The Unexpected Impact of COVID-19: Bringing Moms and Children Closer Together
There’s no doubt about it: COVID-19 has put a tremendous amount of pressure on moms.
Considering how difficult it is to balance motherhood, a career, and a household without a global health crisis, it’s hard to imagine that anything positive for parents could come out of this current situation.
We wanted to know - is there any good to be found in being stuck at home even while we grieve this new reality? Is there anything moms can appreciate about this unique time even if it’s not what anyone would have chosen? Does spending more time at home with kids, even if it has its own set of pressures, create opportunities for family relationships to deepen?
While this season has brought grief and difficulty, it has also created meaningful change for some families. Read on to learn more.
At Huggable, we love hearing from and partnering with parents. As such, we decided to conduct a survey to find out exactly how the lifestyle and employment changes brought about by COVID-19 have impacted their relationships with their young children. We surveyed 538 mothers with children three years old and under.
We learned a great deal from the responses to our survey, and we were particularly interested to discover that not only are parents spending more time with their young children, they are also feeling a closer bond with them.
Here are some key takeaways from our survey results:
- Moms are spending an average of 49% more time with their children than they did before COVID-19
- Moms are now spending an additional 3.7 hours per weekday with their children
- 63% of moms say they have grown either significantly or slightly closer to their children
One of our most notable findings is that the moms we surveyed are spending an average of 49% more time with their young children as a result of COVID-19. This figure includes moms who work full-time, moms who work part-time, and moms who usually stay at home.
Prior to COVID-19, the moms we surveyed were spending an average of 7.8 hours with their kids on a typical weekday. Now, as a result of daycare closures, working remotely, and other lifestyle changes, those same moms are currently averaging 11.7 hours per weekday with their children. That increase of nearly four hours is hugely significant.
Moms who work full-time reported the biggest increase in the amount of time spent with their children. On an ordinary weekday before COVID-19, they were spending an average of 6.4 hours with their children. That number has increased to 10.3 hours per weekday since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Whether it’s because they’re working from home or because they have experienced a change in employment status, it’s undeniable that millions of moms who work full-time are seeing far more of their children than they usually would.
The survey revealed that moms who were not working before COVID-19 have also been able to spend several additional hours a day with their children -- 3.7 additional hours, to be precise. On an average weekday before COVID-19, stay-at-home mothers were spending 10 hours per weekday with their young children. Now, they’re spending nearly 14 hours per weekday with their little ones.
The most exciting finding?
63% of moms reported an improvement in their relationships with their children since COVID-19. We know how demanding babies and toddlers can be, and we’re so pleased to hear that this additional family time has brought mothers and children even closer together.
Not only have full-time working moms experienced the biggest increase in the amount of time spent with their babies and toddlers, but they have also noted the most significant improvement in their relationships with their children. We found it noteworthy that among moms who work full-time, 67% said that they now feel slightly or even significantly closer to their young children as a result of COVID-19.
Moms reported that this increased closeness was the result of doing more household tasks together, such as cooking, and having dedicated time for play (time that was previously lost due to daily commutes). Additionally, several full-time working moms noted that working from home due to COVID-19 has allowed them to breastfeed their infants instead of having to pump!
The positive trend towards improved mother-child relationships was also reflected among moms who were not working outside the home before COVID-19. Although the change was not quite as substantial as the increase among moms who work full time, 56% reported that their relationships with their children were either slightly improved or significantly improved.
These moms reported that their relationships have gotten closer as they’ve reduced time spent in the car driving between activities and have gotten more creative with their kids at home. Some also noted that their children are helping with a larger number of chores and that they’re better able to work through conflict. A few stay-at-home moms also reported that they’ve loved seeing older siblings, who used to be at school, interacting with and deepening their relationships with their younger sibling(s).
An Additional Benefit for Families: Increased Time with Dad
Both working and stay-at-home moms highlighted that having their partner at home, even while working, has been positive for their family relationships. Survey respondents noted that dads have been able to participate in more family meals, spend their break times with the kids, and do more newborn care tasks such as diaper changes and bottle feeds.
Several moms also noted that their relationship with their partner has improved as a lack of outside childcare has resulted in a more equitable split of household and child-related responsibilities.
