Opinion| Megan Markle: The Duchess of Sussex
"Perhaps the path to healing begins with three simple words: Are you OK?"
"It was a July morning that began as ordinarily as any other day: Make breakfast. Feed the dogs. Take vitamins. Find that missing sock. Pick up the rogue crayon that rolled under the table. Throw my hair in a ponytail before getting my son from his crib.
After changing his diaper, I felt a sharp cramp. I dropped to the floor with him in my arms, humming a lullaby to keep us both calm, the cheerful tune a stark contrast to my sense that something was not right.
I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.
Hours later, I lay in a hospital bed, holding my husband’s hand. I felt the clamminess of his palm and kissed his knuckles, wet from both our tears. Staring at the cold white walls, my eyes glazed over. I tried to imagine how we’d heal.
I recalled a moment last year when Harry and I were finishing up a long tour in South Africa. I was exhausted. I was breastfeeding our infant son, and I was trying to keep a brave face in the very public eye.
“Are you OK?” a journalist asked me. I answered him honestly, not knowing that what I said would resonate with so many — new moms and older ones, and anyone who had, in their own way, been silently suffering. My off-the-cuff reply seemed to give people permission to speak their truth. But it wasn’t responding honestly that helped me most, it was the question itself.
“Thank you for asking,” I said. “Not many people have asked if I’m OK.”
Sitting in a hospital bed, watching my husband’s heart break as he tried to hold the shattered pieces of mine, I realized that the only way to begin to heal is to first ask, “Are you OK?”
Are we? This year has brought so many of us to our breaking points. Loss and pain have plagued every one of us in 2020, in moments both fraught and debilitating. We’ve heard all the stories: A woman starts her day, as normal as any other, but then receives a call that she’s lost her elderly mother to Covid-19. A man wakes feeling fine, maybe a little sluggish, but nothing out of the ordinary. He tests positive for the coronavirus and within weeks, he — like hundreds of thousands of others — has died.
A young woman named Breonna Taylor goes to sleep, just as she’s done every night before, but she doesn’t live to see the morning because a police raid turns horribly wrong. George Floyd leaves a convenience store, not realizing he will take his last breath under the weight of someone’s knee, and in his final moments, calls out for his mom. Peaceful protests become violent. Health rapidly shifts to sickness. In places where there was once community, there is now division.
On top of all of this, it seems we no longer agree on what is true. We aren’t just fighting over our opinions of facts; we are polarized over whether the fact is, in fact, a fact. We are at odds over whether science is real. We are at odds over whether an election has been won or lost. We are at odds over the value of compromise.
That polarization, coupled with the social isolation required to fight this pandemic, has left us feeling more alone than ever.
When I was in my late teens, I sat in the back of a taxi zipping through the busyness and bustle of Manhattan. I looked out the window and saw a woman on her phone in a flood of tears. She was standing on the sidewalk, living out a private moment very publicly. At the time, the city was new to me, and I asked the driver if we should stop to see if the woman needed help.
He explained that New Yorkers live out their personal lives in public spaces. “We love in the city, we cry in the street, our emotions and stories there for anybody to see,” I remember him telling me. “Don’t worry, somebody on that corner will ask her if she’s OK.”
Now, all these years later, in isolation and lockdown, grieving the loss of a child, the loss of my country’s shared belief in what’s true, I think of that woman in New York. What if no one stopped? What if no one saw her suffering? What if no one helped?
I wish I could go back and ask my cabdriver to pull over. This, I realize, is the danger of siloed living — where moments sad, scary or sacrosanct are all lived out alone. There is no one stopping to ask, “Are you OK?”
Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few. In the pain of our loss, my husband and I discovered that in a room of 100 women, 10 to 20 of them will have suffered from miscarriage. Yet despite the staggering commonality of this pain, the conversation remains taboo, riddled with (unwarranted) shame, and perpetuating a cycle of solitary mourning."
"Health care workers are still fighting to keep their homes and communities safe."
By: Jessica Grose | December 23, 2020
"When I spoke to Dr. Stephanie Whitener, 41, an anesthesia critical care physician and mother of two, the parent-teacher organization at her son’s elementary school was planning an in-person happy hour for teachers. “I spent yesterday trying to rally all the parents I knew in health care to stop it, because of the risk to them, and also to in-person learning,” said Dr. Whitener, who lives in Charleston, S.C.
Though they did end up canceling the happy hour, “it feels like I live in two different realities,” she said, one where people take the virus seriously, and another where they don’t. That dichotomy can make the emotional and psychological toll of treating Covid-19 patients even harder to bear.
As this strange and difficult year draws to a close, I wanted to highlight the experiences of parents who are medical workers — and thank them for their service. Like so many other essential workers, they have put their physical and mental well-being on the line in 2020 to do their jobs. These frontline workers are at greater risk for burnout and PTSD than the general population. Some have been separated from their children for weeks at a time, communicating only on Zoom.
Like all parents, they’re worried about their own kids, socially, academically and emotionally — while also fretting about the children who are falling behind in school because of the barriers to remote learning, and who may be grieving over family members lost to the virus. And even after more than 300,000 deaths in the United States alone, some health care workers are still trying to convince their communities that the virus is a real threat.
“Some of the first deaths I experienced were people only 5 to 10 years older than me, not 70-year-olds,” said Brianna Tremblay, a 36-year-old I.C.U. nurse practitioner in northern New Jersey. She is also the mom of a 3-year-old and pregnant with a baby due in January. Her distress was especially overwhelming in March and April, when the first surge of the virus was hitting the New York City region. “I came home from work every single night and cried with my husband,” Tremblay said.
“When a patient would crash, we would spend hours in the room trying to save them, and then have to call the family,” to give them the bad news, Tremblay said. Her I.C.U. had a mortality rate of 80 to 90 percent in March and April for Covid-19 patients. “It truly was a war zone.”
Several of the workers I spoke with caught the virus themselves. Cecilia Duran, a 38-year-old midwife in New York City, fell ill in March, when she was 10 weeks pregnant. In addition to fairly intense symptoms — “worse than the flu,” she said — she was also dealing with the nausea and fatigue of early pregnancy. “I was quarantining with my toddler, who was also sick, and my husband was trying to figure out his working from home situation in a small New York apartment,” she said. “It was complete insanity.”
