For Women, By Women

Posted on Monday, July 27, 2020

The upside of social distancing for new parents

For the past few months, families around the country have been forced to adapt to a new normal ­— one in which ordinary freedoms are no longer an option and family dynamics have had to shift as homes become a space for work as well as parenting. We spoke to three South African moms about the unexpected benefits of a life in lockdown. Here’s what they had to say…

There’s more time for the simple things
“We have been forced to slow down,” says Simone Jeffery, a Joburg-based mom whose son is ten months old. “When our baby was first born, we were so busy taking him from person to person, so we were in the car a lot and we rushed feeds sometimes. Now we have to stay home so we’ve been able to establish a routine and our baby gets more time to chill and play.”

Jackie Smit, a mom from Durban, agrees: “Social distancing has made us realise what our family really needs. Without the noise of socialising and being busy over weekends, we were able to re-evaluate what is really important to us, and how little (externally) we actually need. This has also pressed home how important it is to be mindful of boundaries. We’ve been able to find joy and gratitude right under our noses for things that had been there all along, but we just hadn’t noticed.”

It's possible to really connect
For Jackie, being at home with her son and husband have been an unexpected benefit of an otherwise challenging situation. “The first two weeks were really hard but once we got into a rhythm it felt like we were able to work out what is actually best for our little family. Up until lockdown we were doing what we hoped was best, but because my husband and I were working we’d never really had an opportunity to let it happen organically. We’ve realised what is worth holding onto (like routine), and what could be let go of (like allowing our son some screen time if my husband and I both need a moment to focus on work).” In fact, Jackie believes that her child has thrived over the past 10 weeks: “His language has exploded and he’s learned to communicate quite complex things like his needs and his feeling states. Maybe that was always going to happen developmentally, but I can’t help but think that our being around all the time has helped that along,” she explains.

Co-parenting has become a reality
For a lot of people, a life in lockdown means that both parents are able to be more present in their children’s lives. For Jenny Thomas, a mom from Port Alfred, having her partner home has been the biggest plus. “Due to his work cycle before lockdown, it often felt like I was a single mom and having him back to share day-to-day responsibilities has been a huge help. He gets up in the night when before it was only me, helps with cooking and cleaning and keeps our daughter entertained when I need to get on with other chores. I even get the occasional sleep-in!” And it’s not just Jenny who is benefiting — “From my partner’s perspective he is seeing our baby grow every day and has developed a much deeper and stronger bond with her. I often felt guilty that I was the only parent to share the ‘firsts’ and to be able to see my partner experience these things too makes them even more special. It has also given him more time to teach her new things and definitely makes him feel more involved as a parent.”

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