Being a parent in 2020 essentially meant throwing out the playbook and rebuilding from scratch. (Birthday parties? Nope! Independence? Good luck!) But somewhere between the tears and the triumphs, there were a handful of trends we see extending into the foreseeable future. We chatted with some experts, from the head of a startup dedicated to maternal wellness to renowned pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp. Here, their take on what to expect in 2021.
1. More Honest Conversations About Moms in the Workforce
2020 was a test run under pressure, but it proved something major to employers: Working parents can get just as much done when they have flexible,
WFH schedules. “We’ve seen so many moms point to the ways companies have met their employees where they are in 2020—proof they can do the exact same thing in 2021 and beyond as we come out of the pandemic,” say Katya Libin and Amri Kibbler, co-founders of HeyMama. For instance, metasearch engine and travel agency Skyscanner instituted a three-hour company-wide break from 12 to 3 p.m. daily so that parents could have time to tend to their kids’ home-schooling needs. Others, like Google, are introducing or extending paid family caregiver leave time. Coupled with the fact that working mothers are leaving their jobs in droves, employers are going to need to keep this conversation alive, if they want parents to stay in the workforce.
2. Less Screen Guilt, More Screen Intention
Thanks to virtual school and general overwhelm during lockdown, screen time is no longer a dirty word. The next step—and something we’re set to master in 2021—is going to be adjusting both our attitudes and how we constructively integrate technology into our lives, says Carley Knobloch, a tech lifestyle expert. “For example, if it’s for school, it’s a necessary evil. If it’s for connecting with friends and relatives, that feeds the soul and helps kids get through this terrible time.” (Knobloch adds that smaller kids should be supervised on video calls.) Finally, it’s time to cut recreational screen time some slack. “Perhaps it can be something—like VR—that the family can do together so it’s accompanied by conversation, human interaction and family fun.”
Bottom line: In 2021, a commitment to purposeful tech is going to replace the notion of screen time limits. That’s not to say you won’t have to set some limits. (Endless hours on Tik Tok or Instagram lead to depression and anxiety, according to the Child Mind Institute.) It’s more if screen time isn’t going away, and parents will need to partner with their kids to prioritize paying attention to how use affects their lives.
3. An Increased Reliance on Telehealth
That Zoom call where your pediatrician asked you to point the camera down your toddler’s mouth? That is likely here to stay in 2021 and beyond, says Dr. Harvey Karp, renowned pediatrician and CEO of Happiest Baby. “Out of necessity, many doctor’s appointments have gone virtual this year, but what we’ve learned is that while some visits require face-to-face interaction, many doctors are finding that others can be done effectively from behind a screen,” he says. In addition, we’ve discovered the many benefits of telehealth. “For example, new parents who have questions about their infant might be able to get all the answers they need without bringing their precious little one into the office where they risk germ exposure. Or a mom who previously felt she didn’t have time to get therapy might find a virtual appointment much easier to squeeze into her busy schedule,” Karp adds.
4. More Virtual Support…for Parents
“In the early days of the pandemic, when shelter-in-place orders first too root, in-person, hands-on support simply wasn’t an option,” says Chelsea Allison, founder and CEO of Motherfigure, a maternal wellness start-up. “That evolved into providers, ranging from lactation consultants to physical therapists to doulas, all adapting and embracing digital platforms, taking their practices virtual—and national—for the first time.”
Helen Fang, head of marketing at Parent Lab, agrees: “We launched online parent-focused meditations, a lot of them free, due to parent demand, and have also seen increased interest in online materials that help with quality time and adult communication.”
5. Commitment to Sustainability
“Parents have always sought what’s best for their children, but COVID-19 put a stark spotlight on the importance of supporting the brands and organizations that truly care about the impact on both people and the planet,” says Liz Turrigiano, co-founder and CEO of Esembly, a sustainable diaper brand. Allison of Motherfigure agrees: “We’re going to see less wanton spending and a huge focus for parents on sustainable practices.” Goodbye plastic toys, hello baby clothing subscriptions?