Over 1,000* parents, primarily Moms (94%) have shared their experiences with the pandemic since late March. Five months in, time spent caring for mental and physical health, continues to erode. And over 2/3 admit spending less time maintaining relationships with other adults that keep them anchored. Parents have increasingly shared loneliness has been the hardest part of social distance.
“Not being able to be with people I care about. Now everyone is just a phone friend.”
“I’m low on incidental socialization (i.e. chatting with parents while kids are at activities, socializing with people at the gym, getting together with friends who don’t live on my street.)”
“Not being able to see friends and family and/or needing to limit the amount of interaction with them.”
We love our families. Their persistent presence has been the greatest source of conflict and joy in lockdown, for most surveyed parents. But being ‘always on’ whether for work or kids, is wearing. The bonds we have with other adults — friends, family and colleagues – often provide support and buffer between all the roles we play.
Dr. Charmain Jackman, Clinical Psychologist and Founder of InnoPsych explained, “When you are with a friend, you might get support, laugh or commiserate and have a chance to show a different side of yourself. With family, it’s not the same.” Many people feel desolate right now. She shared it’s been on the rise with patients, “We’ve had more requests come through InnoPsych with people sharing their experiences of loneliness and feeling isolated. It’s not surprising, now we’re in month five of social distance, that it’s becoming more prominent for folks.”
So, what happens when we can’t see the network of confidantes and besties we rely on?
Loneliness Does not Equal Being Alone
“Feeling alone. Everything is on me to figure out for our family.”
“Isolation from other adults. Lack of exercise. Lack of personal time.”
Yes, you can be lonely surrounded by others. Charmain explained, “Although we think about loneliness as ‘being alone’ they are two very distinct concepts. Loneliness is really about feeling like you’re not connected to other people. It may not be true in actuality but there can still be that perception.”
One Dad said, “I’m an extrovert and miss seeing people. Everyone from my friends to people I chit chat with at the gym. Those outside connections strengthen the family. If you remove those relationships it just adds tension (at home.)” Charmain said, “You know that old time saying, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ right? It says, by separating from you I can appreciate you.” True. It’s also hard to feel appreciative under duress. And most parents are drowning in pandemic-driven responsibilities.
But Now We’re Always On
Most surveyed parents are working (71%) without childcare (70%.) And the ‘busines end’ of running a household filled with people 24/7, with or without paid work, is not trivial. Rushing kids through meals and schoolwork isn’t the same as enjoying connection time with them. Most surveyed parents also report being busier in their jobs than ever. While doing more of all the home things: increased childcare, keeping kids active, distantly-learning and treading the tsunami of housework. It’s understandable that parents are burning out.
We Crave People to Unwind With
“Sunday nights were designated for family dinner nights. We would have my daughter, son-n-law and granddaughter come over for dinner, it has become tradition and I miss it so much.”
“Hanging out with friends, on top of so many (work) Zoom meetings I don’t have the energy to meet my friends over Zoom again, that’s draining.”
Charmain said, “if you’re following the rules about being physically distant and you’re not around people, that loss of connection is really hard. We are social beings.” Video calls help but don’t replace the real deal. Charmain said, “We can call a friend or hop on a Zoom but it’s still not the same. People love to eat out at a restaurant or go for a drink together. And having that space from family is beneficial for many people to create boundaries between home life, work life and family life.” Yes! How can we reclaim some identity in lockdown?
It’s Okay to Need (and Take) Space
Charmain said, “That space people once had is just gone. And it can feel almost feel selfish to ask for some time by yourself.” Yes! The guilt and self-doubt from work/life conflict is only exacerbated with the kids right there. It’s no longer abstract when your child is literally pulling your arm away from the computer. But we need time away from being on for others. She added, “They worry the response will be, ‘Oh, what are you going to do? Or ‘are we not enough?’ But it’s so helpful to have that time to be yourself and in your own thoughts. Being together all the time (as a family) creates a lot of different feelings, new feelings. And people don’t know how to process all of it.”
Once we have kids, we build new identities in tandem with the obligations we take on. And there’s beauty in that. But it doesn’t diminish the joy from connecting with the people or activities we found meaningful before. A crisis is not the time to distance yourself from what makes you feel like you. As with all-things-pandemic-life, it means making adjustments and building new routines. Even if they’re temporary.
* This is a partial update with results from 1,044 parents who have taken the pandemic parenting study between, March 30 – August 21st.
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.
Employers, let us help you transform your workplace into an environment where caregivers thrive. Learn about Allies @ Work.
Many thanks to the talented Dr. Charmain Jackman!
Charmain F. Jackman, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist of Barbadian heritage and the Founder & CEO of InnoPsych, Inc. Visit her website to pre-order ‘Sweet Spot’ her new program with daily reflections to reclaim your voice and power. And follow her great adventure on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Growing up in a culture where the stigma of mental health was pervasive, but therapists of color were not, she decided that she was going to change that. Dr. Jackman has spent the last 20 years working with people of color (POC) in hospitals, clinics, courts and schools, and has consistently observed that POCs long for therapists who look like them—who understand them and who will do right by them! That knowledge has inspired Dr. Jackman to make it easier for POC to find therapists of color! She also wants to change the negative views of therapy and to educate POC about the necessity of taking care of their mental health and to empower communities to heal.