We’re excited to share that our Senior Therapist and Director of Tribeca Maternity Rachael Benjamin appears in two recent articles in Verywell Mind, addressing the challenges of motherhood during the pandemic and caregiving for both older parents and children.
In “Why Mom’s Mental Health Is More Important Than Ever,” Rachael explores how the pandemic “increased stress about family care, childcare, and schools…” for parents, particularly moms who often shoulder the family’s burden when it comes to these decisions. Additionally, essential workers had to make a conscious choice about the known risk of getting sick or their kids getting sick, as well as juggle work and childcare with limited options for outside help. “This impacted all mothers’ anxieties,” Rachael observes. “It felt like the world turned upside down, which can cause distress, anxiety, lowness, anger, or listlessness.”
In addition to anxiety, parents also struggled with isolation and loneliness with the pandemic “forcing some families and mothers to stay home together as a family away from their supportive social circles and village mentality.” This especially affected new parents since, in more normal times, they might seek out a community of other parents of newborns. “Moms may have also felt isolation’s impact on their relationships,” Rachael explains, “particularly not having the space to be independent from their relationships with their children or partner.”
In this new stage of the pandemic, Rachael observes that getting back to normal is the new stressor for moms, especially if kids are too young to be vaccinated or if there are differences within a family about COVID now that restrictions have been lifted. “That can produce stress if there are disagreements within a family or community,” Rachael notes. However, Rachael also finds that moms have used this period to reevaluate what they want and need as a parent. “Mothers are in the position to choose—really choose rather than get thrown into things—what they value as opposed to what people expect of them,” she asserts.
Part of this can include setting a goal to care for themselves, which can benefit the entire family. “By setting the goal and value of caring for themselves, moms can pause to consider what is important to them that gives them pleasure, satisfaction, rest, time to process their emotions, or space to foster connection in relationships,” Rachael says. She suggests moms start by “stating simple, reasonable activities that they want to do by themselves or with their partner, friends, or kids,” such as a twenty-minute family reading time, a daily walk or run, or therapy.
Likewise in “Caregivers Caught in the Middle—How the Overworked Sandwich Generation Can Cope,” Rachael offers her expertise as a family therapist on how caregivers who are “sandwiched” between parenting kids and caring for older parents can make sure to also show themselves compassion. When balancing caring for both kids and older parents, which can be extremely difficult, Rachael says, “I think that the priorities need to be…what’s the most loving thing I can do in this relationship?” This may include making hard decisions like considering assisted living for an aging parent or limiting kids’ activities, as well as asking other family members to pitch in when things get overwhelming.
Rachael emphasizes that caregivers should also resist putting too much pressure on themselves and instead, see the power in being “good enough.” She suggests reminding yourself: “I’ll do the best that I can do and that will be good enough. I can make mistakes in this moment and miss something and learn from that and that will have to be good enough.”