Post Pandemic Parenting Anxiety – Yes, it is most definitely a ‘thing’.
Here is what I wanted to be when I was younger:
- A veterinarian. This dream was dashed during second year of high school and I chose to go to my local vet practice for work experience. I dropped like a sack of potatoes at the sights in the operating theatre.
- April O’Neil from the original cartoon, “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”. She was a reporter and human ally to pizza eating, crime fighting turtles, why wouldn’t I want to be her?
- To sing in a band. I did this in a very amateur way in a ‘garage band’ with my closest friends and boyfriend in my teenage years. We recorded a demo and had to change our name after we realised out current one was the name of an Australian ‘Porn’ magazine. Yeah, I’m rock ‘n’ roll.
- To be a writer/journalist. Well, jiggle my jugs and call me Julie, I am a writer.
Growing up, I learned pretty quickly that being an adult, especially a parent, wasn’t easy. I wasn’t someone who had the want for my future to be ‘married with children’.
Change of view – This part includes a trigger warning.
I had a confirmed miscarriage in 2009. I was twenty-one, not financially or emotionally stable, in a relationship that was not good for me or my soul that tore me a part daily and I had no intention of being that guy’s ‘Baby Momma’. I never knew I was pregnant so I wasn’t taking care of myself or taking any sort of folic acid etc and I was beyond stressed. It was only upon realising ‘Auntie Flo’ hadn’t arrived for her usual monthly, torturous visit that I took a test and realised I was. A few days later I went to the doctor for blood tests to confirm and before he could get the results to me, I was spotting and then haemorrhaging blood. I was an absolute wreck for a long time after it and I spiralled. It was then I knew what it was like to love and miss something that I never fully had.
Two years later that relationship officially ended and I met my now husband. Suddenly marriage and kids were on the table and despite chronic illness and neurodivergence we made it work. There was a phantom pregnancy that almost broke me and I was close to giving up as I thought the universe was telling me I wasn’t ‘Mother Material’ but I didn’t let go of the possibility completely and in May 2015 we found out our parenting journey was beginning.
We had our first son in January 2016 and officially became parents. I thought I was pretty good at ‘winging’ life but my goodness, did parenting give me a stark wake up call. I had told my husband during my pregnancy that because I was reliant on doctors, midwives etc that I felt out of control and it was a difficult feeling, knowing I wanted to care for my child at that stage but was helpless. I said the phrase that I’m sure many have; “Once he is here I will feel better”. Haha! You utter fool. Now Rochelle looks back at the memory made by ‘then’ Rochelle and points and laughs at the dream and positivity of one so unaware and young.
It was something I told myself to feel better in the moment clearly because it just got harder and harder at every stage. Sure, there is plenty of highs; that first smile, that first giggle, the feeling of actually being able to settle your child, when they do all the new things they’ve never done before and then eventually find their feet. There were also a lot of lows; locking myself in the bathroom and balling my eyes out because I felt like he didn’t love me and I didn’t know what I was doing, the nights where teething became crying from him, stress induced bickering between me and my husband and ultimately driving around at 3am to try and settle young Hanslow down, finally getting a moment where you hear your thoughts again and of course searching for a place that was open to buy ‘Calpol’ at that time in the morning. Thank you, ‘Granada’ Motorway Services, Stirling.
Our eldest son started showing signs of being neurodivergent around thirteen-months-old and we’ve being a different road map for him and my husband ever since.