Dr. Mary Thomas, a pediatrician in New Jersey, said that she’s much more worried about many of her young patients than she is about her own three children (her whole family already had the virus and recovered). “I’m seeing so much anxiety and depression, and a lot of it has to do with this terrible year,” Dr. Thomas said. “Parents are unemployed or losing money or stressed on top of it, and kids are on screens for hours a day.”
"The tween and teenage years are already filled with heightened emotions and social pressures – adding a pandemic to the mix only makes things more complex. How can we best support older kids who have been impacted by COVID-19?
Our guest experts will discuss how to help your teens and tweens through this difficult time, how to monitor and care for their mental health, and more."
This webinar is a free event being held on Thursday January 28th from 9PM-10PM (Eastern Time).
By: Cory Turner, Anya Kamenetz, & Meghan Keane| December 10, 2020
"For the kids in our lives, the last nine months have been many things. Scary — because an invisible, unknown illness was suddenly spreading across the globe. Maybe even fun, when the possibility of school closing felt like a snow day. But for many, that novelty has given way to frustration and sadness — even depression and anxiety. Just like adults, kids are wondering: Will I get sick? Will someone I love die?
It's a lot for kids and parents to handle. So we talked to the experts and came away with five tips for how you can help your kids through this.
Make sure your kids wear their masks
"Kids generally don't get very sick from this virus," says Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. But, he says, they can still play a part in making sure others don't get sick by wearing their masks and social distancing.
It might take a little imagination. If you have younger kids, you can explain the spread of the coronavirus by comparing their mouths to a bottle of bug spray. Weird, yes — but it's one way for young ones to visualize the tiny droplets they spread, even when they aren't sick. If they wear a mask, it helps keep those droplets in.
If you've got older kids or teenagers, take this a step further: Encourage them to spread the word. Practice what they might say if they're with friends at the park and someone takes their mask off. Maybe your 13-year-old has been waiting months to see Grandma and could say, "I need to keep my Grandma safe, so do you mind putting your mask on?"
Rehearse it with your kids so the conversation goes smoothly.
Practice positive thinking and mindfulness
In a recent report, researchers interviewed 46 teenagers in California and found that the teens reported a huge sense of loss — similar to the stages of grief. Most of the teens were sleeping badly because of lack of activity and lots of screen time.
Kids of all ages — as well as their parents — can probably relate.
In addition to the obvious prescription — trade in some of that screen time for physical exercise — try some brain exercises too, like replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. You might try saying a few things you're grateful for each night before dinner or before bed. There's evidence behind that: Gratitude boosts your immune system, lowers blood pressure and motivates us to practice healthy habits. It may feel awkward or cheesy, but practicing mindfulness and positivity very consciously can help kids and parents too.
It's also important to watch for signs of something more serious too.
"Depression in teenagers sometimes looks like a prickly porcupine. Everybody rubs them the wrong way," adolescent psychologist Lisa Damour says. Don't take it personally; just keep offering them a listening ear."
By Rafael Nam| November 12, 2020
"Like many married and working couples first confronting the pandemic, Bianca Flokstra and Victor Udoewa tried to go on with their lives as normal.
Flokstra continued to work full time while taking care of their kids, ages 4 and 2. She also handled most of the housework, with her husband helping from time to time. It didn't work.
"Those first couple of months were really hard," Flokstra says. "There was ... a lot of fighting. A lot of tears."
The pandemic has upended many aspects of domestic life, and that has brought new attention to one of the most enduring disparities between men and women — the wide difference in handling housework and child care.
It's what Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at the Stanford VMware Women's Leadership Innovation Lab, calls one of society's most "stubborn" divides.
"The traditional gender division of labor is very durable," Cooper says. "Even the most egalitarian-thinking couples, after having children, find themselves in a much more traditional division of labor than they ever would have intended."
Cooper, who has studied the issue extensively, says that divide, which is rooted in history and perpetuated by persistent societal norms, has endured even as women have joined the workforce in larger numbers over the decades, making record gains.
Yet even as more families become dual-income households, women still do 30% more of the housework and 40% more of the child care, Cooper says.
The disparity in work done at home is now having a serious economic impact as entire families are forced home with schools closed and no child care options available.
More than 2.2 million women have left the workforce this year, far more than the 1.4 million men who have left as a result of the pandemic, according to the monthly U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Proportionally, more women were employed in sectors that were hit hard by the pandemic, including hospitality and retail.
But Cooper, as well as many economists, says the burden placed on working moms during the pandemic is another key variable forcing many women out of the workforce.
Some couples have adapted.
Flokstra, for example, says she had little choice. She desperately needed sleep after exhausting days at a new job in international aid while also taking care of all of her other responsibilities.
She started sending the kids to her husband, unprompted. Then, she started drafting to-do lists — activities she and her husband would split day to day.
But getting there wasn't easy. It wasn't that Udoewa wasn't willing to help; he was.
Flokstra says she had become so used to doing household chores that she found it hard to delegate — and trust — her own husband to do the job.
That hesitancy is surprisingly common among women, according to Cooper.
It's a complicated mix of "mother's guilt" as well as societal expectations on couples, where men are still seen as the breadwinners."
By Pallavi Gogoi| October 28, 2020
The number of women in the workforce overtook men for a brief period earlier this year. But the uncomfortable truth is that in their homes, women are still fitting into stereotypical roles of doing the bulk of cooking, cleaning and parenting. It's another form of systemic inequality within a 21st century home that the pandemic is laying bare. Malte Mueller/fStop/Getty Images
"Women are seeing the fabric of their lives unravel during the pandemic. Nowhere is that more visible than on the job.
In September, an eye-popping 865,000 women left the U.S. workforce — four times more than men.
The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on households, and women are bearing the brunt of it. Not only have they lost the most jobs from the beginning of the pandemic, but they are exhausted from the demands of child care and housework — and many are now seeing no path ahead but to quit working.
