New Parents, New Rules
Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection, BIDMC
OCTOBER 13, 2020
New parents commonly experience a shift in relationship with their own parents. Grandparents often have good advice, based on experience, wisdom and a sincere desire to support their own son/daughter/in-law in this sometimes overwhelming adjustment to parenthood. New parents are typically grateful for the support of their parents, eager for much needed assistance especially during those wee hours of the morning!
COVID-19 has impacted the experience of becoming parents and on relationships with grandparents. In the early days of the pandemic, it was almost easier. We were all (except for first responders) in lockdown. We were advised to stay home, and limit our excursions to only those of absolute necessity, and we followed that directive, as we watched on the news scenes of hospitals overwhelmed with patients, with numbers of infected and dying rising every day. We were scared, and we stayed home.
As the months have dragged on and the state of Massachusetts has shifted to a gradual opening, our individual decision making around safety measures has also shifted, and thus the complications. As we begin the fall flu season and still significant daily numbers of new COVID-19 infections, most parents coming home from the hospital with a newborn are appropriately cautious. Many grandparents, in their desire to respect this caution and have access to their new grandbaby, quarantine for two weeks before visiting and remain strict on mask wearing and hand washing.
Most grandparents who live in Massachusetts, or other like-minded states, get it. They've heard the same messages of caution by our governor and mayors and realize the importance of these safety measures. Grandparents residing in other states with very different/looser safety guidelines are typically more confused, less understanding of parents' restrictions and caution around access to this new baby that they are eager to visit.
This situation puts parents in a bind, wanting the support, wanting to share this new life with their own parents, and yet appropriately concerned that their parents actions may put their family at risk. These are hard conversations and hard limits that new parents find themselves having to set. And yet, the reality is that we are not yet past this pandemic, and while we are fatigued with the caution we have followed all these months, we are still not yet at a place where we can let down our guard. Talk to your healthcare providers, get their input on safety measures particularly for your newborn, and follow those directives. Stay safe.