Motherhood during the pandemic: Challenges, blessings, and issues to be addressed
On Sunday 10 May, most countries celebrated Mother’s Day. Motherhood is full of blessings as well as challenges such as juggling work and childcare, coping with changes during and after pregnancy, redefining one’s identity on becoming a mother.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created different routine and new challenges for mothers and the family unit. We now have many parents working from home while supporting children with their schoolwork and free time as well as coping with the uncertainty and anxiety linked to the pandemic.
Women who are experiencing birth and the new role of motherhood during this time are going through a very different experience than they had expected and prepared for. Families in general have to cope with isolation and support their children at a time where they miss peer interaction and their normal routine.
The potential impact of lack of schooling on elementary school children and teenagers are also a source of anxiety for parents. Mothers’ expectations, work-life balance and management of their multiple roles is being challenged and often needs to be redefined. Moreover, many parents are asking themselves if and what the long-term impact of home-schooling will be.
This 1h free webinar covered mothers’ and family’s experiences and challenges during the pandemic, with extensive time for questions and answers from the audience.
Webinar: The impact of COVID-19 on Mothers & Families
Time & Date: Monday 11 May 2020, 8:30pm CET
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Featured Experts & Summary of Key Points
Ruth Formosa Ventura is an Executive Committee member of the Women’s Brain Project, and works as a systemic psychotherapist and couple and family therapist in her private practice. Ruth talked about the process of change a family experiences, and the steps the family unit goes through when adapting to this change.
This process starts with awareness, followed by shock and disbelief as well as anger, and then eventually changes to acceptance and sense of meaning. It is easier for families to adapt to new situations when this is meaningful, such as, we stay home to stay safe and keep others safe. This sense of meaning is strongly linked to the information that is provided about the pandemic and underlines the importance of giving clear and understandable information about the preventive measures.
Another challenge experienced by families is a change in everyday interactions due to the family members spending more time together at home. This may be a cause of stress, but also lead to new exchanges and new interactions that may be beneficial, such as having less time pressure and more unstructured family time. Ruth mentioned how some families she works with expressed doubts about wanting to go back to the old routine, and would instead like to maintain the “new normal”.
Lastly, Ruth mentioned the challenges faced when both parents are working while juggling the children’s school work at home. In such situations, it is important to define responsibilities and that these be divided between family members.
Francesca Baracchi is a perinatal psychological counsellor who founded Born Together, a project aimed to provide support and education to new parents. Francesca talked about new mothers’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic before, during, and after birth, dealing with expectations and risks to be addressed. She explained how the emotions usually connected with the birth of a child are now changing due to the pandemic. Presently, expecting mothers experience more uncertainty, anxiety, and isolation due to the measures implemented. This leads to various effects in all three phases of new motherhood.
During pregnancy, strict measures related to hospital check-ups may increase women’s feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Particularly in cases of high-risk pregnancies or a history of miscarriage. During birth, women may feel concerned about birth complications and being exposed to the COVID virus in hospital. Moreover, there is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty around the birth setting, as hospitals differ in their regulations regarding the presence of birth partner.
Postpartum, there is a higher sense of isolation due to the lockdown as well as less home visits which could be crucial for detecting problems at an early stage, such as postpartum depression or difficulties with breastfeeding.
Francesca concluded by saying that in normal times, one in five women experiences a maternal mental health disorder during pregnancy or in the first year after birth. The COVID19 pandemic increases the risk factors associated with perinatal mental health disorders, and we thus need to be aware of this possibility.
Else Sandset is a consultant neurologist in the Stroke Unit of Department of Neurology at Oslo University Hospital in Norway. Else will describe the Norwegian model and talk about the current challenges for parents working from home while taking care of the children.
Else described the Norwegian model and talk about the current challenges for parents working from home while taking care of the children.
She shared her experience as a full-time mother juggling childcare responsibilities with her full-time employed husband. She went on to describe the opening of schools in Norway, where the measures implemented would enable quick action and isolation should a virus outbreak happen in a school.
Having said that, she added that although current evidence shows that children can transmit the virus, not enough data is available to give a clear picture of this. Moreover, children contracting the virus seem to manifest no or less serious symptoms, thus in her opinion, the risk of fatality is very small.
Questions & Answers
The Q&A session following the presentations included highly interesting questions about a diverse range of topics linked to family life during the pandemic.
A grandmother expressed her concern about pre-school children lacking support they previously enjoyed by grandparents and how this could be addressed. Other participants mentioned the higher risk of domestic abuse, and about finding new ways to offer or find support at a time of self-isolation. A mother mentioned the challenges faced by mothers with disability or who are immunocompromised.
Last but not least, the challenges faced by fathers was highlighted, as men are experiencing a new situation of working from home while being more involved in home responsibilities, childcare, and schoolwork.
Thank you to everyone who joined us and shared their views and very pertinent questions on Monday 11 May!