Life as we used to know it has been slowly returning since the start of the vaccination roll-out. Soon enough we will be kissing those masks goodbye and joyfully attending birthday parties and arena events again. However, as much as we yearned for “normal” during a year or so of lockdowns and isolation, what some of us didn’t anticipate is the hesitancy we would feel when finally given the green light. We are lucky to have vaccines for adults and older children, but our youngest kids are unprotected and still vulnerable. How does a mom with young kids re-enter society with the same joy as before?
Well, the truth is, we just don’t. For over a year we have been given the message that people are the enemy. The “COVID Monster” is sitting on your neighbor’s hand or on the door handles at the community center. We were told not to trust anything, anyone. Our children have received that same message. Yet now, with the flip of a switch, we’re expected to return to our (somewhat) normal way of doing things. As parents, we are responsible for the care and protection of our children. It is our right to decide what is best for them and function in a way that allows us to sleep at night, without worry that we’ve harmed them. If you’re feeling those social-anxiety jitters and wondering how on earth you’re going to navigate this post-COVID world with tiny humans in your charge, here are some tips to ease your anxieties.
Take is slow
No one is asking you to run straight into a McDonald’s playland! Take baby steps. Start with an outdoor event with plenty of space. Slowly make your way indoors, leading to a more intimate and closed space like a shopping mall. Once you get out and about, you might find that the danger factor has diminished with the sun shining and the sound of people enjoying each other.
If masks give you some assurance and relieve your anxieties, then keep it on! You can keep wearing a mask as long as you need to. With time, as you ease into society, it will start to feel more natural to go without it. And keeping hand sanitizer on hand has never been a bad idea.
Choose your tribe
We need community. This counts for your kids as well. If the idea of having them sharing germs with a large group of new kids freaks you out, choose just one or two families to mix with as a start. You can slowly start opening up your social circle when you’re ready.
Don’t get stuck
Don’t allow your anxieties to keep you from enjoying the world again! Force yourself to take a small step to re-enter society each day. It will be good for both you and your children to get out and socialize again after so long in isolation.
Seek Professional Help
There are times when we cannot put mind over matter and need help to reorient our world. Therapists and social workers can help us make sense of the many pieces at play and equip us with techniques to overcome mental blocks.
Give grace to both yourself and others. We all are going to have different comfort levels in this post-COVID era. Give time and grace to yourself to take it at your own pace. Give grace and space to others if they are not going at your same space. Be kind to those who may look at you strangely for being nervous or cautious. At the end of the day, you are your children’s parents, not them. We love our children and work to act in their best interests at all times. This does not change whether we are living through a pandemic or not. Politely tell your critics to keep their opinions to themselves.
Living through a global pandemic has earthed some new fears for a mother’s heart, but with time and by taking things slow and steady, you can find a way to again participate in the fun and social joys that make a happy childhood.
About Rachel Greening
Rachel Greening is a stay-at-home mom of three, poet, and author of the children’s book “If My Oak Tree Could Speak.” To find out more, visit her website.