Women have made great strides over the years: More women than men are enrolled in college, in medical schools and law schools.
The number of women in the workforce even overtook men for a brief period of three months through February this year.
But the uncomfortable truth is that in their homes, women are still fitting into stereotypical roles of doing the bulk of cooking, cleaning and parenting. It's another form of systemic inequality within a 21st century home that the pandemic is laying bare."
Already, their parents are getting sick and dying. Their kids are falling behind. So along with doing everything else, working becomes impossible.
"The problem is that right now a lot of women don't really have choices, right?" says Martha Gimbel, a labor economist at the nonprofit initiative Schmidt Futures. "They can't send their kids to school. Someone has to supervise the learning. Someone has to deal with the cooking. Someone has to deal with the cleaning, and it's falling onto them. And so they can't make choices that they want to make because they're being restricted in all these ways."
Women are back in 1988
The pandemic's female exodus has decidedly turned back the clock by at least a generation, with the share of women in the workforce down to levels not seen since 1988.
A growing, prosperous economy depends on a large and committed workforce, with women playing a vital role. If women decide to stay on the sidelines, the very dynamism of the U.S. economy is at risk as many households lose half of their earnings and productive capacity. This trend could even turn back the clock on gender equity, with harmful consequences to society and the economy.
Economists are worried.
"We’ve been through so much together since this summer, and we still have a long way to go as pandemic parents and caregivers. (Remember, psychiatrist and child trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry said it’s a thru-hike, not a sprint or even a marathon).
With our co-founders, Dr. Lindsay Malloy and Dr. Amanda Zelechoski, leading the way, let’s take a brisk walk down memory lane (because nobody has time for a stroll right now) to share some of our most impactful moments so far since our first Pandemic Parenting Exchange."
This webinar is free and will be held on Thursday, December 17th, 2020 from 9:00-10:00 PM (Eastern Time) via Zoom.
"We’ve all been there. Exhausted. Busy. Hungry. Bored. You name it—we turn the [insert electronic here] on. (Warning: The mom/parent guilt around this can be strong.)
But what are the actual, science-based facts on screen time…and too much of it? As the weather turns colder, we explain the fact-based pluses and minuses of screen time to increase our knowledge on this hot topic. Jonathan S. Comer, Ph.D. will join as our guest panelist, and Natalie Hong, M.S. will guide the discussion as moderator."
The webinar will be held on December 7, 2020 from 9:00-10:00 PM (Eastern Time) via Zoom.
"Every family is unique in its own ways, and parents are navigating the pandemic the best way they know how. We want to shine a light on our co-parenting parents and single parents who are experiencing their own set of distinctive challenges during the pandemic and provide resources to ease the burdens they may be experiencing."
The webinar will be held on November 24, 2020 from 9:00-10:00 PM (Eastern Time) via Zoom.
October 15, 2020| NPR Staff
From left: Sawsan al-Ramemi of Amman, Jordan, is a mom of two — and expecting her third child. Her husband is working in the U.S. Nienke Pastoor of the Netherlands has been juggling her job as a dairy farmer and helping her four teenagers with their online schoolwork. Jessica Barrera of Eau Claire, Wis., is finding ways to spread joy with her son, Niko, who's a virtual student these days. Nadia Bseiso, Julia Gunther and Lauren Justice for NPR
"When I was growing up, I marveled at how my single mother was able to come home after a long day of work, make dinner, iron our school uniforms and help me and my sister with our homework.
I can't imagine how she would have managed during this pandemic.
What would she have done if she was laid off from her job at the airport? Would she be able to figure out — or afford — virtual school? How would she keep us safe from the virus?
Around the world, mothers have been struggling with these very challenges during the pandemic. We spoke to three mothers who shared how they've been faring: a mom of two in Jordan, expecting her third child and missing the in-person support from family; a dairy farmer with four teenage children — and 165 cows — to look after; and a single mom helping her son, who is on the autism spectrum, find joy in spite of coronavirus restrictions.
Read their stories, check out our special report on 19 women facing the coronavirus crisis — then find out how to nominate a woman to be profiled at the bottom of the story. -- Malaka Gharib"
"Calm And Juggling On A Dairy Farm
The cows rode around the milking carousel, a circular platform lined with 30 individual holding pens that slowly turn clockwise. In each pen, a black and white Holstein or brown and white Montbéliarde waited to be milked.
In the pit below the carousel, 40-year-old Nienke Pastoor stood at udder-height, attaching the milk-extracting pump to each cow as it passed her.
Pastoor, her husband Jaap and Henk, an employee, need just 90 minutes to milk all 165 of the farm's dairy cows.
Pastoor and her husband co-manage a 336-acre dairy farm. One of her many responsibilities is to help run the daily milking operation. She's also the mother of four teenage children; she cooks and cleans; and she manages the farm's books. She regularly gives tours to schoolchildren from the nearby city of Groningen, taking them around the farm and letting them milk the cows by hand.
For a while Pastoor cherished the sudden quiet and freedom that COVID-19 brought to the "Other World": the name given to the remote farming district in the far north of the Netherlands where the Pastoor family have been dairy farmers for 75 years. "We established a strange new family rhythm during the lockdown," she said on a blustery blue-skied afternoon.
The only set routines were the morning and afternoon milking of the cows, and the e-lessons of her children: Thomas, 17, Daniel, 15, and twins Emma and Paulien, 13, who like many students in the Netherlands switched to remote learning in March.
"There was less pressure," she said. "No music lessons or sports games to drive the children to. And because the weather was so nice, life definitely felt a little more relaxed." The only visitors to the farm during the lockdown, which lasted from March 15 till June 2, were the truck drivers who came by three times a week to pick up 3,079 gallons of milk, and the vet who visited every two weeks.
But the pandemic also added new tasks to Pastoor's farm routine. She suddenly had to help the children with their schoolwork. "I made sure they were sitting at their laptops when they were supposed to be. I told them, 'We all have responsibilities in life. I have to do things. And so do you. You make sure the thing you are doing is done on time.' "
The children didn't mind the sudden shift to learning at home. They were able to sleep longer in the mornings as they didn't have to bike to school. The only frustration was the frequent technical glitches — no sound, the teacher's screen not working.