Then there were Two
Our second and final human addition to the Clan was born in February 2018 and even though I struggled mentally and emotionally with the pregnancy, thinking I wasn’t going to be enough for two kids, I bonded faster with my second son than I did with my first and I was much more hands on in the first few days and weeks than I was able to be for my eldest son. I had considered abortion when I found out but I never actually wanted it and something told me that I’d regret it. Whoever that voice or person was, was an absolute legend because my youngest son is a force like no other. He’s my little buddha, as wild as the howling wolf to the moon and as happy as the summer sun.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, I was on the ‘high risk list’ so we were in the house completely, except some garden time, for around nine months of 2020. We had to figure out preparing our neurodivergent child for starting school, occupying a toddler of two-years-old, an eighteen-month-old Labrador, controlling the crippling anxiety and fear that if I got it, it would be life ending for me and on top of that the redundancy of my husband’s job which ended up in him spiralling into depression of the neurodivergent kind. It was not an easy task but we knew that it had to be done and we tried to make the most of our time together. We didn’t have big adventures to speak of in 2020 but we had pizza and movie nights in a light up fort, we found lots of laughs in playing board games and crafting together, we found out how truly inept I am at building grandeur out of ‘Lego’ and that actually, even if we weren’t related we’d still all be good friends. We had a lot of stresses and I was genuinely terrified anytime our shopping needed collecting of my husband bringing in the virus and he was just as terrified that he would too. I didn’t want to think about not being with my family, not seeing my boys grow up, not being able to give them hugs and proud tears in their milestone moments and to leave my husband with it all to deal with. I tried not to have these thoughts but nobody knew anything for sure and I had to make sure I was covering all the bases.
The s**t hath hitith the fan
Things opened back up and school was back fully in March 2021 and I’ll tell you I was a ball of anxiety about it. I didn’t feel it was the right decision but I was told that if my son didn’t attend that I would have to opt to permanently home school and I didn’t think that was the right option for us either. I had managed to get my first vaccination and was two days away from my second when it happened, my eldest son caught COVID-19 from someone in his class whose family had not been following the rules. I cannot describe the anger I felt. We had gone all this time, we were almost there in regards to protection for me and it was because of a decision I was against that brought it into our home. My son was very poorly, he woke up in the middle of the night, he tried to shout for us but couldn’t, I could only hear a muffled sound coming from their bedroom. He couldn’t speak, he was struggling to breathe, he couldn’t walk, my husband had to carry him to the toilet and then to our bedroom. We managed to ease his breathing with his inhalers eventually and we had to phone ‘out of hours’ doctors. Obviously, the rest of the house got it and it was horrendous. Trying to look after 2 ill kids when you could hardly move and just wanted to curl up and disappear was not my idea of fun.
Education or Health
Since the schools reopened our family hasn’t had a break from illnesses. Our boys have been absolute troopers battling Tonsillitis, Norovirus, RTI’s, COVID (again) and Sinusitis.
It has been one thing after another and I have to say that not only are we feeling beyond depleted but my trust for the school system and for other parents is now severely, no, gargantuanly lacking.
My anxiety has been at an all-time high the past two years but more so in regards to this. My sons love their education, they have a thirst for knowledge and they thrive in education and despite all the struggles they have achieved above and beyond what I could ever have asked for and I’m so incredibly proud of them. The constant illness and absence from education however has been one of the many stressors for me. I was a very ill child and I know what it does to you in regards to your mental health as well as physical. With my eldest son being neurodivergent he does best when there is a solid structure and routine to follow and even in holiday time I have to put my ‘teacher’ hat on as he finds comfort in maths and numbers and wants to keep some sort of education in his routine. If he is off because of illness this affects him massively mentally and he becomes extremely irritable and frustrated. He also starts to have panic attacks because if his little brother is ill, he cares so deeply about him it makes him worry and his head can make it a very negative narrative which at six, is incredibly difficult to deal with and process.
I often wonder how people can be so lack-lustre and senseless in regards to their children. I understand every family has a different situation, our Clan is definitely a unique story but I can’t see any reason why anyone who need to send a child to an educational establishment knowing they were ill and that they were going to spread that to not only other children but to the wonderful people who try to educate their children. The only reason I can see is complete and utter selfishness.
