Just weeks after I had my first baby, I received one of those emails detailing the milestones he was supposed to hit along with self-care tips for me as a new mother. It was crucial, the email told me, to find something just for myself — and mindless television and compulsive cleaning didn’t count.
I was so annoyed. On top of everything else, I was supposed to find a hobby? My new routine consisted of communing with my baby, watching Bones reruns (don’t ask), and constant tidying. And I was fine with that.
I realized this spring that the shock to my system brought on by the pandemic was similar to what happened when I had a baby: the upheaval to every routine, the loss of my old self, the days spent on the couch in sweatpants, the fits of frustration and terror punctuated by gratitude and the sweet love of my children. To go outside took on an eerie quality, just as it had when I had an infant, like I was tethered again to the safety of my nest and could never stray too far. Would we ever be free again? I coped with (you guessed it) mindless TV and compulsive cleaning. Maybe by the next pandemic I’ll get a hobby.
I yearn for the old normal, but I know, on some level, that we will never go back to what we were.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying pandemic parenting is the equivalent of maternity leave. The last few months for my family were about loss and grief, fear and uncertainty, not the explosion of love that comes with new parenthood. But I have been trying to reassemble myself in some of the same ways I had to when I first became a mother. And this time I’m doing it alongside every single other parent struggling with the loss of school and child care, daily contact with family and friends, predictability, and security. I yearn for the old normal, but I know, on some level, that we will never go back to what we were.
It is through this very lens that the team here at Romper has been looking hard at what we do. In the midst of all the home schooling, the doomscrolling, and the constant (constant!) fetching of snacks, we have been working on making this a site that reflects the new way we all identify as parents — the stories we want to hear, the service you need now.
What you’re seeing is the fruit of our labors: the new Romper. We hope you find it a source of new ideas, inspiration, and community. We feel incredibly lucky to be doing what we love: finding expert answers to the questions that keep us all up at night (the child-rearing ones, at least) and telling the stories of diverse mothers and fathers doing the parenting dance in all different ways.
The author and her family last spring
We’re kicking off this new era with a profile of the delightful Kristen Bell by the hilarious and perceptive Jennifer Weiner. Bell is one of those rare stars who manages to be deeply likable but never cloying, and authentic without oversharing. Here, for example, is how Bell fielded her daughter’s doubts about Santa. (Keep in mind, said daughter was 3.)
I said, "You are absolutely right. You smelled something fishy," because I believe if you don't find that instinct, especially in young women, and honor it and cultivate it, you are breeding someone who will deny their gut instincts for the rest of their life. Because I'm like, "B*tch, if something stinks to you, you talk about it. You ask questions. You say, 'I'm so sorry, I need more information here.'" I told her that Santa wasn't real, and she was 100% fine with it. But I also said, "Look, Santa is really fun."
Bell is too smart to stand on her celebrity soapbox and deliver pronouncements about what parents should — or shouldn’t — do, but I’m foolish enough to try it for her. Because hers is excellent advice: Listen to your gut, ask questions, enjoy the really fun stuff.
I'll add one more of my own, a lesson I learned all over again this week: Never forget that new beginnings are possible.