Pastoor was so busy she couldn't do the books for a month. Work kept piling up on the long wooden kitchen table where she normally sits.
"In the end, I had to tell [Jaap and the children] to get out of the kitchen so I could have some time for myself."
"It was difficult being a mother and a farm manager," she said, reflecting on lockdown life. "Everyone expected me to successfully juggle everything."
But dealing with all these responsibilities didn't concern Pastoor. What truly worried her was how she would cope if her husband were to get COVID-19 and succumb to the virus — and she'd be left to manage the farm on her own. "The pandemic really brought that home."
Dutch News| August 19, 2020
"Researchers at Amsterdam’s UMC teaching hospital and a number of other institutes have found coronavirus antibodies in the breast milk of women who have tested positive for the virus.
The research team are now looking into whether the milk could be used to prevent coronavirus infections in vulnerable people during an eventual second wave, possibly in the form of flavoured ice cubes.
hey have already found that the antibodies are not destroyed by pasteurising the milk, which is necessary to make it usable by other people.
"We think when drinking the milk, the antibodies attach themselves to the surface of our mucous membranes,’ Hans van Goudoever, head of the Emma children’s hospital at the UMC, said. ‘Then they attack the virus particles before they force their way into the body."
The UMC has now started a campaign to find 1,000 women who are willing to donate 100ml of breast milk for the research project. ‘Women who may have had coronavirus without noticing it may also have made antibodies which can be found in milk,’ Van Goudoever said. ‘So we are looking for mothers who may have been infected as well.’ Even if this turns out not to be the case, their milk can be stored for further research, if they give permission, he said.
Women who want to take part are urged to contact email@example.com."
By Tara Haelle| August 16, 2020
"It was the end of the world as we knew it, and I felt fine. That’s almost exactly what I told my psychiatrist at my March 16 appointment, a few days after our children’s school district extended spring break because of the coronavirus. I said the same at my April 27 appointment, several weeks after our state’s stay-at-home order.
Yes, it was exhausting having a kindergartener and fourth grader doing impromptu distance learning while I was barely keeping up with work. And it was frustrating to be stuck home nonstop, scrambling to get in grocery delivery orders before slots filled up, and tracking down toilet paper. But I was still doing well because I thrive in high-stress emergency situations. It’s exhilarating for my ADHD brain. As just one example, when my husband and I were stranded in Peru during an 8.0-magnitude earthquake that killed thousands, we walked around with a first aid kit helping who we could and tracking down water and food. Then I went out with my camera to document the devastation as a photojournalist and interview Peruvians in my broken Spanish for my hometown paper.
Now we were in a pandemic, and I’m a science journalist who has written about infectious disease and medical research for nearly a decade. I was on fire, cranking out stories, explaining epidemiological concepts in my social networks, trying to help everyone around me make sense of the frightening circumstances of a pandemic and the anxiety surrounding the virus.
I knew it wouldn’t last. It never does. But even knowing I would eventually crash, I didn’t appreciate how hard the crash would be, or how long it would last, or how hard it would be to try to get back up over and over again, or what getting up even looked like.
In those early months, I, along with most of the rest of the country, was using “surge capacity” to operate, as Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, calls it. Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.
“The pandemic has demonstrated both what we can do with surge capacity and the limits of surge capacity,” says Masten. When it’s depleted, it has to be renewed. But what happens when you struggle to renew it because the emergency phase has now become chronic?"
"Do you ever feel like you’re not doing enough as a parent? Like you might be totally screwing this up and maybe even making things worse for your kids? We’re right there with you. Parenting was already hard, and now we're navigating a pandemic on top of it.
In this webinar, we’ll talk about the self-doubt, anxiety, and uncertainty that has come with pandemic parenting. We’ll also share what the research says about “good enough’ parenting, especially in times of crisis. We’ll be joined by guest, Dr. Sharon Lamb, psychologist and author of The Not Good Enough Mother. Agata Freedle will serve as moderator to guide our conversation and pose questions that you submit.
Join us on Zoom at 9 p.m. Eastern Time for this free webinar."
By Josie Cox| July 30, 2020
"As the epicenter of Covid-19 continues to drift around the globe, leaving death and depression in its wake, it’s become increasingly difficult for even the most naive to defend a whimsical assertion favored by the privileged in the early days of the pandemic. Coronavirus is not a great leveller. It never was.
Data made available to The New York Times earlier this month shows that Latino and African-American residents of the U.S. are three times as likely to become infected as their white neighbors. Black and Latino people are almost twice as likely to die from it.
Other figures show that states with the highest level of income inequality have had a larger number of Covid-19-related deaths than states with lower inequality. And the gender divide is marked too.
As the epicenter of Covid-19 continues to drift around the globe, leaving death and depression in its wake, it’s become increasingly difficult for even the most naive to defend a whimsical assertion favored by the privileged in the early days of the pandemic. Coronavirus is not a great leveller. It never was.
Data made available to The New York Times earlier this month shows that Latino and African-American residents of the U.S. are three times as likely to become infected as their white neighbors. Black and Latino people are almost twice as likely to die from it.
Other figures show that states with the highest level of income inequality have had a larger number of Covid-19-related deaths than states with lower inequality. And the gender divide is marked too.
Almost half of all mothers surveyed felt “rushed and pressed for time” more than half of the time during the lockdown, and 46% felt nervous and stressed more than half of the time. Only 15% of mothers said they had managed to set clear boundaries between work and family, largely on account of the closure of schools and childcare facilities.
“It is clear that parents in particular need more support during school and childcare closures,” says Dr Heejung Chung of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, who led the study.
“There are signs that the increased workload and conflict between work and family has negatively impacted parents’ mental wellbeing, especially mothers,” she adds. “We need a thorough gendered analysis on the economic impact of the lockdown and more resources and policies are needed to support parents especially mothers' labor market attachments.”
