Self-Care Is the First Thing to Go in a Crisis

Nearly 400* parents shared anonymously how the pandemic is affecting their lives. This is the first in a series of updates with results.

“With the lack of childcare, I have no time to work or take care of our apartment. I earn a lot less than my husband and work for myself in an industry that has slowed down, so I have taken on the vast majority of the extra childcare and schooling. With only one kid and a small apartment with no yard, this feels like a full-time job! I love parts of it but would enjoy it more if I got breaks. The timeline is overwhelming.”

“My son is 3 and he DESPERATELY misses school and doing things with us. Both my husband and I work full time and cannot take shifts. We feel like terrible parents and terrible employees. For 14 hours a day. Every day. There is no break, nothing to look forward to, no sanity.”

We’re responding to epic change while doing more of everything. There’s more housework, childcare and involvement in activities for our kids. And more required to stabilize our work, families and communities. When the pandemic disrupted life, we didn’t know how long it would last. So, we eliminated self-care to make space for the added responsibilities. Unfortunately, COVID19 is just one of many threats to our wellbeing.

Caregivers lack predictable discretionary time. So, establishing habits to support our mental and physical health, can take years. In this crisis, it’s hard to even think about self-care but it’s critical to manage the stress that also harms our health. Most (61%) surveyed Moms report doing ‘terribly’ or ‘not as well as usual’ caring for themselves.

The Pressure is Unforgiving

When asked ‘what’s been the hardest?’ in this pandemic the list of concerns is long and varied. Moms worry about everything from their own mortality, finances and workload to their parents and children’s wellbeing.

“Everyone else in the community being on varying pages about safety protocols. If we were all unified in what we should be doing it wouldn’t be so stressful. When some people wear masks and some don’t, or some people go back to the office but some don’t, it makes us all feel like we’re alone in our journey and choices.”

“The instability of both my job and ability to secure safe childcare. Many will call out with late notice after finding out I work in healthcare.”

“Lack of structure for my special needs son.”

“My daughter is immunocompromised. The fear of her getting sick, and the extra isolation measures we’ve had to take to prevent that, is hard.”

“My kids missing graduation, prom, spring sports, etc.”

“Stress about being deaf and relying on lip reading while everyone wears masks.”

“…Being pregnant worried about separation from baby if positive.”

While Doing More With Less Support

Childcare has been disrupted for nearly 2/3 (72%) of those surveyed who overwhelmingly work full or part time (94%.) Most Moms are doing more childcare (72%), children’s activities (77%) and housework (79%.) Discretionary time for Moms rests on the level of independence their kids and spouses have. The majority of Moms (60%) who participated have at least one child age 10 or younger and almost 1/3 of those children are age 5 or younger (32%.)

“12 hours a day without any breaks, or ability to eat a meal without having to help someone else and the stress and anxiety and not sleeping.”

“My kids have Autism and get a lot of additional support in school so it’s very time consuming to do without the added support.”

“Having no time to myself. I need it to recharge and feel ready to be a “good mom” to my kids. Some days, this is so hard.”

“…Being a stay at home parent is still rewarding but it’s truly groundhog day. I wish we had more variation, pre covid we engaged in activities together, hung out with other parents and spent considerable time with family. I also had some childcare to allow me time for self-care (workouts, keeping my professional skills sharp, an occasional nap.)”

Dads Feel The Strain

Moms provided most of the early responses (91%) but surveyed Dads echoed similar frustrations, worries and joys. Dads are also doing more childcare (61%), children’s activities (84%) and housework (77%) than before COVID19.

“…we are working and that the exercises and lessons they are providing require too much parental guidance and supervision. It’s impossible to keep your eye on both or to do a great job at either. To many strings are pulling, I’m coming apart at the seams on the inside and trying to not let it show to my kids or my wife.”

“(I wish I had) better ways to manage anxiety and feeling stir crazy.”

“I wish I didn’t have to postpone administrative work until after my kids go to bed. I love being with them but it also means I have to make up the time later.”

Uneven Household Roles Are Testing Some Couples

The number of coupled Moms with partners sharing more childcare (45%) during COVID, is slightly less than those whose partners provide the same (37%) or less (10%.) Gendered household roles are a common frustration among Moms partnered with Dads. Inequities are fueling tension at a particularly fraught time.

“…Balancing kids’ school with work demands and avoiding spousal resentment for the imbalance.”

“…Poor support from my partner. I’m doing all the homeschooling while my partner does none.”

“…Communicating with my spouse and resentment for the time he gets to himself

However, the vast majority of surveyed Dads report they spend more time on their children’s activities (80%) and housework (77%.)

Everything is At the Expense of Self-Care

Nearly half of Moms (49%) and one third of Dads (32%) engage in less self-care activities now. They’ve given up everything from workouts to medical visits. Most Moms (63%) and Dads (52%) also report less time spent on self-interests (i.e., fun or learning) and maintaining healthy relationships with other adults (i.e., spouses, siblings, parents and friends (53% and 61% respectively.)

“(I’ve stopped) exercise, reading, sleeping enough, eating well or connecting with others offline.”

“(I’ve stopped) self-care. Working out, time alone, etc. The list goes on.”

“(I’ve stopped) physical therapy for a chronic condition; I just haven’t had time and it’s taking a toll.”

“External self-care (hair, nails, gym), using cleaning people, having time for myself, having time away with my husband.”

Some Have Found A Silver Lining

One in ten Moms (13%) are taking better care of themselves than before. Several cite independent kids, a slower pace, lack of commuting and more sleep.

“…I love being prevented (by social distancing) from doing MORE than I can, which I’d otherwise push myself to do. I love that I can try out different fitness classes from the comfort of my own home. …I love that in this stage of my life, my kid doesn’t really want anything from me, so I don’t feel pulled to be with him like parents of small children. I love that he wants to bake a cake with me today because he is so bored. I have perspective that if this happened 10 years ago, I’d be very, very unhappy and exhausted. I hiked in MA for possibly the first time ever, and it was very enjoyable. Usually I only hike when I’m on vacation.”

Like Everything Else, Self-Care Must Adapt

Countless studies tout the benefits and links between our mental and physical health. Women are also at greater risk for anxiety and depression than men. We’re at the early stage of a historic moment with unpredictable outcomes. The fragility and importance of our health has only risen. In this pause, we can begin to find healthier choices that work in lockdown, including how we exercise self-compassion, as one surveyed Mom stated, “…allowing myself grace. Grace to get through the day without being productive. Grace to forgive myself for losing my patience with the kids, grace to make mistakes and just CRY if I need to.”

*The Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs Pandemic study will run through 2020. 377 surveyed parents, 91% Moms and 9% Dads, responded between March 30th and June 5th.

Join the fun! Share your experiences of how life has changed during social distance, it’s quick and the results from this study will be used to advocate better support for parents.

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