensity for never-ending tantrums. My now feral six-year-old refuses to change out of his pyjamas or wear shoes. My husband has set up a home office in our basement storage room, the place least likely for a partially dressed child to wander in during a Zoom call (and literally the only other room in our house that is not occupied by the rest of us). The baby is oblivious, smiling and cooing at the chaos around him. Me? I’m quietly falling apart.
How can I keep doing this? How can I get in the shower every night, wash off the spit up, the glitter glue, and the sandbox, only to crawl into bed, feed the baby, and wake up in the morning of this never-ending Groundhog Day and do it all again, without a break in sight? I, like many parents, am worn out and tired, and I fear this unsustainable hamster wheel we’re on is giving rise to a silent, mental health pandemic.
A recent survey published by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto found that Canadian parents of children under 18, and mothers, in particular, were disproportionately more likely to report new or amplified symptoms of anxiety and depression related to COVID-19. These survey results are alarming, but not at all surprising since COVID-19 has changed parenting and redefined the landscape of motherhood."
By Pooja Lakshmin|may 27, 2020
"New and expecting moms are facing pandemic-related fears on top of social isolation."
Photo: Mikyung Lee
"After going through a harrowing bout of postpartum depression with her first child, my patient, Emily, had done everything possible to prepare for the postpartum period with her second. She stayed in treatment with me, her perinatal psychiatrist, and together we made the decision for her to continue Zoloft during her pregnancy. With the combination of medication, psychotherapy and a significant amount of planning, she was feeling confident about her delivery in April. And then, the coronavirus hit.
Emily, whose name has been changed for privacy reasons, called me in late-March because she was having trouble sleeping. She was up half the night ruminating about whether she’d be able to have her husband with her for delivery and how to manage taking care of a toddler and a newborn without help. The cloud that we staved off for so long was returning, and Emily felt powerless to stop it.
Postpartum depression and the larger group of maternal mental health conditions called perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are caused by neurobiological factors and environmental stressors. Pregnancy and the postpartum period are already vulnerable times for women due in part to the hormonal fluctuations accompanying pregnancy and delivery, as well as the sleep deprivation of the early postpartum period. Now, fears about the health of an unborn child or an infant and the consequences of preventive measures, like social distancing, have added more stress.
As a psychiatrist who specializes in taking care of pregnant and postpartum women, I’ve seen an increase in intrusive worry, obsessions, compulsions, feelings of hopelessness and insomnia in my patients during the coronavirus pandemic. And I’m not alone in my observations: Worldwide, mental health professionals are concerned. A special editorial in a Scandinavian gynecological journal called attention to the psychological distress that pregnant women and new mothers will experience in a prolonged global pandemic. A report from Zhejiang University in China detailed the case of a woman who contracted Covid-19 late in her pregnancy and developed depressive symptoms. In the United States, maternal mental health experts have also described an increase in patients with clinical anxiety.
In non-pandemic times, as many as 14 percent of women will suffer from pregnancy-related anxiety, which refers to fears that women have about their own health and their baby’s over the course of pregnancy and delivery, and up to 20 percent of women will experience postpartum depression.
Samantha Meltzer-Brody, M.D., M.P.H., who is the chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the director of the Center for Women’s Mood Disorders, said, “The natural vulnerability of this major life transition is exacerbated when you just have sort of global anxiety, and things like going to the grocery store to pick up diapers suddenly become a much more anxiety-producing event than it ever was before.”
In my clinical practice and in a Covid-19 maternal well-being group I co-founded, women have voiced their fears about a number of possible distressing scenarios: delivering without a support person; being one of the 15 percent of pregnant women who is asymptomatic for Covid-19 and facing possible infant separation; and recovering during a postpartum period without the help of family or friends to provide support. There’s also grief about the loss of a hopeful time that was meant to be celebrated with loved ones."
By: Mikaela Kiner
"Pre-pandemic, being a mom meant figuring out the tricky balance between parenting, home, career and self. What that meant in practice was that women in heterosexual relationships took on about two-thirds of domestic responsibilities.
The global coronavirus pandemic has resulted in dramatic shifts for everyone, especially for families, with parents working from home, school and day care closures and a general loss of stability and support. Now moms are homeschooling older kids, caring for little ones, feeding their families three meals a day, and sanitizing everything, all while trying to keep everyone healthy and keep up with their day jobs.
While many partners have stepped up to take on more responsibilities at home during the pandemic, the workload balance has not shifted enough (despite nearly half of men claiming they do "all" the homeschooling, a claim that most women disagree with).
Women are legitimately concerned that they will become the default caregivers and take on most or all of the household chores, leaving little or no time for their careers or their own well-being.
Here's how to keep that from happening by coming to an agreement with your partner about sharing the workload at home.
1. Have the hard conversation.
Many people avoid hard conversations out of a fear that things will become adversarial. But now more than ever, we need to talk about roles and expectations. Remember that your partner also wants what's best for you and the family. View this conversation as a collaborative conflict, one where the two of you are working together toward a win-win solution.
Phrase to try: "Let's sit down for half an hour this evening and review both of our to-do lists," or "Can we find a time in the next day or two to go over everything we're both trying to get done?"
2. Start with your goals in mind.Your goal is to come up with a plan that works for both of you. The focus is you both teaming up against the problem.
Phrase to try: "I'd like to talk about how we can both find a good balance between work and helping the kids," or, "So much has changed. Let's talk about how we're going to make this work for us both."
3. Share your hopes + fears.
Tell your partner what you're worried about, and what's been most challenging. Be honest about your experience and what you're afraid of. You'll notice there are no assumptions, personal attacks, shaming or blaming, which is important. My friend Melissa Strawn was in the middle of launching a business when the virus hit. Her husband works full-time and they're raising five boys. Melissa suggests, "Communicate openly and honestly about what's working and not working. Sometimes, I am just looking to feel validated given how much I actually juggle with five kids and a startup. Other times, I need him to just #getitdone."
Phrase to try: "I'm concerned that I've taken on all of the homeschooling and I don't have time to do my work," or, "I realize I'm trying to cook, clean and watch the baby. When I sit down to focus on my job, I'm already exhausted."