As the bright sunshine warms the ground, my daffodils stand alert. The cat is curled in a pocket of light – the dust motes dance in the air. News of ‘key workers’, interest rates and deaths. The ordinary and extraordinary seem on an unstoppable collision course.
We have now held two online support groups at Happy Mums. There were lots of laughs, and dark humour. It was hard not being face-to-face with people, not being able to pass the tissues or give them a hug. But the online format also allowed some people who can’t manage a face-to-face group to share their experiences in a safe way.
The main themes were the uncertainty coronavirus is creating, the dread of more time spent with children with less help, the practical difficulties of getting nappies and formula, and the feeling that suddenly the whole world is experiencing the anxiety and dread many of us have lived with for years.
The uncertainty has been particularly hard for our mums who are navigating their return to work. An already tricky balancing act of demands – emotional, physical, financial – has been made so much tougher. Jobs are under threat, workplaces more stressful, roles changing. Equally the uncertainty is scary for pregnant women – told to isolate for their own health but with little known about the effects of the virus for them.
Another message coming through loud and clear from all the mums who use our services is the fear – bordering on dread – of being forced into isolation with their children. With schools and nurseries closing, grandparents often in at-risk groups and advice to stay away from social gatherings, the challenge seems insurmountable. Secondary to the dread, is the wave of guilt all mums feel at any negative feeling towards their children. They are my children – I should be looking forward to more time with them. Not frantically googling survival tips or buying slides.
To all those parents feeling dread and guilt – you are not alone. It will be really hard – just because others are suffering in different ways it doesn’t mean you can’t be scared too. You are not a bad parent just because the thought of being cooped up with your offspring brings you out in a cold sweat. We haven’t evolved to parent alone – human children are needy and we learned to live in communities to help meet their needs.
Nappies are in short supply, as is formula milk, which is enough to make anyone nervous. We have been giving out parcels at Happy Mums from our stocks and hope the panic buying stops soon.
Finally, a feeling voiced by many of our service users is that the world is finally catching up. They have felt dread, anxiety and panic for many years in some cases. They worry about all the different risks and threats – their anxiety is often crippling and out of all proportion to their situation. Now, suddenly, the anxiety is a rational, proportionate response. Everyone now feels the tummy fluttering, chest tightening grip of nerves. People used to contentedness are struggling to manage the stress. For many of our mums these feelings are nothing new.