Biggest Setback in a Decade
This research adds to reams of existing evidence underscoring the extent to which the pandemic has chipped away at hard-earned progress towards both greater gender equality and women’s economic rights, while exacerbating an already terrifying mental health crisis.
Sofia Sprechmann, Secretary-General of humanitarian agency Care International, recently described Covid-19 as the biggest setback to gender equality in a decade. Research conducted by McKinsey has revealed that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s. The consultancy concluded that because of Coronavirus’ “regressive effect on gender equality”, global GDP growth could be $1 trillion lower in 2030 than it would be if women’s unemployment simply tracked that of men in each sector."
By: Catherine Pearson| July 14, 2020
"We're facing a year without precedent in modern parenthood. So why do we feel...so detached?"
"When the pandemic first hit New York City in March, abruptly closing my boys’ school and daycare, I was a wreck.
I was terrified of my kids getting sick. I was so anxious sitting in bed at night, listening to sirens scream past my window down the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, I’d lose my breath. Then sometimes, I’d have moments of delirious happiness: My family was safe and hanging out together at, like, 11 a.m. on a Tuesday. We never do that! It was emotional and logistical chaos all day, every day.
Now, months into this mess, I move through my days feeling basically ... nothing. When I see friends and family (from a safe distance, outdoors, usually wearing a mask) and they ask how I’m doing, I say something like: “We’re good! We’ve kept our jobs, and no one’s been sick. Also, I’m dead inside.”
This is only a partial joke.
The everyday stresses parents are facing now are arguably worse than they were when the virus first emerged. Where I live in New York City, public schools recently announced they’ll likely open for in-person learning between one and three days a week — as though those are remotely similar. I have no idea if my husband and I are sending our older son in. I have zero idea what we’re doing for childcare for our younger kiddo, because I do not see a solution that feels relatively safe and is one we can actually afford. I have no idea how we are going to get through the fall or winter or any part of next year.
But I’m not freaking out; I’m numb.
And I’m not alone.
“After being on high alert for so long, it’s entirely understandable that numbness would set in. No one can sustain a state of emergency for any length of time. We weren’t built that way,” said Olivia Bergeron, who runs Mommy Groove Therapy & Parent Coaching in New York City. “Fight or flight is supposed to be a temporary state to ensure survival, not a permanent way of living.”
By Pooja Lakshmin|July 29, 2020
"While parents may be feeling unsure about school options this fall, there are ways to feel better as you make the tough decision."
"A combination of dread, panic and sheer exhaustion. This is what I see on the faces of patients (and friends and colleagues) when the conversation turns to the most pressing topic on every parent’s mind: what to do about school in the fall. I’m a psychiatrist specializing in women’s mental health, and I have yet to speak to anyone who feels satisfied with the options presented to them, or who feels particularly confident in the choices they’ve made.
The information on children and the coronavirus has been evolving since March, with the most recent data suggesting that children are less likely to become infected by the virus and less likely to have a severe course when infected. But, those words “less likely” suggest that children are at some, albeit smaller, risk. And, the United States still has not come up with an adequate solution to protect teachers, many of whom are high risk.
As I see it, school stress for parents boils down to two main points: Deciding what to do, and then what to do with the uncomfortable feelings that could arise after that decision. As a psychiatrist, I’m admittedly not so helpful when it comes to the decision of whether or not to send your kids to in-classroom learning this fall. Where I can help is how to deal with the uncertainty and difficult feelings that accompany this process.
A risk assessment system, like the one described by Emily Oster, Ph.D., a professor of economics and public policy at Brown University, can be a useful guide when making decisions with scarce data. Instead of focusing on the illusion of “one right answer,” this framework can give you a reliable process for making hard parenting decisions by focusing on evaluating and mitigating risks, and assessing benefits. While no parent is feeling particularly confident about the school options available to them, it is possible to feel good about the process you use to make those decisions.
In an interview, Dr. Oster wrote, “By making clear the choices, the costs and benefits, we can reason our way to better decisions. But I really think even more important is the fact that we can make our way to more confidence in these decisions by articulating a good process.”
Once you’ve delineated a plan, then you’re faced with the task of coping with the onslaught of feelings, like worry, guilt, fear and uncertainty. For this, here are some strategies, many of which come from acceptance and commitment therapy, a form of behavioral therapy that teaches people to accept their difficult thoughts and feelings as opposed to struggling against them, and to prioritize taking actions that are in line with their values."
Elliot Aronson and Carol Tavris|Social Psychologists| July 12, 2020
"The minute we make any decision--I think COVID-19 is serious; no, I’m sure it is a hoax—we begin to justify the wisdom of our choice and find reasons to dismiss the alternative."
"Members of Heaven’s Gate, a religious cult, believed that as the Hale-Bopp comet passed by Earth in 1997, a spaceship would be traveling in its wake—ready to take true believers aboard. Several members of the group bought an expensive, high-powered telescope so that they might get a clearer view of the comet. They quickly brought it back and asked for a refund. When the manager asked why, they complained that the telescope was defective, that it didn’t show the spaceship following the comet. A short time later, believing that they would be rescued once they had shed their “earthly containers” (their bodies), all 39 members killed themselves.
Heaven’s Gate followers had a tragically misguided conviction, but it is an example, albeit extreme, of cognitive dissonance, the motivational mechanism that underlies the reluctance to admit mistakes or accept scientific findings—even when those findings can save our lives. This dynamic is playing out during the pandemic among the many people who refuse to wear masks or practice social distancing. Human beings are deeply unwilling to change their minds. And when the facts clash with their preexisting convictions, some people would sooner jeopardize their health and everyone else’s than accept new information or admit to being wrong.
Cognitive dissonance, coined by Leon Festinger in the 1950s, describes the discomfort people feel when two cognitions, or a cognition and a behavior, contradict each other. I smoke is dissonant with the knowledge that Smoking can kill me. To reduce that dissonance, the smoker must either quit—or justify smoking (“It keeps me thin, and being overweight is a health risk too, you know”). At its core, Festinger’s theory is about how people strive to make sense out of contradictory ideas and lead lives that are, at least in their own minds, consistent and meaningful.
