As exciting as it is to become a first-time parent, it is equally challenging. But becoming a new parent during a global pandemic enhances the everyday stressors that accompany bringing a new baby into the world. Social distancing, stay-at-home orders, canceled family visits, and the constant fear of becoming sick have left many first-time parents, myself included, feeling isolated and anxious at times. What was meant to be the happiest of times has become even more challenging in ways that we could have never anticipated.
I read the books. I took the classes. The nursery was ready to go. I had all the essentials. I even researched the local mommy-and-me classes and couldn’t wait for the playdates ahead. I was prepared…in fact, probably over-prepared. December 2019 arrived and we welcomed our son into the world, safely and healthy! Fast-forward to March 13, 2020 when COVID-19 was declared a National Emergency. We were ordered to stay at home, travel bans were issued, and life as we knew it had officially changed. As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, I recall wondering when things would return to normal. But the truth is, this was our new normal. Since the onset of the pandemic, our worlds have been turned upside down. The books did not cover how to raise a baby during a global pandemic. No classes mentored in this novel yet impossible task. And stay-at-home orders meant there were no mommy-and-me classes or playdates in the near future.
But with every challenge, we are taught resiliency. With every setback, we are taught to adapt. And while the pandemic brought much uncertainty and struggle to many of our lives, every cloud has its silver lining. The pandemic taught us to value time in a way we often take for granted, forced us to pause and revel in the mundane, and most of all, taught us to be appreciative for what we have rather than what we wish we had. The pandemic gave us a much-needed overhaul on our perspective.
Three lessons I learned about motherhood and navigating life as a first-time mom during a pandemic:
Enjoy Every Moment
There were many days where we felt sleep deprived and certainly exhausted, but still could not help but look down at our son with so much love, awe, and admiration…often asking ourselves, “Is he really ours?!” We heeded the number one pieces of advice that we received from others and that was to: enjoy every moment even when the days are long, because the years are short and time moves all too quickly. Take in all the snuggles, hold your baby, and appreciate every moment. When you find your mind wandering to what they’ll be like five, ten, or even twenty years from now, bring yourself back to reality and remember that they will never be this little again and to enjoy the present.
Seek Progress Over Perfection
Progress can only be achieved one day at a time. As a new mom, some days went extremely well. Other days, not so much. When my expectation of how the days should go conflicted with how they actually went, I struggled to find acceptance in that. I wanted to be able to balance it all – work, school, being an engaged mom, and a supportive wife – but not just balance it, excel in it. I took on more to prove to myself that I could do it all. And one lesson I very quickly learned was that if I truly wanted to do it all, getting it perfect was just not an option. Instead, I sought progress – to make each day better than the one before. When we seek progress over perfection, we allow ourselves more room for error, growth, and overall happiness.
Capture the Moments
We are still living and surviving through some incredible times. As first-time moms, taking pictures of our children is as routine as changing diapers, cooking and cleaning – we do it on the daily, oftentimes in excess! It goes without saying, you will take hundreds of pictures a day. But, it’s very likely you will be in very few of them and it’s also very likely that you’ll overlook taking videos. Two suggestions here: Hit record. Get in the frame. Capture the moments you never want to forget. We cannot believe our son has been in our lives for over a year already. We love his ear-to-ear smiles, his unending curiosity, and his cute little way of trying to talk to us. As we revel at his every new development, every new facial expression, sound, or movement, we are so grateful that we have videos to look back on that take us right back to those moments in a way photos simply cannot.
While the pandemic certainly magnified many of the struggles that new moms face, it is important to remain optimistic that there are better days ahead. We are starting to see them now. We’re continuing to make the best of today’s reality and we are more resilient because of it. Perfect parenting does not exist. So, skim through the books, make plans with minimal expectations, and be selective in the advice you follow while still being open to new ideas. As moms, we put immense pressure on ourselves to be perfect, but to our children, we already are.
Written by: Unnati Umarvadia who you can follow at @SincerelyUnnati on Instagram.