The Bright Side: More Time At Home Leads to Developmental Gains for Children
In addition to developing stronger bonds between parents and children, we’re learning that some children are gaining important skills during this extended period of time at home. Let’s break it down the changes that are being reported, both anecdotally and in published articles:
Independence - Parents have more responsibilities and fewer hours of childcare than ever before. As a result? Kids around the world are learning how to play independently. Independent play offers many benefits for small children, including better emotional regulation, higher self-confidence, and increased attention span.
Vocabulary and speech - It’s well established that vocabulary development among young children is directly correlated to the number of words they hear in their first three years of life. More time at home has meant more conversations for some families...and they’re seeing results! Two moms in our survey reported that their kids have picked up more words than ever during these months at home.
Gross motor development - One of the newest concerns in parenting circles is “Container Baby Syndrome,” a lag in physical development that some babies experience as a result of being restrained in swings, car seats, and bouncers for much of the day. As a result of less time spent in the car, some parents have reported a boom in gross motor skills in their infants. Additionally, parents have enjoyed being home for the emergence of these new skills-- one mom reporting that working from home allowed her to see her baby’s first steps!
Creativity - If necessity is the mother of invention, boredom is the mother of creativity. Without the constant parade of activities offered by preschool, classes, or playdates, some kids are learning new ways to fill the time. Parents have reported that their children are taking more initiative, using their toys in new ways, and are spending more time in free play than prior to the COVID-19-related shutdowns.
Physical activity - For many children, time in school means hours of sitting every day. With a meaningful increase in time spent at home, some families are seeing a large spike in the amount of physical activity their children do on a daily basis. More kids are playing outside, hiking with their families, or even doing yoga in their homes-- Cosmic Kids Yoga, a YouTube favorite among preschoolers, reported a 10x increase in daily views in March, totaling 1 million views per day as schools started to close.
- Resilience - While many families worry that their children will have increased anxiety as a result of COVID-19, researchers anticipate that the challenges associated with this season will build long-lasting resilience in kids:
"Resilience comes from kids having the tools and confidence to solve problems, overcome challenges, pick themselves up from failure and emerge stronger, braver and more optimistic than ever.” -Dr. Robert D. Keder, Developmental Pediatrician (connecticutchildrens.org)
While no one would have chosen this situation for their kids, there is no denying that it has presented a unique opportunity for our children to problem solve and work through difficult feelings. These are skills that will benefit our children for years to come as they encounter other challenges during their lifetimes.
Although we were pleased to see that COVID-19 has brought many families closer together and that some kids are benefiting from this time, we acknowledge that not all families have had the opportunity to share this time together.
Countless parents have been reporting to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, fulfilling vital roles such as doctors, nurses, police officers, postal workers, delivery drivers, and grocery store clerks. We are in awe of the sacrifices that so many parents have made to help keep their communities healthy and safe, and we thank them for their service.
We also realize that many parents are dealing with financial struggles and loss of employment brought on by the COVID-19 crisis and that some have faced illness and loss in their own families. We also acknowledge that many moms have been shouldering the demands of a challenging job while also balancing child care and homeschooling responsibilities, often for several children. As parents ourselves, we know this hasn’t been easy.
Nevertheless, families are rising: we heard beautiful stories of parents and children getting to spend time together that would not have otherwise been possible. Families are now eating meals together more frequently. Moms have told us how precious it is to be physically present as their children learn and grow on a daily basis, rather than watching these milestones through a smartphone or hearing about them from their child’s preschool teacher.
As summarized by Clint Edwards,
“[I]n this moment of reflection, I’m taking an accounting of what our children really need to grow into well-rounded, responsible adults with active bodies and brains, and what we might have been missing as a family because of trying to do too much. Perhaps what we really needed all along was less on our plates and more time with one another.” (New York Times)
The survey was conducted from April 26 - May 15th, 2020. We used Amazon Mechanical Turk to provide a randomized audience. We targeted American moms with a child under the age of three and received 538 responses. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4% at a 95% confidence level.
A note on the language used throughout the article: we understand that families are unique and may not include a mom and a dad. Please know that the outcomes described in this article are based on the responses we received and reflect the language respondents chose to describe their families.