Some of the conversations I hear while waiting in the nursery line or outside the school gates genuinely mortifies me, these adults talking about their own children like they are something on the bottom of their shoe, nothing but ‘an inconvenience’ to their social life It would seem. I try my hardest not to judge anyone, as I said, every family is different and you don’t know people’s circumstances but it breaks my heart that these kids are going to continue a vicious cycle in life and not knowing any better. I get how much they can test your patience and how much stress comes along with being a parent but this is another level, it is almost distain.
It is at a point now where I feel that I need to pick whether I want my sons to be in education or if I want them to choose their health both mentally and physically.
Hard truths – Please note this section again could cause some triggers.
I started off this post saying I never really grew up thinking I was going to be a mum. I often told my husband when we first got together, “When we talk about children, you mean lots of dogs right?”
He would’ve been happy to settle on that but we both felt almost obligated after we got married to think more seriously about human versions of children. It has been a harrowing experience and it has changed us deeply becoming parents, I never thought I could love anything or anyone the way I love my boys. I stand waiting on my eldest son on the playground for collection at the end of his school day and when I see him and he smiles and waves, my heart almost bursts every time and I realise how much I actually miss him during the day. I can be working away at my desk at the weekends or early morning before school and my youngest goes to the toilet and every time he is done he shouts, “Love you Mom” and there is this indescribable pang that surges through me that no one else can invoke in me.
I know I’ve been lucky, I’m someone who has multiple chronic illnesses of which one is Endometriosis so the fact I successfully conceived and carried my boys, especially after one confirmed and another suspected miscarriage says how much the universe wanted me for these boys. The many parents I see taking their children for granted when I know of several wonderful women who want to be a mum but haven’t been able to breaks my heart and I try often to remember how much gratitude I have for being one of the women who did it despite the odds against her. I’ll let you into a dark secret I’m carrying right now though that I’ve only shared with my husband this far, the last two years have made me wish I wasn’t a parent.
It sounds awful I know but the world we are in now is a bigger shit-hole than ever. The stress of other parents not giving a crap and causing my children to be constantly ill has left me depleted and anxiety ridden in ways I’ve never experienced before. I don’t even settle properly at night anymore as I’m just waiting for one of my sons to start feeling ill. The only time I can settle is during holiday time because I know that there is no chance of them catching anything. I know illness is a part of life, trust me I’m more aware of that than anyone as I live it every day but the last eighteen-months has been an absolute shit show.
I just don’t feel qualified or equipped to be a parent in this kind of society. One where grown adults act like children and have no compassion or kindness to others, there’s no awareness and it is terrifying.
I found myself sitting back on my bathroom floor, door locked, hugged into my knees and absolutely sobbing the other night and I thought to myself “I’m back to where it began”. The same fear I felt when I became a mother has arisen and I feel absolutely clueless and alone. Nobody knows what to do or what they are doing and it’s a constant battle in a minefield.
I came out of the bathroom reluctantly and I said to my husband, “This is never going to get any easier is it?”and that thought made me feel trapped. I started having a panic attack. I knew the world was going to be different after the pandemic but I hadn’t thought life would be like this. It feels like ‘Post Pandemic Parenting Anxiety’ is most definitely real for me and I’m sure for many others.
To anyone out there that can relate to this please know that it’s not you, you are good enough this world has just changed so significantly in such a short time that it is hard to keep up with. I’m trying to remind myself that I can only control certain things in my life and the rest I am working hard on to let go of and trust in the universe and what she knows is right for me. Parenting has never and will never be an easy route, especially if it’s done well and I think that is all we can do now. Do as much as we can for our children to our own level of ‘good enough’ and trust that they will be okay, that they can see how much we love them and have tried. I know their will come a day, sooner than we probably expect, that I’ll be sitting in a lodge in the Highlands with my husband, our boys being all grown up and finding their own way and I’ll look back and miss the boys they used to be; they are those boys now and I’ll do all I can to embrace them and show them that there is love, compassion and kindness in the world, it just means looking a little deeper for it.
Love hard. Be fierce. Horns high.
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