parent opinion

"We feel that time is ticking." The immeasurable loss of new parents.

Last week, the ordinarily very impressive Dr Kerry Chant shared some words regarding parents sending their kids to childcare in NSW: “If they’re just working from home, that wouldn’t be, in my mind, a reason to do it.”

The statement generated some pretty heated debate - not only on social media, but in my group chats, awash with parents worrying they’re doing the wrong thing; that they’re terrible mothers.


Video via Mamamia

The choice to use the word ‘just’ exasperated the already depleted parents working from home at the moment, who are doing everything in their power to survive another week of lockdown, another week of homeschooling, another week of spending hours in Zoom meetings trying to get through a mountain of work.

Whilst we know that asking parents to work from home and look after children is literally impossible, as covered in this brilliant piece by Mamamia's Laura Jackel, what we also need to acknowledge is that we’ve already asked so much of working parents over the last 18 months.

The price has been high for so many people, the strict health measures an absolute necessity in making sure we navigate this pandemic as safely as possible - yet the cost can not be denied, particularly for parents of young children.

If you have a child that’s younger than two, chances are you went through pregnancy and birth during some form of COVID-related restrictions, preceded by a period of the worst bushfires we’d ever seen. Fires that raged for 79 days, meaning we were being encouraged to stay indoors from as early as December 2019.

My son was born on the 29th of November 2019. When I took him home from the hospital at midday, the sky was an eerie orange that made it feel as if it were almost night time. 

The air was thick with smoke. I didn’t leave the house for almost three weeks until the air quality improved and it was safe to do so. 

From there we had a brief period of normalcy where I was lucky enough to go to a few mother's group sessions before we were plunged into another period of lockdown. 

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At a time in your life when you are so vulnerable, during pregnancy and as a new parent, you need your village, and for the last 18 months new parents have had to navigate these challenges without their usual support systems. Without the support of their own mums, without the relief of someone coming over to give you an hour to yourself. All of the little things that make those particularly difficult newborn days easier to bear. 

There’s been missed baby showers, postponed christenings, cancelled first and now second birthdays. 

I know that it has been necessary and that these celebrations, for some people, may not seem significant in the grand scheme of the pandemic, but when you’ve spent the first years of your child's life keeping them from everybody you love, not celebrating them or sharing them how you want to - it’s bloody hard.

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It’s not just the little things we used to take for granted or the celebrations that sting - it’s also the missed antenatal classes, lactation consultations, and the fact that grandparents are now meeting their grandchild for the first time via FaceTime. Community health centres that host mothers' groups - a place to drop in and get help breastfeeding, or to connect with new mothers. All the things that are a rite of passage when entering into parenthood.

It’s for parents who have children with additional needs, who are now forced to have all of their crucial medical appointments on a screen, despite knowing that early intervention is what can make the world of difference.

It’s knowing that your child’s world is getting smaller, despite it being such a critical age for social development.

It’s the couples who battled through years of fertility struggles or pregnancy or infant loss to finally welcome their rainbow baby into the world, and then to not be able to share them with family is devastating.

For those with their immediate family overseas, knowing that by the time they get to introduce their bundle of joy to their loved ones, their adorable baby will no longer be the round-faced, cheeky, smiley baby in front of them, but a much older version.

For the parents on parental leave, a particularly isolating time in itself - without throwing in a pandemic.

For every parent that has revelled in their child meeting a new milestone yet simultaneously felt their heart sink into their stomach knowing that there are many people you would like to share these moments with that you just can’t. I see you.

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"The years are fleeting."

"They grow up so quickly."

"It goes too fast!"

"The days are long but the years are short."

This is always in the back of our minds. We feel that time is ticking and there is always a sense of urgency within us, waiting, impatiently, for this lockdown to be over. 

My son has never known a world in which people don’t wear face masks. He doesn’t even blink when we are wearing one now, it is completely normal to him. 

For almost his entire life, I have been told to keep him inside to keep him safe, and we have to acknowledge that this just isn’t normal.

Everyone is struggling with this pandemic in different ways. It’s impacting upon us all. We know we’re lucky to be in Australia; we know that the government put these measures in place to keep us safe. 

We’ve all made sacrifices, most of all our essential/authorised frontline workers who I am grateful for every day.

But this time, I want to shout out to the new parents. I know it’s been tough, and this isn’t how we ever pictured parenting to be.

Feature Image: Instagram / @nicolle_stuart

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