By Aubrey Everett
When I first heard we would all be staying home -- no work, no daycare, no activities -- I felt a bit of panic set in. We had been on a roll: my son just turned 10 months old, we recently returned from a fun family vacation, including his first flight, he was on his third week of swimming lessons, and he had a group of friends that we saw regularly at a local moms group meetup. All that came to a halt.
While my initial worry was for my son, we soon realized he was probably too young to notice things were amiss, and, if anything, he was simply happy to see his mom and dad more. My husband and I were going to be the ones most affected. All of those activities were great for my son, but they were also a way for us to meet other parents and have social interactions with friends.
As the pandemic stretched on, it became clear that we needed to maintain some type of social life in order to feel some sense of normalcy. In a way, we are lucky this struck at a time when digital and virtual communication is so widespread and available. Texting, Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook, House Party, Whatsapp, Instagram. These communication vehicles became our lifelines.
As the pandemic stretched on, it became clear that we needed to maintain some type of social life in order to feel some sense of normalcy.
In the beginning there was a flurry of messages and phone calls. We were checking in on friends, family were checking in on us, everyone wanted to see how others were handling this unprecedented situation. But as the weeks turned into months, some of those check-ins quieted down. Perhaps we had less to say and fewer updates to give? After all, each day was turning into a version of the one before.
In order to keep a relationship alive -- in person or virtual -- effort needs to come from both sides. If one friend does most of the reaching out, she may grow wary of that dynamic. If a family member only sends texts with complaints, rarely asking how the other person is doing, that can become tiring for the person on the receiving end. A friendship takes effort, and even though our devices are never far from reach, especially now, we can often forget to send a quick “hey” or “how did that difficult meeting last week turn out?”. Adding important dates to your calendar can lead to natural check-ins. Birthdays, due dates, and other dates of importance can provide a prompt for a quick text. Using Timehop or similar nostalgic apps makes for another simple “remember when” post or message.
A friendship takes effort, and even though our devices are never far from reach, especially now, we can often forget to send a quick “hey” or “how did that difficult meeting last week turn out?”.
During an extended period of quarantine, there are a few more steps that can be taken to maintain relationships and ease the burden of solitary life.
Join formal groups.
For many of us with family spread around the country and the world, these digital lines of communication were already well established. But finding new communities online that align to your specific situation can be a huge help. Many in-person parental groups have continued to meet on virtual platforms. Once telehealth hurdles were cleared, this paved the way for counselors to continue hosting established groups. Check your area for Zoom meet-ups where local parents can ask questions, give advice, and “socialize” in a distanced climate. Product-specific groups are another great way to make connections. Love your Ergobaby carrier? There’s a Facebook group for that.
Keep the questions coming.
The world may have seemingly come to a grinding halt, but our baby’s development has not. I have a few group chats that are in constant motion, where friends toss out questions, ask for product advice, and lament current struggles. The beauty of digital communication is that all styles of “chatting” can be accommodated. The whole group doesn’t have to be available at the same time. Some people like to message when their kids are down for a nap, others while they are out for a walk, and some late at night when the house is quiet. As long as you find your ideal response window, relationships can be maintained and even flourish.
Have NBR (Not Baby Related) conversations.
My circle of moms all have babies around the same age, and it’s true that much of our discussions revolve around the kids. But taking the time to chat about food, the news, pleasure projects and tv shows (even if it’s Workin’ Moms) adds a depth to child-focused friendships. The one thing we have in common is our children, which means we all bring a lot of different backgrounds, interests and insights to the table.