Being a Pandemic Parent

We talk a lot about ‘pandemic babies’, but what about pandemic parents? Those who entered a whole new world of parenthood in the isolation of Covid-19. How differently have we turned out under these very unique circumstances?

I was around 11 weeks into my pregnancy when we went into the first UK lockdown, and at the time my main thoughts were:

  • Thank God because I was way too sick to go into work and actually do my job
  • Possibly no baby shower…oh well! I didn’t like being the centre of attention anyway.

Little did I know, the journey ahead was going to be an extremely unique one, bringing both difficulties and blessings alike that I wouldn’t have envisaged otherwise. Looking back at the last couple of years feels so surreal- it’s like nothing I have experienced before. As the weeks went on, the death toll rose, and so did most people’s anxiety, including my own. I remember having to go to my 12-week scan alone, my husband and mum waiting in anticipation for me to ring them and let them know all was well.

Fortunately, my husband was allowed to be with me for the entirety of my labour. I really admire and also feel sorry for those mums who had to go through the majority of labour alone- especially the first-timers!

As a new parent, the first few days were such a whirlwind that I didn’t really think much of lockdown- it seemed like an irrelevant detail. Even later, around the time that a new mum would usually expect a barrage of visitors, I was inwardly grateful for the restrictions as I simply didn’t feel ready to slap on a sociable smile when really, I was struggling with a very unsettled newborn and feeding issues.

It was only later, once the dust settled, that the doom of isolation hit me.

Every mum misses some aspects of her old life, but my entire way of living had transformed. And what was more- I had no say in it. I think that’s what made lockdown so difficult for so many of us- our choice and sense of control had been taken away.

I’d always been an indoors person; I’d much rather have a cosy night in with some takeaway over the hustle and bustle of a noisy restaurant, but the fact that this was no longer my decision to make made me feel claustrophobic.

I’ve lost count of how many times the restrictions here in the UK have changed, but I do remember a period where neither set of grandparents saw my daughter for what seemed like an eternity, despite living only 20 minutes away- how ludicrous! Daily video calls became part of our evening routine, along with countless videos and pictures over WhatsApp. This period was also the time that I really needed the most support and help. My daughter’s feeding issues had gotten worse, she had potential allergies, and sleep…I won’t even get started with that. What was once gratitude for getting some alone, one-to-one time with my little one, was turning into desperation for a break and a change of scenery to maintain my own sanity. Suffice to say- I really don’t miss those days.

Now for the positives- yes, there are positives! The biggest one according to my husband (and I tend to agree) was that he was at home, albeit working. I got a little support during the day that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, while he got to witness a lot more of our daughter than he would have if he was leaving early and returning home late. But most importantly for me, he got to see what I did day-to-day. There was no “what do you do all day?” and he got to see exactly why I didn’t manage to cook dinner during the day, or why the laundry pile was our very own Everest, or why the house looked like it had been broken into. I am also glad that my daughter has gotten to spend so much time with her Baba over the last 18 months. No doubt, this has had a huge impact on their connection and how comfortable she is with him. I feel our family dynamic might have turned out very differently under previously “normal” circumstances.

Another huge positive is something a lot of Muslims can relate to, especially with the holy month of Ramadhan around the corner. With the lack of in-person community programs, we had to make a very deliberate effort as a family to create a spiritual atmosphere and environment not just for our daughter, but for ourselves. This meant reciting and listening to more Qur’an, Islamic lectures, praying in congregation, and decorating the house for Eid and Mawaleed. Now that there is just a little bit of normality again, I am so grateful that we have continued these habits. Allah truly puts us in situations to maximise our potential to grow closer to Him.

All in all, parenting through a pandemic has been the ultimate test, but also a huge lesson to trust in Allah. For a long time during the restriction periods, I felt hard done by, like I had been robbed of the first-time-mum experience that I had envisaged- until I came across the following narration from Imam al-Jawad (peace be upon him):

By God, who is the one and only god,  anyone who has ever been able to achieve success in this life or the next, has not done so except through these three attributes:

  1. To expect nothing but good from Allah
  2. Have a good moral character
  3. Refrain from backbiting

It was the first attribute that really struck me. It’s one thing to want good from Allah, but expecting good from Him is totally different. If we expect only good from Him, then we would automatically look for the good in anything that comes our way. If we expect good and only good, then our anxiety diminishes. Coming across this narration was a real turning point in my outlook and eventually my mental health during what was the most challenging period of my life. As I said before, Allah plans with such precision and purpose, all praise is to Him alone. No doubt, the last couple of years have been tough for all of us, parents or not. May Allah strengthen our faith and trust in Him, and allow us the insight to see his blessings in every situation.

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