Caring for and raising a newborn child is hard enough under the best of circumstances, and a once-in-a-century pandemic, along with an economic downturn, is hardly the best of circumstances. What extra challenges have come with childrearing for local Jewish parents lucky enough to receive a bundle of joy in the midst of COVID-19?
“I guess everyone has been affected by the whole social distancing thing,” said Adrienne Zimmerman of Pikesville. She and her husband, Paul, welcomed their first child, a boy named Natan, in September of 2020. “I feel like little activities that you would do with your baby just don’t really happen these days.”
While Zimmerman would like to take Natan to places like the aquarium when he is a bit older, she said, and to the type of family events that once were normally held at community centers and libraries, many of these sort of in-person events have been on extended hiatus. She’s tried some of the virtual “mommy and me” get-togethers on offer, but she finds she doesn’t get much from the online programs.
Liz Ressler of Ellicott City finds herself in a similar situation.
“We were planning to do the same things as [we did with] my son,” Ressler said. She and her husband, Ian Clark, had their second child, Hannah, in March of 2020. Their first child, Jacob, is 2. “We were going to do a baby naming with a lot of family present, or as many as could be present.”
Ressler had envisioned bringing both Hannah and Jacob to Tot Shabbat events at the PJ Library. While she knows that virtual events are available, she does not feel they tend to work very well for a 2 year old.
Over the past year, Ressler and her family have seen far less of her relatives than they would have liked, she explained, with a virtual Passover; a limited, outdoor Rosh Hashanah; and a Chanukah celebration that included only her parents.
While Ressler occasionally had guests over at her house during the summer, she said, few chances would be taken regarding exposing Hannah to infection. “It would all be very socially distanced, and I would be the only one who would hold her, or my husband,” she said. “If my parents were over, they could hold her, but that was it. … Whereas previously, I would have just [passed] the baby around.”
Ressler feels fortunate that neither her nor her husband’s jobs have been impacted by the pandemic. She was also glad to have access to a licensed, in-home daycare service.
Similarly, Zimmerman also felt lucky that both she and her husband were still working, and that her sister-in-law is willing to watch Natan while she works. She was also grateful to receive COVID-19 food packages distributed at local schools.
Under different circumstances, Ressler might have begun looking into preschools to send Jacob to by now, she said, possibly Bet Yeladim, but right now she is choosing to hold off on that.
No matter the challenges or inconveniences, though, Zimmerman had no doubt that, had she somehow known of the coming pandemic, she would still have chosen to become pregnant with Natan.
“Of course,” Zimmerman said. “You’ve got to keep living life.”
Ressler felt the same way. “That wouldn’t have stopped me,” she said.