One of us (Aronson), who was a protégé of Festinger in the mid-’50s, advanced cognitive-dissonance theory by demonstrating the powerful, yet nonobvious, role it plays when the concept of self is involved. Dissonance is most painful when evidence strikes at the heart of how we see ourselves—when it threatens our belief that we are kind, ethical, competent, or smart. The minute we make any decision--I’ll buy this car; I will vote for this candidate; I think COVID-19 is serious; no, I’m sure it is a hoax—we will begin to justify the wisdom of our choice and find reasons to dismiss the alternative. Before long, any ambivalence we might have felt at the time of the original decision will have morphed into certainty. As people justify each step taken after the original decision, they will find it harder to admit they were wrong at the outset. Especially when the end result proves self-defeating, wrongheaded, or harmful.
The theory inspired more than 3,000 experiments that have transformed psychologists’ understanding of how the human mind works. One of Aronson’s most famous experiments showed that people who had to go through an unpleasant, embarrassing process in order to be admitted to a discussion group (designed to consist of boring, pompous participants) later reported liking that group far better than those who were allowed to join after putting in little or no effort. Going through hell and high water to attain something that turns out to be boring, vexatious, or a waste of time creates dissonance: I’m smart, so how did I end up in this stupid group?"
By: LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO
"So many of us do it: You get into bed, turn off the lights, and look at your phone to check Twitter one more time.
You see that coronavirus infections are up. Maybe your kids can't go back to school. The economy is cratering.
Still, you incessantly scroll though bottomless doom-and-gloom news for hours as you sink into a pool of despair.
This self-destructive behavior has become so common that a new word for it has entered our lexicon: "doomscrolling."
The recent onslaught of dystopian stories related to the coronavirus pandemic, combined with stay-at-home orders, have enabled our penchant for binging on bad news. But the habit is eroding our mental health, experts say.
Karen Ho, a finance reporter for Quartz, has been tweeting about doomscrolling every day over the past few months, often alongside a gentle nudge to stop and engage in healthier alternatives.
Ho first saw the term in a Twitter post from October 2018, although the word may very well have much earlier origins.
"The practice of doomscrolling is almost a normalized behavior for a lot of journalists, so once I saw the term I was like, 'Oh, this is a behavior I've been doing for several years,' " she says.
If Ho's daily reminders aren't enough to break the habit, clinical psychologist Dr. Amelia Aldao warns that doomscrolling traps us in a "vicious cycle of negativity" that fuels our anxiety.
"Our minds are wired to look out for threats," she says. "The more time we spend scrolling, the more we find those dangers, the more we get sucked into them, the more anxious we get."
By: Cassie Shortsleeve| July 07, 2020
"Black maternal health providers share the advice they give their own patients that any Black expectant or new mom can learn from."
"Pregnancy is a life-changing event. But for Black women, this time in their lives comes with uniquely concerning health issues and added layers of struggle.
In the U.S., Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. That figure is even larger in metro areas such as New York City where Black women are up to 12 times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth. And while about one in seven women in this country experience a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD), Black women suffer at higher rates—and are less likely to receive treatment.
Black moms and moms-to-be also face the biases of a mostly-white medical field, not to mention systemic racism, and stigma in and out of doctors' offices, say experts. But there are ways to prioritize yourself and protect your mental wellness (or help an expectant friend) in the journey to motherhood.
Here, Black doctors, therapists, doulas, and other maternal health experts share the words of wisdom they'd give to Black moms everywhere.
1. Prioritize emotional wellness.
"Given that Black women are at higher risk for pregnancy-associated mortality when compared to non-Black pregnant women, it is important that Black women empower themselves with knowledge about the importance of maintaining emotional wellness so that they take the steps necessary to advocate for their mental health needs during their pregnancy. If you're experiencing significant anxiety, disclose your distress to friends and family. If social support is not sufficient, talk to your healthcare provider about different treatment options."—Christine Crawford, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist at Boston Medical Center.
2. Find the mental health support you need (even if it's virtual).
"Mental health support during the prenatal period is important especially during a time like this when women have the extra stress of the consequences of COVID-19 and racial injustice and protests. Black women are less likely to receive care for depressive symptoms and are often under-diagnosed. If you have symptoms, find a provider that you feel comfortable with, whether on a mental health app, one-to-one talk-therapy, or group therapy. Another great tool I love for moms is meditation apps. They can help with grounding during times of great stress. If the new mother has access to mental health support during the prenatal period, the risks for postpartum depression decrease."—Latham Thomas, founder Mama"
By Juli Fraga and Karen Kleiman|July 5, 2020
"Soon after her first baby was born in 2014, Crystal McAuley started having catastrophic thoughts about her infant’s health. Throughout the day, random thoughts popped up like tiny speech balloons, each one filled with a newfound fear: “What if the baby overheats?” “What if he stops breathing?” “What if he falls out the window?”
McAuley, 38, shared her concerns with her husband, who told her the baby was healthy. His reassurance, however, didn’t shut down the worry-filled thoughts that looped over and over in her mind. “It was hard to make them stop,” McAuley recalled. And then they changed course: “I started having visions of pulling my car into the opposite lane of traffic, but I didn’t want to die or harm my infant.”
McAuley was experiencing intrusive thoughts, which are unwelcome, negative thoughts, or images that seem to come out of nowhere and are highly upsetting, psychologists say.
“Occasionally, everyone experiences senseless intrusive thoughts,” said Jonathan Abramowitz, Ph.D., a professor of clinical psychology and an anxiety researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. On a turbulent flight, for example, we may see images of the plane crashing, even if we’re not afraid of flying. If we’re driving a friend’s new car, we may have thoughts about getting into an accident.
Most times, we don’t give those thoughts much attention, but when stress arises and responsibilities mount, it can be harder to ignore them, Dr. Abramowitz explained. And with the added strain of the Covid-19 pandemic, many parents are preoccupied with worries about their children becoming ill and dying from the virus, he said.
McAuley said the pandemic has sent her anxiety into a tailspin. “I feel like a new mom again. At unpredictable times, I imagine one of my children falling down a steep ravine or dying in a violent accident.”
