Camp is canceled and I don't know how I'm going to get through the summer

Mothers are expirienceing a significant increase in their stress level since the pandemic.

pandemic stress on parents
@coffeekai via Twenty20

My Slack notification dings again.

I glance down and see the icon next to my inbox icon, with exactly 3,235 emails beckoning my attention. But I can't read them now, because I am in a work meeting on Zoom.

It's my turn to work, but one of my three kids is trying desperately to open my locked bedroom door because I promised them they could play my phone later today, and "it's later now!"

Parenting in a pandemic means there is no later, there is no break. There is only an overfilled inbox, overwhelmed children and so much stress.

And to make matters worse, many parents found out over the weekend that some sleepaway camps are officially closed for the summer, meaning that relief is no where in sight. We will need to continue to figure out how to make work and parenting happen—while feeling pressured to infuse some summer magic into our days, as well.


Sometimes studies are done that have new or shocking findings—and something they simply give scientific proof to something we already knew to be a truth. The recent Stress in America 2020 study conducted in April and May of 2020 by the American Psychological Association shows that parents have experienced a significant increase in their stress level during the pandemic—more so than non-parents.

In fact, 46% of parents reported that their stress level has been high (ranking it an 8 out of 10). In comparison, only 28% of respondents that do not have children under 18 reported feeling levels of stress.

These results align with Motherly's third annual State of Motherhood Survey, which found that 74% of mothers report that they feel mentally worse since the pandemic began.

In a society in which 89% of mothers do not feel supported (which is up 4% from last year), the pandemic has exacerbated almost every concern, problem and issue there is.

According to the Stress in America study, the lack of availability of life necessities was more stressful for parents than non-parents. This includes factors such as access to food and housing and access to health care services. Furthermore, the study found that parents of color are experiencing disproportionately higher levels of stress during the pandemic, specifically when it comes to the fear of getting the virus, and having access to basic needs and health care.

Lastly, missing significant events (like graduation and other celebrations) was more impactful on parents' stress levels than non-parents.

"The mental health ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic are immense and growing," warned Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D., APA's chief executive officer. "We need to prepare for the long-term implications of the collective trauma facing the population."

This is not a drill. Our collective mental health is suffering, and we need to do something about it right now.

The tough part is that the systemic changes that need to happen to have a true effect on improving stress levels can't right now.

People are working very hard to make things better, but it's going to take time. So right now, and I mean right now, we need to take whatever tiny steps we can to protect our own mental health. Tiny steps won't cure stress, but it's a start. And we absolutely must start.

According to Dr. Evans Jr., "This means looking out for one another, staying connected, keeping active and seeking help when necessary."

Back at my place, my husband is downstairs, trying to convince the oldest two to finish just one school assignment before we can go play outside. "Just one," I hear him say—plead. I can hear the stress in his voice. He is trying so hard to stay calm, but he too can hear his emails dinging, each with another request.

The 8-year-old slams a door in frustration. The 6-year-old throws a book at the 4-year-old who screams which startles the dog who runs out the front door, and as I look out the window to make sure he doesn't run away, I see a gaggle of unmasked teenagers walking by, clearly not interested in maintaining social distance from each other.

"Yes, sure, I can get that to you by tonight," I say to my co-workers at my meeting.

I can feel my blood pressure rising again. The prickles of stress run through my body as I try (to no avail) to take a deep calming breath.

I love my children.

I love my husband.

I love my job.

But I am slowly spiraling into despair.

And the thing is, I am lucky. My husband and I have jobs and can work from home. We are not sick. We have some food in our pantry, and we have enough toilet paper to get through the week.

It could be so much worse—and for so many, it is. And parents may be feeling the brunt of the stress.

So we need to take it upon ourselves to take tiny but meaningful steps.

It's remembering that we are not alone.

It's skipping the glass of wine and brewing a cup of tea instead.

It's asking your boss for an extension on that project, or saying, "Can you help me prioritize my workload?"

It's going to bed at 8 pm tonight.

It's calling your friend.

It's putting the homework away and playing catch outside instead.

It's finally making the telehealth therapy appointment you keep thinking about.

It's eating a real lunch.

And it's remembering that there will be another side to this. The other side, when we can look back at this time, pick up the pieces, and promise that we will never, ever go back to a "normal" that allowed this to happen.

[A version of this post was originally published May 22, 2019.]

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

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Comforts Electrolyte Drink

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Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

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When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

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Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

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

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