Millennial parents share the vital childcare lessons they learnt in lockdown

“Parents have never been well-supported in the postnatal period and this has dramatically worsened during the pandemic,” says Elizabeth.

“Mothers need better care to ensure their physical recovery from the birth, help with feeding their baby and sources of support to enable them to become confident parents. For new parents on lower incomes, the impact on employment has been appalling, with greatly increased insecurity of work for many families, sometimes leading to the need for food banks and other charitable help.”

Parenting isn’t easy at the best of times, but parenting in a global pandemic? Yeah. Not the one. From school closures and stripped-back childcare, to shielding grandparents and isolated pregnant women, this year has not been a banner year for parents.

“Many parents have struggled with the social isolation that lockdown has brought,” says Elizabeth Duff, senior policy advisor of NCT, “Most mums and dads would have had practical and emotional support from grandparents, family, friends or neighbours and not having that help has been challenging. They haven’t been able to access the usual community services and support groups, which has been really difficult.”

This has been especially the case for first-time parents.

Whilst there have been some plus points – the rise of flexible working for parents with young kids and the fact that a lack of visitors made it easier for new parents to rest – Elizabeth said the lasting legacy has been a negative one.

”It’s difficult to say what parenting will look like post-lockdown but hopefully more flexible and part-time workingwill be the norm. We’ve learnt a lot about what is possible online and some digital support is here to stay. But it’s vital that face-to-face support returns and is made accessible to all new parents.”

So, we asked four millennial parents how they found parenting in 2020: the year everything turned upside down.

Lidia, 33, is a fashion marketer. She and her boyfriend Simon, 35, a music PR live in London. They have a son, 6, and a daughter, 4.

During lockdown we were lucky enough to be able to work from home but also had the added stress of homeschooling and no extra help. The first few weeks were hellish; there were lots of arguments and all semblance of calm and order in the house completely disappeared! But after a while, we started to get into a rhythm. Before lockdown, we had frequent arguments about who was helping more with the kids (and lockdown certainly started off like this!) but the longer we started at home we began to sink into a real team mentality.

Pre-lockdown we always struggled to afford childcare for our two children as we both work full time and often long hours. It could be debilitating sometimes to know that most of your pay was going to childcare, but we are both passionate about our careers.

Now we are both still working from home we have been able to reduce our childcare. This has saved so much money but also reminded us that we both still need a little extra help to stay sane! Though lockdown has been so hard, I think it has really adjusted the way we parent and actually made us a more united and balanced team with the kids. We also realised we love working from home and are happy to keep doing so. More time with the family + less money on transport and childcare- has definitely been the unexpected silver lining of a horrible year!

Kari, 29, is a lawyer. She lives in Glasgow with her husband Matthew, 30, an accountant. They had their first child, a daughter, in March.

When you think about having your first child, you imagine you will see your family a lot and that has been really hard. As our daughter was born right at the peak of the pandemic, we weren’t able to physically see our parents for three months. I was also looking forward to going to baby classes, which I couldn’t do. The really big thing is that I really expected to have so much moremedical support. I’ve basically had none, which has been super worrying.

I thought I would be able to have my baby weighed and have her red book filled in and go through all those milestones and I just haven’t.

But there has been a positive to it.I thought I would be way more lonely than I have been. I thought I would have to do everything alone when my husband went back to work. I was expecting to feel really alone during maternity leave and in many ways it has been, but my husband is here all day working from home and now really understands what its like to look after a baby all day long on your own. That’s great for our relationship and our parenting style going forward.His company now offers six months of paternity leave and he will be taking it for our second baby which we are planning to have – hopefully- in the next two years.

I think i’ll be more laid back and relaxed as a new mother the second time because I think I can do it in this hellish situation. I can certainly do it in a world where there’s actual support, both from family and medical professionals! Knowing we had this crash course and we survived it on our own does feel like a badge of honour though! That’s what I will take going forward.

Anna, 35, is a stay at home mum. She lives in London with her husband Oscar,35, a consultant, and their two sons, 6 and 3.

Modern parenting is a huge ball of anxiety at the best of times – how much is too much screen time, is my baby eating too many Ella’s pouches?- why isn’t my 4year old reading fluently? – so lockdown definitely amplified that tenfold!

Homeschooling a 6 year old while supervising and entertaining an energetic 3 year old, cleaning the house, sorting out laundry, trying to track down the last packet of flour in the UK…A particular low point was trying to explain the finer points of subtraction while watching the reflection of my 3 year old climbing precariously up a bar stool onto the kitchen counter to rummage through the topmost cupboards.

The biggest reward was that everyone was bathed, fed and more or less happy by the end of the day. I learnt very quickly that expectations had to be kept low. But I equally also discovered how resilient we all were.

My lockdown parenting revelation was Drew Barrymore, of all people, comparing lockdown to having a newborn baby. It’s a big and sudden change to life as you know it, everything is turned on its head, and the first few months pass in a blur as you try to adjust and develop some sort of a routine. You’re fearful that life will never go back to normal, that you’ll never sleep again, that you’ll never go out drinking with friends again but of course it does go back albeit to a slightly different normal. It was a very comforting analogy at times.

I don’t think much has changed except for the realisation that everything could change in the blink of an eye. I try not to plan too far ahead……. We have also learnt that regardless of weather, location and mood, fresh air in bucketfuls is nearly always the answer.

Sarah, 31, is a barrister. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, David, 35, a solicitor. They had the first child, a son, in May.

Lockdown 2 has actually been harder because my son is now over 6 months and therefore awake and alert for more of the day. In non-COVID times, I would have taken him to lots of parent and baby classes or swimming to keep him stimulated (and tire him out!) but that hasn’t been possible. So the days can feel very long and I often find myself running out of things to do with him.

Plus, the daylight hours are so short, so from about 4pm you’re effectively stuck in the house. Bit of a Groundhog Day effect! Obviously, not being allowed to see family has been very hard but I am also concerned that he isn’t as well-socialised as he would otherwise have been – I don’t want him to scream his head off when we get to my parents’ house at Christmas! I had also been looking forward to regaining a bit of a social life, perhaps going out for the odd dinner with friends but that just hasn’t felt feasible at all!

But there have been great rewards. My husband has been much more involved in every aspect of parenting than he would have been had he been travelling to and from the office every day. It has made parenting feel much more equal.

The upside to having nothing to do is that you shape the day around the baby’s schedule rather than fitting him into yours. So he sleeps when he needs to sleep, in his cot, rather than being shlepped about in the pram grabbing snatches of snooze whenever he can. Which is really how it ought to be! ​I’m going to try to stick to my son’s natural schedule rather than dragging him around to coffees/classes for my own amusement!
Also, hurrah for more equal parenting – David is now off on 6 months of paternity leave so, if anything, it’ll be me who takes a step back once lockdown is over!

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