While intrusive thoughts can be a sign of a perinatal mood disorder, such as postpartum anxiety or postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, a 2006 study conducted by Dr. Abramowitz and his colleagues followed 85 participants (43 mothers and 42 fathers) from the second trimester of pregnancy to three months postpartum. Of those who participated in the study, 91 percent of mothers and 88 percent of fathers experienced upsetting intrusive thoughts about their newborn.
According to Dr. Abramowitz, it’s not uncommon for new parents to think of the baby falling down the stairs, choking or drowning in the bathtub. One parent told Dr. Abramowitz he imagined “sticking a pencil in the soft spot of his baby’s head.”
Disturbing thoughts and images like these can bewilder new parents. Not to mention, mothers who envision harming their babies may misinterpret their thoughts as ominous signs about their mothering abilities. “I felt like a prisoner inside my own mind,” said McAuley, who worried that if she told her doctor what she was thinking, her baby would be taken away.
While intrusive thoughts can be terrifying, the problem lies in how we interpret them, Dr. Abramowitz said. Labeling such notions as “negative” causes the brain to give them more weight, which is why parents who judge their invasive thoughts often struggle to let them go.
Dr. Abramowitz and his colleague, Nichole Fairbrother, Ph.D., a psychologist and researcher at the University of British Columbia, said intrusive thoughts pop up in new parenthood for a reason. In their research, the psychologists found that the immense responsibility parents feel for keeping their newborns alive can bring on disturbing thoughts about harm striking their babies, especially during the first six months of their children’s lives.
Dr. Fairbrother said: “I remember gazing at my baby’s delicate hands and thinking, ‘I could just cut those right off with the garden clippers,’ but because I’m an anxiety researcher, I wasn’t upset by it.”
Even though intrusive thoughts might seem puzzling, Dr. Fairbrother said, they’re often adaptive. “If a mother worries about the stroller rolling into traffic, she’s going to grip the handle more tightly,” she explained.
For parents bothered by their intrusive thoughts, certain exercises and steps can reduce the anxiety they create. A few suggestions:
Distance yourself from the emotions
One way to disarm intrusive thoughts is to recognize that they don’t define who you are. Repeating the bothersome thought in a singsong voice or saying it aloud, over and over again can help, said Stefan Hofmann, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and anxiety researcher at Boston University. This behavioral technique, known as distancing, can unhook thoughts from emotions, helping the mind to change direction. No longer seeing the thoughts as a threat, parents begin to realize that “thoughts are nothing more than just thoughts,” Dr. Hofmann explained.
“A mother may think about pushing the stroller down the stairs, but that doesn’t mean she’ll act on it,” he said."
"Our struggle is not an emotional concern. We are not burned out. We are being crushed by an economy that has bafflingly declared working parents inessential."
By: Deb Perelman
"Last week, I received an email from my children’s principal, sharing some of the first details about plans to reopen New York City schools this fall. The message explained that the city’s Department of Education, following federal guidelines, will require each student to have 65 square feet of classroom space. Not everyone will be allowed in the building at once. The upshot is that my children will be able to physically attend school one out of every three weeks.At the same time, many adults — at least the lucky ones that have held onto their jobs — are supposed to be back at work as the economy reopens. What is confusing to me is that these two plans are moving forward apace without any consideration of the working parents who will be ground up in the gears when they collide.
Let me say the quiet part loud: In the Covid-19 economy, you’re allowed only a kid or a job.
Why isn’t anyone talking about this? Why are we not hearing a primal scream so deafening that no plodding policy can be implemented without addressing the people buried by it? Why am I, a food blogger best known for such hits as the All-Butter Really Flaky Pie Dough and The ‘I Want Chocolate Cake’ Cake, sounding the alarm on this? I think it’s because when you’re home schooling all day, and not performing the work you were hired to do until the wee hours of the morning, and do it on repeat for 106 days (not that anyone is counting), you might be a bit too fried to funnel your rage effectively.
For months, I’ve been muttering about this — in group texts, in secret Facebook groups for moms, in masked encounters when I bump into a parent friend on the street. We all ask one another why we aren’t making more noise. The consensus is that everyone agrees this is a catastrophe, but we are too bone-tired to raise our voices above a groan, let alone scream through a megaphone. Every single person confesses burnout, despair, feeling like they are losing their minds, knowing in their guts that this is untenable.
It should be obvious, but a nonnegotiable precondition of “getting back to normal” is that families need a normal to return to as well. But as soon as you express this, the conversation quickly gets clouded with tangential and irrelevant arguments that would get you kicked off any school debate team.
“But we don’t even know if it’s safe to send kids back to school,” is absolutely correct, but it’s not the central issue here. The sadder flip side — the friend who told me that if their school reopens, her children are going back whether it’s safe or not because she cannot afford to not work — edges closer.
Why do you want teachers to get sick?” isn’t my agenda either, but it’s hard to imagine that a system in which each child will spend two weeks out of every three being handed off among various caretakers only to reconvene in a classroom, infinitely increasing the number of potential virus-carrying interactions, protects a teacher more than a consistent pod of students week in and out with minimized external interactions.
“You shouldn’t have had kids if you can’t take care of them,” is comically troll-like, but has come up so often, one might wonder if you’re supposed to educate your children at night. Or perhaps you should have been paying for some all-age day care backup that sat empty while kids were at school in case the school you were paying taxes to keep open and that requires, by law, that your child attend abruptly closed for the year."
Pregnant women and new moms are experiencing 'shocking' rates of anxiety and depression during the pandemic
By Anna Medaris Miller| June 19, 2020
"Pregnant women and new moms are experiencing higher rates of depression and anxiety amid the coronavirus pandemic, a new study suggests.
In the study, researchers asked 900 women – 520 of whom were pregnant and 380 of whom had given birth in the past year – about their depression and anxiety symptoms before and during the pandemic. They found that the crisis elevated depression symptoms from 15% to 41%. Moderate- to high-anxiety symptoms went from 29% to 72%.
Pre-pandemic, about one in seven, or just under 15%, of women experienced such symptoms during the perinatal period.
