Recently, I’ve had some thoughtful conversations with parents of young children under the COVID-19 quarantine and I feel moved to try and capture some of the particular challenges they’re experiencing. My offer is to be a go-between in communicating what they might not be saying out loud to their extended families.
Parenting has always been the hardest job in the world: raising the next generation is not for the faint of heart! But in generations past – hell, about three months past – new parents could at least rely on their family and friends to support them as they found their way. Even experienced parents could count on getting a break from the day-to-day demands of caring for little ones by having Grandma & Grandpa stay for a long weekend or paying a babysitter for those much-needed date nights.
But we are living in unprecedented times. Today’s parents of babies and young children are being lumped into the “Sandwich Generation” far too soon. This refers to having to care for your parents while at the same time taking care of your own children. Typically, this happens years down the road when your parents are approaching their 80s, yet you still have children living at home.
Due to this global pandemic, relatively young Grandparents are needing to take extra precautions. Over the age of 65, they’re considered to be at a much higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and would have to deal with serious complications should they catch coronavirus. This means new and experienced parents are having to re-consider their support system – and this can cause friction between generations. Here’s my open letter to ALL grandparents… It’s an attempt to share what your children are experiencing and a request for the support that can make all the difference for today’s generation of parents.
Dear Grandparents (a.k.a. Mom & Dad):
We had no idea when we decided to have a baby (last week, last month, last year, or longer) that we’d find ourselves navigating how to parent the next generation amidst a global pandemic! No one alive today has ever had to experience what we’re going through.
Maybe we live far away from each other – maybe we live in the same zip code! In either case, we can’t ask you to help us out right now. We really wish you could come and visit. We’re new at this, feeling overwhelmed and legitimately scared that we might screw this whole parenting thing up! You have no idea how comforting it would be to have you here: feeding us home-cooked meals, doing our laundry, holding your grandbaby so we can just get some more sleep! We have so many questions about how to care for this baby – and having you here to give us some of those answers would be such a gift!
Even if we’ve been at this parenting gig for a while, believe us when we say how hard it is right now! Trying to work from home while simultaneously needing to entertain or educate our child(ren) – in a space that was never set up to be an office, daycare, AND school – is so challenging! On top of this, we’re trying to make sure that our little ones still get some kind of physical and emotional support – that doesn’t come from a screen! We’re feeling overwrought, guilty, isolated and tired… So, so tired. We’d love nothing more than to have you here to take some of this weight off of our shoulders! Each of us could use a break from this 24/7 parenting. But our relationship needs a break, too! The thought of a date night has become a fantasy that we’re worried might not ever become a reality again. If only we could have you here!
But you can’t be here with us. It’s hard to remember that this is for your own safety!
You might believe you’re not at risk – “I’m super active and healthy!” you keep telling us. You think we’re overreacting. Or worse, you think we don’t want you or need you right now. Nothing could be further from the truth!
We want you to be in all of our lives for years to come. This means we have to ask you to respect the boundaries of physical distancing that have been put in place right now. (Even though some are saying it’s okay to open everything up again, we’re not so sure!) It’s not what we want. It sure as hell isn’t what we need. But it’s what we’ve been told will keep all of us healthy and safe.
Here’s the thing, though… WE STILL NEED YOUR SUPPORT. Maybe now, more than ever before!
We know that we used to the be the ones to call and check in on you, but things are crazy right now! We’re up early trying to get some work in before everyone else wakes up and we have to tag team throughout the day just to keep up with the demands of caring for our kids, our pets, our partners and ourselves. By nightfall, we’re so exhausted that we fall into bed, tossing and turning wondering how the hell are we going to be able to wake up and do it all again the next day.
So… Could you give us a call?
We know what you’re going through is also hard. We’re not trying to say it isn’t. But maybe you could just check in to see how we’re handling things right now. Maybe FaceTime with the little ones so we can get a shower in or send us that recipe for our favorite comfort foods that you would have made for us postpartum. Honestly, just knowing that you’re genuinely interested and concerned about us would mean so much! Ultimately, this is what can help us raise the next generation through this global pandemic.
Because, some days, it feels like we’re having to do it all by ourselves! It’s not just that we don’t have you to lean on for support… it’s that we don’t have anyone right now.
We love you. We need you. We’re grateful for you. But we either don’t have the time, or we’re not very good at asking for help (or both!) Please consider this letter an open invitation for you to check in with us and offer the only healthy support that’s possible right now – your unconditional love and support for us while we try to tackle the hardest job ever!
Love, Us (a.k.a. Your Kids Who FINALLY Get How Hard Parenting Is Now That We’re Doing It!)