First: You are not making a wrong decision.
Parenting is already full of conflicting philosophies that leave us second-guessing our decisions. The pandemic has added a whole new layer to stress out about. Should I let me kids go to school and risk getting infected with COVID, or should I let them learn from home, but risk them missing out on social interaction or falling being academically? Should I let my kids still play with their friends whose families are less cautious or risk them feeling lonely and isolated if I don’t let them play?
Anxiety that goes along with making decisions is the fear of making the “wrong” decision. However, just as there is no perfect, right decision in this situation, there is no totally wrong decision. You will make the best choice for your family based on the information you have. That’s all any of us can do.
Second: Self care is more important than ever.
It may seem a lot more challenging now, but self care is still a necessity, not a luxury. Moms are notorious for putting themselves last and doing things for themselves only if there is time leftover (which is basically never). You need to plan time for yourself to do the things that bring you a little bit of peace and joy. If the things you would normally do, seem too risky now, think of how you can still do something similar.
If you normally enjoy an exercise class or going to the gym, see what you can find online to do at home. Walk, run, or hike outside. If you need some peace and quiet and you feel like you have nowhere to go, ask your partner or family member to watch the baby or kids while you take some uninterrupted time to yourself. If that is impossible at home, go for a drive and just park somewhere or walk around the block or to a quiet space. If you really count on time your friends and social support as part of your self care, try to schedule time to meet up outside or at least do a video chat with time set aside to actually enjoy each other’s company and check in.
Remember, self care does not have to be all-or-nothing. It may not be exactly how you want it right now, but that doesn’t mean you should just forget about it. Self care doesn’t have to be perfect to be valuable.
Third: It is okay to set boundaries.
The pandemic has created a whole new area of conflict. The differences people are taking in precautions and social distancing has caused quite of bit of anxiety, anger, and hurt feelings. This is especially true when it involves family wanting to spend time with you and your children. While your idea of keeping your kids safe may seem overly dramatic to your parents or in-laws, their more frequent social outing may seem reckless to you.
Since people have different ideas about what constitutes reasonable behavior during a pandemic, it is important to communicate what your expectations are. If you are worried that someone else’s behavior is putting your family at greater risk to virus exposure, explain clearly what you are comfortable with in order to spend time with your family. If they are upset by that or don’t agree, it is okay to wait. It may feel uncomfortable to you, but you have a right to your feelings and expectations and the right to determine what is best for your family.
Postpartum Support International is a wonderful resource for parents struggling with depression and anxiety. They provide valuable mental health resources, connection to local therapists, and online support groups for moms (and dads).