Becoming a mum is a huge transition, even when the world is normal. So going through that rollercoaster journey under the cray conditions caused by coronavirus makes it even harder – especially if you are trying to work from home at the same time!
The challenge of trying to work effectively under COVID-19 restrictions while also expecting a baby or caring for a new little one can become overwhelming. The truth is, it’s not really possible to work from home as an expecting or new mum under these kinds of conditions and be as effective as you might be under different circumstances.
So it’s more important than ever, through these difficult times, to check in on yourself, ask yourself how you are travelling emotionally and ask for help if you’re struggling.
Unique challenges caused by COVID-19
As an expecting or new mum, you might have mixed feelings about being pregnant or bringing a new little one into the world right now. It’s hard to balance the joy and excitement of pregnancy or having a new baby with fear caused by the coronavirus pandemic, concerns for your health or the health of your baby, and with the added stress caused by not being able to access many of the usual supports available to expecting and new mums.
At a time when you might normally expect to be supported by health and community services and your own networks – perhaps your parents, other family members, friends or local parent groups – many of these options are not available right now, except on the phone or via a video chat or other online platform. Many expecting and new mums who are calling PANDA’s National Helpline at this time feel isolated and anxious. Some callers report a feeling of being trapped within the four walls of their own homes.
They are also hearing that many callers are experiencing feelings of grief and loss. This might be because they feel they have not been able to have a ‘normal’ pregnancy and/or birth experience, or been able to celebrate milestones such as the birth or bringing the baby home.
If you are an expecting or new mum trying to work at this time you will be facing a whole set of unique challenges. In addition to being pregnant or caring for a baby, you may have older children to manage. You may be remote schooling one or more of them. With many businesses closing down you may have a partner who has lost their job. You may as a result be feeling the additional pressure of being relied on as the sole income earner. Or you and your partner – if you have one – may both be working and need to find a way to create effective working spaces and share them, all while caring for a baby or preparing for the arrival of one.
Any of these situations may cause stress on your relationship, potentially even conflict. On the other hand, if you are separated from a partner you may be caring for children on your own. This will add an additional layer of stress.
Go easy on yourself
One of the main challenges of expecting and new mums trying to work from home under lockdown is a sense of having so much to do – of having so much more on their plate – but feeling worry or guilt that they are not getting it all done. This pressure can be caused by your own expectations, or brought on by your employer or colleagues, or by other people in your life.
Many mums struggle with guilt or worry related to:
Work – whether they will be able to get the baby down for a nap in time to attend a video or phone meeting, what happens if baby wakes up during the meeting, and wanting to be seen as contributing to work and to their team.
Baby/children – feeling that they aren’t giving their children enough attention, or that they may not be as careful about their screen time and food choices because they’re trying to get work done.
Not getting everything done, even though they are trying to do more than ever before – trying to fit house work, cooking or school preparation in before the rest of the house wakes up, during a lunch break or after everyone else is in bed.
If you feel you are being torn between these kinds of competing priorities, or stretched too thinly between your different roles in the home, you can try to take the pressure off a little by just expecting a little less from yourself. It can also be helpful to talk to your workplace and be honest about how you are feeling and how you’re coping with working from home. You might be surprised how many others are also finding things difficult at this time!
You can also try looking after your own needs where possible, being realistic about how much you can do, giving yourself permission to make your family a priority, eating as well as possible, exercising and staying connected to family and friends if you can.
At times like this it can be especially hard as an expecting or new parent to know what emotions and experiences are normal and which ones might be a sign that you need some additional support. PANDA’s Mental Health Checklist for Expecting and New Parents is a free, anonymous online tool that asks questions about your thoughts and feelings and will give an indication of whether your experiences could be a reason to seek help.
Speaking to your doctor or trusted health professional about what you are experiencing is another good first step. Although many health services are reducing the number of face-to-face appointments through the pandemic, many are conducting appointments by telephone or video. Although sometimes not ideal, just reaching out to speak to someone if you’re struggling can be the first step on the road towards feeling better.
PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline is Australia’s only specialist service helping individuals and families experiencing mental health issues in the perinatal period (pregnancy and the year after birth). Although the Helpline is experiencing an increase in demand due to coronavirus, it is still available to support you. If you are unable to get through at first you are welcome to leave a message and they will do their best to get back to you as soon as they can.
Please note: you don’t need to have a diagnosis of a mental illness to call the Helpline. In fact, PANDA’s Helpline can be your first step on the road to finding the right treatment if you are unwell.
PANDA also has a range of resources to support expecting and new parents facing the complex challenges of bringing a baby into the world at this time. This includes resources for expecting and new parents who are worried or experiencing symptoms of anxiety related to the coronavirus and other global crises and disasters. They also have a number of other expert resources for everyone on the parenting journey.
PANDA National Helpline 1300 726 306 Mon-Fri 9am-730pm AEST/AEDT