As warmer weather emerges, reopening efforts continue in cities across the country, and more and more people get vaccinated for the first and second time, there is a great sense of optimism emerging for many. Opportunities to travel, to enjoy the haunts that were closed or limited in operation by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to simply just be in close proximity of family and friends again have all reappeared. They’re giving people hope that for the first time since 2019 really, there could be a return to normalcy — or some version of it that’s much better than what we had most of 2020.
But a “return to normalcy” will not be so easy for everyone. When quarantine efforts went into effect, particularly on the east coast in March of 2020, the usual routines of mothers, working and stay-at-home alike, drastically shifted.
“My husband is a healthcare professional, so he still had to go to work. That means, overnight, I became a full-time stay-at-home mom and a full-time working mom.
“Balance was impossible,” says Dene B., 31, a married mother of a 28-month-old daughter living in Chicago. She used to work late often, so she had a part-time nanny to help with her daughter, as well as more assistance from her husband. Once COVID hit, she was handling most things on her own.
“I still had the demands of my job, if not more, all while trying to keep our home base centered, running, and healthy,” she says. “Like most parents, I found myself working at weird hours. Since I’m a night owl, I would work between 12 a.m. and 3 a.m. many nights.”
For Aria Bynoe, traveling hair stylist and single mother of teenage boys 16 and 17 in Brooklyn, the remote learning shift for her high school-aged sons from five days a week at school to just two brought its own unique set of challenges.
“Every child learns differently and with the demands of my job putting me out of the house a majority of the day, being a single mom with no other supervision on them, keeping up with and staying on top of them and schoolwork has been a struggle,” she says. “As they say, when the cat’s away the mice will play.”
While the changes have been incredibly challenging at times, there was a silver lining to the pandemic for some moms. Time often spent commuting and in workspaces for parents turned into hours spent working at home, allowing for more time with children. New moms were able to be present for many memorable firsts of their kids, and priorities were put into perspective. So, with the prospect of things going back to the way they used to be, moms have many questions as to how their lives, and those of their children, will change again.
“My concern that I and maybe other parents might have is if the FDA does approve vaccination for children, what’s the long-term implications of the vaccination and could the vaccine impact them developmentally?” asks Phylicia Aaron, Ph.D., a married 32-year-old mom of 2-year-old and 6-month-old daughters currently working from home in Dallas. While it’s unclear if and when the COVID vaccines would be allowed to be used for small children, approval for the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds is expected this month.
“As far as the vaccine, I am not comfortable with it as of yet as it is too new,” Aria says in regards to her own concerns about vaccination efforts. Her sons are already eligible for shots as the COVID vaccine is available for people over 16 in New York City. “My kids and I haven’t ventured into getting it and probably won’t for a long time to come unless it becomes mandated for us to travel or for them to go to school or something like that.”
Aside from the worry about whether or not children will need vaccinations, other moms are worried about what they, and their kids, might miss out on if a return to full-time in-person work is necessary.
“My daughter is language delayed, so every Monday and Wednesday, I take her to speech. This causes me to start work an hour late. This would not be possible if I were back to ‘normal,’” Dene says. “It’s a significant concern because it’s an activity I love experiencing with my daughter, and I’m not sure how she would even continue with speech if I were back in the office.”
“Parents I know are deciding between electronic learning and in-person schooling for the 2021-2022 school year. I’m wondering if it’s safe to send my kids to school and daycare,” Phylicia says. “Working from home won’t last forever. When my employer requires me to return to the office, am I putting my kids at risk by putting them there?”
Other concerns mentioned include whether or not travel is truly safe as people look to trade in long roadtrips for air travel, worries about integrating babies who have only known quarantine into the rush of everyday “normal” life, and ways to keep kids safe while trying to take them back to places that have been inaccessible for safety reasons.
But for all the things on the minds of moms that are concerns, they realize there are also a lot of benefits to getting out from under this virus.
“I think returning to normalcy would do all of us some good, especially for mental health reasons,” Aria says. “We all need camaraderie, especially teenagers and children. It is essential for development, so I can’t wait for that, especially for my kids’ sake. They were too active with friends, sports, events and just life in general to be so drastically limited so quickly.”
“My daughter was 15 months when the pandemic hit. She was just at the age where we started taking her to the children’s museum, swimming, toddler parks, etc.,” Dene adds. “Every weekend we had an activity planned for her. Many of those activities are closed or book up quickly, so I’m excited to get her back to exploring.”
There is much to be considered as life changes in a more positive direction in the coming months (if people can still play it safe, as herd immunity is now unlikely according to experts). While many moms are weighing their options, awaiting decisions from employers and their local and state officials, they may be overwhelmed at times, but they’re also grateful — for bonding time, their children, and to have made it this far through a global pandemic.