While Rules Relax, Moms Still Social-Distancing Feel Lonelier Than Ever

Sabrina Rojas Weiss

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If you can remember as far back as this March, you might recall our collective attitude about staying at home. Televised spring breakers aside, most of us felt like we were all in this social-distancing thing together, so there was little fear of missing out on social gatherings. My how things have changed, despite the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. So much so, that one Virginia mom on Reddit wondered if she’s the only one still keeping her toddler at home.

“I have a 2.5 year-old ,and prior to March, we went to toddler classes, activities, and playdates just about every day,” ohtooooodles wrote on the Toddler subreddit. “I was just getting to know some new moms, and those relationships have basically fizzled out. I see other parents visiting friends, going to public spaces, basically going back to normal, and it makes me feel very guilty and anxious for still saying no to all of that. Is anyone else in my boat? It would really help to hear that I’m not alone.”

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She is most definitely not alone. More than four months into this, and guidance on how to keep our children (and ourselves) safe is about as clear as mud. Sure, a lot of this is people selfishly deciding they’re bored and tired of staying at home. But just as often parents have been forced to go back to work and put their kids in daycares and camps. In between, there are many of us who are hoping that the latest studies about virus transmission means that outside playdates and park visits are OK — as long as masks, handwashing, and hand sanitizer are at the ready — because we’re worried for our kids’ mental health if we isolate them for much longer.

There is nothing lonelier than feeling like the only one following the rules, though — especially when you’re also saddled with the guilt that doing so means you’re depriving your child of social contact and enrichment. It’s all the worse if you pass by a playground with your kids and they see that others are playing there.

Thanks to this Reddit thread, hundreds of parents are learning that they’re not the only ones.

“You are not alone,” verablue said. “We are the silent group, not shown in the news or social media. I too have a 2.5 yr old. We’ve been home since early March. My husband and I take turns on grocery trips and otherwise WFH.”

“I live in a townhouse and all of my neighbors spend their days socializing, having their kids play together, etc,” NopeMcNopeface wrote. “I just stand, holding my screaming 16-month-old as I watch from the window. I feel so isolated too. … We have no backyard, only a crappy porch. My son is so bored. Time seems like it’s standing still, and my depression is getting worse and worse (he’s a very difficult kid). What a horrible time.

A California mom perfectly summed up the push and pull of social obligations and motherhood, especially, but not only, in a pandemic: “Ever since becoming a mom, I feel like I’ve had to make a lot of tough decisions and hurt a lot of people’s feelings to keep my daughter’s best interests at the forefront,” barnettjm2 wrote. “This is probably one of the hardest decisions we’re continually having to make – do we go see X, do we go do X, do we send her back to daycare, etc. In the process, people’s feeling are going to get hurt and/or we might be seen as paranoid or overly cautious. I just keep telling myself we are doing this to keep her and ourselves safe and healthy. We would absolutely hate ourselves if we intentionally did something and put her in harm’s way. We know the virus doesn’t seem to affect kids as badly (with a few sad examples to the contrary), but there’s still a lot we DON’T know about the long-term effects of exposure. And we aren’t willing to take the risk to find out just to attend a BBQ.”

Some moms described a few ways they have expanded their quarantine bubbles or played and walked with others outside, and others wrote in justifying the calculated risks they’re taking. But this isn’t a thread for those parents, who will find each other just fine offline.

The ones at home needed this online connection so much more. They also found it helpful to remind each other why they’re doing this.

“We weren’t grounded and now we got the car keys back,” boxingsharks wrote. “This is still going on, and no abating. I’ll take the ‘paranoid’ over ‘positive’ any day, especially with small children.”

When you do take your kids out into the world, consider buying their face masks from one of these Black-owned companies.

Launch Gallery: The Best Kids Face Masks by Black-Owned Brands

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