Ayear into the pandemic, my then 3-year-old daughter seemed to have a running list of the dogs we had seen out and about that she was no longer allowed to touch, for fear of interacting with a potentially infectious dog owner.
“When the virus is over, I’m going to pet that dog,” she’d say, pointing to the puff with legs on the sidewalk, or a golden retriever on the other side of the park.
The way she said “virus” filled me with a measure of pride and pain, a crisp, clear pronunciation learned from hearing the word in nearly every sentence for months. We couldn’t have friends over, the playground didn’t feel safe, and masks should stay snugly over your nose — all because of the virus.
Maybe parenting has always been this fraught. I was not the first to raise a child in a pandemic, or amid political uncertainty, or in a world where war and violence ripped into the headlines. I’ve been told worrying is just a symptom of parenthood.
But for many, parenting in a pandemic feels uniquely hazardous, like sailing in squalls without a mast. “We’re going through this global existential crisis,” says Dr. Erica Lee, a child and adolescent psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “So many families just say to me the hits just keep on coming . . . It’s a hard time to be a parent.”
It didn’t take long to realize that the pandemic was wearing on families. A study published in April 2021 by researchers from Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU found that 55 percent of parents reported that their stress level had increased in the early months of the pandemic and remained elevated through September 2020.