"I was pretty shocked at the magnitude of the increases," said Margie Davenport, a co-author of the study and associate professor of the pregnancy and postpartum health program at the University of Alberta, Canada.
A number of factors – like physical isolation, increased household and childcare duties, and fears about the state of the world – have contributed to the higher rates of mental health issues among pregnant women and new mothers, a demographic that was already susceptible to developing perinatal and postpartum depression disorder.
Davenport suspects the rates are even higher in people who already face healthcare and social disparities.
"I'm worried that this [data] is potentially underestimating the effects on women who've lost their jobs, and women who don't have secure housing and secure healthcare," she said.
Most participants were white, employed, partnered, and living in a single-family home — in other words, had the types of supports that would typically put them at a lower risk for perinatal mental-health issues. Davenport fears the effects of the pandemic, and now racial justice issues, on pregnant women and new moms in more marginalized communities may be even worse."
June 17, 2020| Produced by Meg Dalton| Hosted by Tanzina Vega
"As the coronavirus pandemic continues, some experts worry about the impact it will have on the mental health of new parents, especially those who have recently experienced childbirth. According to the American Psychological Association, one in seven people who have given birth experience symptoms of postpartum depression.
For more on this, The Takeaway spoke to Kelly Glass, a freelance journalist whose interests focus on the intersections of parenting, health, and race. She recently wrote about the mental health toll on new parents for The Washington Post.
Check out our ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic here.
Click on the 'Listen' button above to hear this segment. Don't have time to listen right now? Subscribe for free to our podcast via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts to take this segment with you on the go."
By: Ash Spivak Natalia Hailes
"It's no secret that the postpartum period is just hard. After growing and carrying a human for almost 10 months, you perform what is likely one of the most challenging physical and emotional feats of your life—birthing that baby. And then you find out you're just getting started!
During postpartum, you're healing physically and emotionally while a new, adorable human is entirely reliant on you (and requires way more work than while you were passively growing them). Add in little sleep, changing hormones and doing this all during a pandemic.
Becoming a parent forces us to confront some of our biggest fears—loss, lack of control, change, the unknown. But here's the thing about being in the postpartum period during this pandemic. You are sharing those fears with a whole lot of people out there: all of us are being forced to confront them.
It's like we're arriving at a jungle with no paths and no maps. But whether you recognize it or not, you are already starting to pave your way.
We have no control over how long this pandemic will last or what the outcome will be. The only thing we do have some control over is how we move through it.
One guaranteed way to move through postpartum during a pandemic with more grace and ease is to prioritize your own well-being. Taking care of yourself is taking care of your baby. The actions we are being asked to take to minimize the spread of COVID-19 mimic those that are necessary in the early postpartum days: stay home and slow down (if you have the privilege); care for yourself so that you can care for others. Just like on the airplane, you need to put your mask on first.
For some, circumstances will make this even more challenging (those who have lost jobs, are working full-time and homeschooling and in the postpartum period, those needing to return to the frontlines, and those in essential jobs). While our capacity may be great, we are also only human. We never really know the path. We can only focus on how we move through.
Here are some ways to prioritize your postpartum well-being right now, even during a pandemic.
Ask for help
You can't do it all on your own. While the physical isolation from your support systems is no joke, it's important to remember that you are not isolated in this experience. Even during these times there are ways for others to pitch in. Have someone set up a meal train or set up a fundraising page if you are in a tough financial time. Therapists, postpartum doulas and lactation consultants are all working virtually. Book appointments and put it all on your new baby registry—way better than another onesie!"
By Alice Broster| June 10, 2020
"It’s likely that over the last few months you’ll have had to adapt almost every aspect of your life because of Covid-19. For new families and parents-to-be, this has been especially uncertain. The pandemic has dramatically transformed giving birth and the postpartum period. Virtual care and video consultations have stepped up to replace face to face appointments to cut down on the people entering hospitals. A neonatologist explains how postpartum care has changed because of Covid-19 and, while virtual medicine has been good for this period, it will never replace the emotional support that new parents need in person.
Over the last three months, people have faced going to the hospital to give birth alone. Families haven’t been able to introduce their newborns to their loved ones because of Covid-19 and for doctors on the frontline, it’s been an incredibly stressful time trying to deliver a high standard of care while keeping patients safe. An increase in virtual medicine has meant patients have been able to access their doctors without leaving the house. However, it’s also meant some new parents have been left behind. “For the vast majority of new parents, they need hands-on help. You need a hug and you need someone who is going to be there when you’re emotional. Sadly, that’s not something you can totally get through a computer,” says Medical Director of Aeroflow Breastpumps and board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist Dr. Jessica Madden.
With people entering hospitals alone to give birth and clinicians not being able to do at home check-ups Dr. Madden fears that some families have fallen through the net. The six week period after giving birth is key for the physical and mental health of both parents and babies. According to research conducted by Aeroflow Breastpumps, 90% of new mums believe educating parents about what to expect postpartum needs to be improved. Three out of four said they weren’t given enough guidance and 66% said they found the postpartum period more difficult than they thought it would be.
While some checks can be done over a video call, Dr. Madden highlighted that some services can’t adapt as effectively. “For the most part, lactation consultants can’t come into the room after birth to provide guidance and support. Breastfeeding clinics haven’t been open in the same way and that’s a massive loss,” says she says, “there’s an extra layer of fear right now for new parents. A lot of people aren’t bringing their babies to see pediatricians and women are scared to access postpartum care because they’re scared they’ll get Covid-19 from the doctor’s office.”
Not being able to access care and support postpartum can have massive implications for new parents. In the U.S. an estimated 70% to 80% of women will experience the ‘baby blues’ after giving birth, with many experiencing more severe postpartum depression. The reported rate of clinical postpartum depression among new mothers is between 10% to 20%. “When you look at how life is for pregnant people right now there are so many more risk factors. People are isolated and there’s excess stress and fear. I don’t think we will really know the effects Covid-19 has had on postpartum depression and anxiety until we look back on it next year,” says Dr. Madden."