This is mothering in a pandemic

We are not meant to live in isolation.

mothering during a pandemic

Mama, right now you are not experiencing "real" stay-at-home, homeschooling mom life. No. Because whatever we're doing right now, our "new normal" is SO much harder.

As a stay-at-home mom who dabbles in homeschooling (my oldest is only four at the moment), I know what that life is like. This is not it. Yes, being a stay-at-home mother can be difficult at times. So is homeschooling. But this is not that life. This is coronavirus life. This is isolation.

For all you working moms who are now at home with your children all day—this is not real stay-at-home life.

Before the coronavirus struck, being a stay-at-home mom meant spending time at playgrounds. It meant attending and hosting playdates. It meant visiting museums and other play places. It meant engaging with other moms and their kids. It was about community.

Hopefully you are enjoying this extra time with your family, but spending every waking minute with your partner and children is not typical of stay-at-home life. I don't think I've ever fully appreciated how much my son talks when he has no friends around. Now I'll never take those other kids for granted again.

For all those moms who are suddenly teaching their children at home—this is not real homeschooling.

Before the lockdown began, homeschooling often involved trips to the museum, library and to socialize with playgroups. No one was expected to mimic a classroom experience in our homes in our very limited free time. For a homeschooling mom, even if your own children were your only students, playdates gave children the chance to interact with their fellow classmates. And this is all before you consider the extracurricular activities in which many homeschooled children used to participate in—co-ops, gym or dance classes, sports, music, etc.

Homeschooling doesn't feel as excessively burdensome as most parents are currently finding quarantine-schooling. Most homeschooling parents actually enjoy teaching their children at home, if you can believe it.

I've seen so many posts on social media that focus on the stresses and difficulties of entertaining and educating our children during this time. I've seen mothers who have put together complex lesson plans for their kindergartners that involve freshly-baked bread, very intense art projects and science experiments purchased on Amazon.

Parents are terrified of letting their children down during this time. Afraid of failing them by failing to provide them with a proper education.

But here are a few helpful truths to keep in mind: You are doing so well, Mama. Life on lockdown is hard. We were not meant to live in isolation.

We were created to thrive in community. Our families are important, and this time together might be considered a gift when regular life often pulls us in all different directions, but we were meant to live in a larger community. Mothers were meant to bond with other mothers. Children were meant to play with other children. My kids like playing with me, but I know that they would much rather be playing with their friends.

Use this opportunity to teach your children how to be bored. Contrary to all those social media posts and YouTube videos out there, we are not responsible for entertaining our children every minute of this period of quarantine. Children are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves.

My kids have played with every toy in our house at this point and my daughter has probably "read" every book. I do spend some time playing with them, and we certainly do a lot of reading together, but I've also encouraged a lot of independent play. Babies and toddlers might need a bit of guidance in this department, but if my 4-year-old son approaches me because he's bored, I can respond by telling him to find something to play with, and usually, he will do just that.

Homeschooling should not be excessively burdensome. Yes, it will require a bit of planning, but it shouldn't be an all-consuming project. If you enjoy baking and crafts, then go for it, but don't feel like every lesson needs to be its own Pinterest board.

And don't think that you need to homeschool for eight hours every day as if your child was enrolled in their regular school. Teachers spend the better part of their day giving directions, repeating directions, trying to keep the faster students occupied and the slower students from falling too far behind and transitioning between lessons. When it's just you and your kids, you can get down to the lessons much more quickly.

You don't need to fill those extra hours with extra work. Let your kids play outside for a bit instead or go for a nature walk. Call it gym class or science class if you feel so inclined.

This quarantine is not an accurate portrayal of life as a stay-at-home mom or a mom who homeschools her children. Self-isolation, even if it's necessary for the time being, is not a natural state for any human being. We were not meant to be alone. We weren't even meant to live as an isolated nuclear family unit. We were meant to live in a community.

This coronavirus life is so much harder than life as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. It is so hard, and yet—here we all are, doing it, living it. And you know what? You're doing a fantastic job.

My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

Keep reading Show less