How the world has changed in a few short weeks.
So much of what we thought we could rely on has disintegrated, and all of us, whatever our situations, have been forced to re-evaluate our plans and our priorities.
Communities have come together to support each other, but physically we are isolated: most of us hopefully safe in our homes, but without many of the routines and interactions that have helped keep us going in the day to day.
For many parents, social distancing is full of contradictions: on one hand we are missing the friends, family and colleagues who form our mutual support network, and on the other we are spending more time than ever in close physical proximity with our children. We are not alone, but that does not stop us feeling lonely, and craving contact with others.
And those of us in that situation are privileged, of course: privileged to have our immediate family around us, privileged to have our health and the safety of our home, privileged to not have to make the heart-wrenching decisions faced by some key workers to live apart from their children for the foreseeable future. But we can hold gratitude for that and still acknowledge that it is hard, physically and emotionally, to hold ourselves and our children up in these challenging times.
The challenges we face will be particular to our situation, but everyone is struggling to find ways to adjust to this new normal. Some of you have children of a variety of ages at home who would normally be at school or in childcare but who you now need to keep happy or entertained. Others are entering into parenthood for the first time, facing meeting the needs of a tiny baby alone. Many of you are juggling the demands of work, squeezing meetings and assignments in between looking after your children. You may have a partner doing the same alongside you, or they may be having to continue their work outside the home, or perhaps it is just you, as it always is, with the weight of responsibility of being a single parent thrown into sharp relief.
Whatever challenges you are facing, if you have a baby or toddler thrown into the mix then I promise that babywearing can help: on a practical level, and on an emotional and physical level too.
Purely practically, being able to wear your baby in a sling allows you to get on with whatever else you have to do whilst simultaneously meeting their needs.
It might feel like your baby is missing out without the normal variety of activities and interactions that might fill their week, but truly the most important thing for them is to feel secure and loved, and you can provide that by holding them close. You should not feel guilty if all you want to do is hold them: if you want to spend hours hunkered down on the sofa, or snuggled up in bed, sleeping or reading or feeding. The world has slowed down, and it’s ok for you to slow right down too if your circumstances allow for that.
That won’t always be possible though, and that’s where babywearing comes into its own. With your baby (or toddler) safely strapped to you there is (almost) no limit to what you cannot do around your home and garden: keep on top of housework, play with older siblings, prepare meals, plant seeds, clear some of your work to do list, even participate in conference calls.
One of the biggest struggles parents are dealing with right now is that expectation that they take on several different roles simultaneously, and execute each to perfection. I strongly believe that we should cut ourselves some slack with this, but babywearing at least gives us a fighting chance to succeed at this unprecedented game of multitasking.
This expectation, whether it comes from society or from ourselves, only serves to add pressure at a time when we are all experiencing high levels of anxiety.
The situation we have been plunged into would be rife with stress at the best of times, but against the backdrop of a global pandemic and all of the fear and uncertainty that brings it is important to recognise that our mental health is extremely vulnerable – for adults, but also for children.
One of the most wonderful things about babywearing is the state of constant snuggles it puts us into – a state which releases much-needed oxytocin. Oxytocin induces feelings of joy, wellbeing and love, soothing restless spirits and easing anxiety: it’s not called the happy hormone for nothing!
This emotional impact of babywearing is not only beneficial for us as parents and carers, but is also shared with our little ones. You may well find that your child has an increased need for connection at the moment – a natural reaction to the instability in the world around them. They may be openly anxious, or may be finding it harder to sleep, or may be crying more. Wearing them in the sling will help to calm their mood, and also has other positive impacts on their breathing, digestion and nervous system, so you can be content that even if you are needing to focus on something else you are giving them what they need to be able to thrive.
For many of us this might be obvious when we’re thinking about a very young baby, but it’s important to remember that it applies just as much to toddlers and pre-schoolers too. Often what appears to us as a tantrum or even outright defiance is just a very small human crying out for connection: holding them close to you in the sling on your front or your back gives them the comfort of feeling your warmth and your heartbeat, and most times provides just the reset they (and you) need to continue your day more positively.
It is hard not to worry at times what effect this global crisis will have on our children: their day to day life has changed dramatically, and it is almost impossible for them to understand why. It is worth holding onto the fact though that they are highly unlikely to remember any of the things that make us anxious: the isolation, the money worries, the concerns for health, the food insecurity. What they will remember, either explicitly or built into their developing psyches, is how we held them close, how we loved them, how we kept them safe.
Look after yourself, and keep wearing your babies.
Together we will make it through these strange, strange times.
If you are interested in reading more of Sophie’s thoughts about parenting in the time of Coronavirus you can find them on her blog at www.raisingrevolutionaries.co.uk.