The Modern Momma: New Parent Nightmares

Kristy Eckert
Columbus Parent

I was finishing a coffee meeting in German Village on a perfect fall day when I spotted an old friend approaching up the leaf-dotted sidewalk. It was the first time I had seen her since she became a mom several months earlier.

“Congratulations!” I said, stopping myself from hugging her. (Side note: I really miss hugging people.) “Is motherhood all the amazing things?”

Suddenly, despite the sunlight the rest of us were relishing, I could see the cloud hanging over her head and the weariness in her eyes. She looked down, then up again.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s amazing,” she said. “But it’s also really hard.”

We talked about the especially tough challenge of bringing an infant into the world during COVID-19. No break. No support. Just isolation.

“Someday, you’ll be able to hire a babysitter, and you and your wife will go on a date, and it will be wonderful,” I promised.

She half-smiled.

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I have a dear friend who has been suffering in that same boat—alone, exhausted—since delivering a sweet baby boy this summer. Her doctor recommended that her little man not have outside contact with anyone who hasn’t fully quarantined for 14 days until he is at least 4 months old. So aside from my friend and her husband, my friend’s mother, who lives two hours away, is the only other person who has even held the baby. In three months.

The only other person who has even held the baby.

Sit with that for just a minute, friends. Because I had my son 11 years ago when H1N1 was raging, and even then, we had approximately 364 family members at our house during Week One. There were so many people holding Cooper that I started crying at one point because I just wanted to snuggle my own baby (also, hormones, but you get the point). At 10 days old, I took Coop to his first basketball game, where our friends fought about who got to coo over him and for how long. And it was off to the races from there. My stepkids had sporting events two to five days a week, and the baby came to them all, gladly being passed from one doting person to the next. Three weeks into the baby’s little life, my sister and brother-in-law stayed the night with us so that my husband and I could go out to dinner and sleep. Coop started spending full days with his amazing babysitter at 6 weeks old. My parents made the two-hour drive from Akron 93 times that first year, or so it seemed. Our village was enormous and amazing and wildly supportive.

And even then, it was hard.

So to all of you who have become first-time parents during these craziest of times, I see you. I’m sorry you got the short end of the stick, because COVID has made what can already be a scary time that much worse.

To complicate matters, all the moms of elementary school kids trying to teach fifth-grade science at home are airing their grievances fairly loudly at the moment (myself included). Which means all of you newbies are stuck only half-vocalizing your utter desperation while feeling the urge to qualify your remarks by saying things like, “But at least I’m not doing home-school!”

Here’s the thing, though: When older-kid moms get tired, or upset, or frustrated, we can go to our rooms. Or enjoy a long shower. Or take a walk. Alone. When we have phone calls, we can ask our kids to stay quiet for the next hour, and they will. And when we want a night out, it no longer requires two days of planning, the creation of a five-page list of instructions, worrying through the entire dinner and then frustration with our moms when they don’t follow said list of detailed instructions.

I mean, you’ll never stop wondering whether you’re doing literally everything wrong. Or whether they’re going to choke on their food. Or whether they’re still breathing when they sleep two minutes beyond their normal wake-up time. (I legitimately did the finger-under-the-nostril thing to my early riser a couple of months back when he was still sleeping at 8 a.m.) And I know from helping raise three now-young-adult stepkids that the teenage years can, at times, get strained. “Bigger kids, bigger problems,” people say. But at least when you’re dealing with those problems, you’re doing it on a full night’s rest.

I’m not saying parenting ever gets easy. But it does get easier than it is now.

And once you get there, you don’t have to pretend that this period was all the amazing things.

It might be really hard, mommas. But you’ve got this. I know it.

Kristy Eckert is a Powell mom and founder of Kristy Eckert Communications.

This story is from the Winter 2020 issue of Columbus Parent.