When you’re forced to isolate yourself from anyone outside of your household, you lose that support system. Sure, you can ask questions over Skype − that’s something mental health experts recommend all new parents find the time to do.
But messaging apps are useless when what you really need is someone to hold your baby so that you can shower.
For many people, having a newborn is socially isolating anyway, that might sound counter intuitive − how can a new addition make you feel lonelier? − but it’s in line with a 2018 survey from the British Red Cross, which found that 82% of mums under 30 have felt this way.
Its times like these that we need a support network to fall back on. It’s useful to be able to refer to your mother, aunts, sisters and friends to ask why your body is doing what it is doing, why you feel the way you do, or what is it your baby wants when they won’t stop crying.
Social distancing, stay-at-home rules, and cancelled family visits are forcing parents to physically care for children without the support they may have always had or expected. The effects are profound; parenting is not something that can be done in isolation, there are a lot of questions that are unanswered and unanswerable, which sets the stage for an introduction to anxiety.
So what can you do to keep mentally well?
There’s no getting round it. Lockdown with your baby might feel like a difficult prospect, especially if you usually have a busy schedule of activities. But it doesn’t have to be a prison sentence. You might find some unexpected upsides to enforced home time.
- Savour the Quiet
We might not feel up to much right now, we may not have even got dressed for a week, but remember this is a monumentally strange time on planet Earth and you’ve just had a life changing event happen – a new baby! It is perfectly normal to think you cannot cope without family and friends coming and helping out. But believe it or not, one of the main difficulties some new parents struggle with when lock-down is not around is over zealous well-wishers and family interrupting your special bonding time.
From personal experience, apart from feeding my baby (breastfed), for the first three months of my son’s life, I rarely got an opportunity to hold my own son between 9am – 9pm. My son was so loved my so many of my family and friends, I literally had a diary system going for visitors, with a one-in, one-out policy. In this time I received conflicting advice from so many people I loved, trusted and valued and my mental health nose-dived.
I am sure not having family and friends being physically available to look after your baby whilst you sleep or catch up on life admin is tough, but thinking positively right now you also don’t have the pressure of looking half-decent and tidying your home for when Great-Aunt Sue you’ve not seen in four years, suddenly decides to come for a visit right over your family meal time! Or feel stressed to the hilt but daren’t say anything when someone you like comes to visit and is full of cold and wants to snuggle up with your 4 day old baby.
It’s a tricky one to balance, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed and just need reassurance, get online – thank goodness for FaceTime, Zoom and House Party!
- Learn to Tele-Medicine
Meeting up with family and friends to speaking to your G.P or medical professional over video calls are becoming the new norm.
In some instances we are finding it easier to get an appointment with professionals now they are taking appointments over the phone, they are able to call you back from the comfort of your own home and could also break down some of the barriers around seeking treatment.
Therapists with podcasts, celebrities, and other companies in the new parenthood space have been hosting online webinars, Instagram Live sessions, and podcast episodes surrounding different topics relevant to the postpartum period right now.
Where most of this would have been a paid for service, right now many are offering free advice and online sessions on keeping your mental health in check to sessions and parent and baby clinics.
- Join Online Support Group
Sometimes simply having someone listen and someone else who's in your shoes say that you're not the only one who's feeling a certain way can be helpful. To this extent, virtual support groups play a much-needed role in new parenthood.
Facebook is a great place to start.
4. Lighten Your Load
When you're sleep-deprived, healing, and taking care of a new baby, simple tasks (like making a meal) become hard. In the midst of a pandemic? They can seem impossible, but food delivery services, for example, might be worth the splurge. Some of our local pubs and restaurants which ordinarily don’t offer take-away food are temporarily delivering food straight to your door.
Sometimes having someone else cook you meal is the best self-care and respite you need.
5. Accept "Good Enough" Parenting
You've likely heard that lowering your expectations as a new parent can help you better accept a sometimes challenging reality. But in the face of a pandemic, you likely need to re-evaluate even more. It's unrealistic to think we're going to do it all—parent, teach, work, take care of ourselves—without stumbling. If you feel your current reality contrasts with what your hopes of the time period would be, try to embrace "good enough" parenting. It's a concept that comes from paediatrician and psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott, suggesting parents aim for "good enough" and not "perfect" in order to find a balance between care-giving and space for yourself.
How and whatever you decide to do to get you through this crazy time, please remember you are not alone and there is lots of help available. Please reach out and remember this is not forever!