It’s been two years. Two years of “pandemic parenting,” remote learning, sanitizing our children’s hands and toys, having Zoom playdates and working remotely with screaming toddlers and no chance of peace or privacy. The pandemic has been a roller coaster ride, that’s for sure. Moms are burnt out, anxious, and stressed as hell. One of the things adding to the stress is all our “what ifs?”
You know, those rhetorical questions we want to ask without actually being given any concrete answer. Our “what if” questions when it comes to the pandemic are endless. We helplessly and hopelessly wonder, “would my child be facing x,y, and z, if that pandemic had never happened?”
Moms are burnt out, anxious, and stressed as hell. One of the things adding to the stress is all our ‘what ifs?’
“The pandemic has affected children of all ages, as it has for their parents,” says Dr. Paul Lipkin, a pediatrician and Director of Medical Outpatient Services at Kennedy Krieger Institute. “More time has been spent in the home, less in daycare, schools, and in community activities, including play. At the same time, it has raised anxiety not just amongst the parents but with the children as well, based upon fear of illness. As a result, it is likely impacting the way children develop and learn in ways that we don’t yet know.”
Is it Normal or is it the Pandemic Effect?
During the last two years of pandemic living, children have been through all the stress that we as adults have been through, as well. Maybe they’re not sleeping well or are eating poorly, too attached to that damn binky, or very clingy to mom. Perhaps their speech is delayed or they’re scared of strangers. Would these children be facing some of these issues regardless or did the pandemic specifically contribute to them?
Take my daughter for example. Pre-pandemic, she was an adventurous eater. She would impishly reach for my salmon tartar and avocado and lick off my last portion of seafood risotto. Now though, she has zero curiosity when it comes to food. Why? Maybe it’s because she isn’t sharing a lunch table at school where she would be exposed to other children eating or because we don’t have dinner parties like we used to, where she would be around new people? Or because we’re no longer dining out in new surroundings?
I’m not alone with all my questions. I interviewed other parents and caregivers dealing with their children’s developmental “what if’s” from the pandemic, like:
Ongoing Sleep Issues
Pranali Patel, a research scientist and blogger of Empirical Mama said that around January 2020, her 2-year-old had finally learned to sleep in his bed for the whole night. “Then our life turned upside down when daycares and schools closed due to the Pandemic,” said Patel. “Within one month after lockdown, my toddler started walking up to our bed every 10 minutes and finally scoring a spot on our bed. He is 4 now and still showing no sign of leaving bed anytime soon.” But Patel also said having her son in bed gave them all a peace of mind while going through a radical lifestyle change.
During the pandemic, due to remote learning for children and working remotely for parents, there were considerable changes seen in children in these scenarios. Elizabeth Fraley, M.Ed., CEO of Kinder Ready Inc., a LA-based education program focused on school preparation for children ages 3-12, noticed a lot of changes in some of the students she prepares. “One of the most noticeable was how clingy preschoolers got with their parents, much more so than before the pandemic,” she said. “It seems like some of the students needed more emotional support, like they knew something was going on around them.”
“One 4-year-old student that I was working with today called for her mom three times and was extra clingy with her nanny,” said Fraley. “Apparently, her mother had just gone back to the office today after two years of working from home during the pandemic. The pandemic has unfortunately caused some setbacks with children and their social and emotional development.”
Children have also experienced other more concerning setbacks when it comes to the pandemic, such as speech delay and anxiety issues. They are not as exposed to other people and have dealt with listening through masks, which can cause other struggles.
Micaela of Mama in the Wild has a 2-year-old who does not speak much verbally. “Would she be speaking if we had been around more people rather than being in isolation because of the pandemic?” she wondered. “Would she be able to focus more since we would have more of a schedule? On the other hand, would she have had as much one on one learning time with me?”
As mothers, we can’t help but wonder if so many of these issues would have affected our children either way. Dr. Lipkin said that serious delays in development would likely occur independent of the pandemic. However, since the pandemic has limited a parents’ ability to get their child checked by a professional, it can further contribute to these issues.
Serious delays in development would likely occur independent of the pandemic. However, since the pandemic has limited a parents’ ability to get their child checked by a professional, it can further contribute to these issues.
“Finding a cause for a developmental delay is often difficult and may need the input of an early childhood or pediatric professional,” said Dr. Lipkin. “One should not assume that COVID-19 has specifically caused a delay. However, its effect on our society may be causing delays in getting a child the help they deserve to address these delays and improve the child’s development.”
Ongoing Medical Issues
Kimberley, a mom of three and owner of Savvy Mama Lifestyle, feels she is often left with unanswered health questions for her youngest, who was born at the height of the pandemic. “He was born when I was COVID-positive, in quarantine,” said Kimberly. “I tested positive several days before delivery. Sadly, he received more COVID tests as a newborn than anyone else had in our family yet. His past year has been filled with health issues all relating to his breathing and lungs. Pediatricians have questioned if he has asthma but can’t give me definite answers as to why we’re facing these struggles that all relate back to his breathing. I can’t help but wonder, as a parent of a pandemic baby, if the questions would still be left unanswered if we weren’t in a pandemic?”
Will we ever know the answers?
Some might ask, What is the point of stressing over these questions that we can’t know? Why waste time thinking about had the pandemic not happened, maybe our children wouldn’t be going through some of these struggles?
Here’s the thing, though.
Our children’s well-being is at the heart of so much of the stress for moms during the pandemic. Maybe our child wouldn’t struggle with these issues had it been for the pandemic and maybe they would. There is no way of knowing for sure. But we’re mothers. It’s our job to ask questions on behalf of our kids. More importantly, it’s our job to search for answers, even if they seem impossible to find.