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Firstly, I must say that I am grateful that so far my loved ones and I have been safe, healthy and have not contracted Covid-19. My heart goes out to the tens of thousands of families that have been impacted by the virus and this blog is in no way meant to be insensitive to the ‘bigger picture’, but I will be using this blog as my outlet based on my experience. Every so often mums need to share their feelings and get thoughts off their chest, so here goes!
I write this blog at 1.45pm to the tune of Peppa pig, with my daughter still in her pyjamas and the kitchen sink piled high. I think that we can all agree that children are a blessing but parenting is difficult at the best of times, without a pandemic on our hands. 2020 has been a long year, for a lot of mums in particular. The cooking, house-work, work-work and home-work were not enough. We then had to maintain our regular role; keeping the house clean, the family fed (now three times a day), on top of working from home and becoming teachers to our children; all whilst avoiding the virus and do not even get me started on the food shop!
The pandemic turned homes across the world from a place of rest, after a day at work or school, into every single thing you could possibly imagine. Our home became a nail parlour, a jungle, a cinema, Pizza Express, the seaside, and at one point my three-year-old and her dad, tried to turn the hallway into soft-play and slide down the stairs! It was a challenge at times to keep my daughter entertained and active, whilst tackling work tasks and the emails that were coming through, as well as dealing with my daughter’s interruptions and food orders. I found myself torn between getting my work done and using the television as a tool to keep her entertained.
Now it’s not all complaining over here, during that time we went on some beautiful walks, spent real quality time together, reconsidered our goals and what we hold important in life, as well as using our imaginations to save some extra money! The money saving continues, now that we have found so many exciting things to do at home. Therefore, we are less inclined to waste money over weekends and during school holidays; constantly spending on entertainment when we have seen the enjoyment that can be had at home for a quarter of the price!
Fast forward a bit and after months of staying at home, adapting to the new normal we were thrown back outside. Restrictions began to ease and we enjoyed a version of the summer holidays, knowing that schools and some places of work were to re-open from September. At this point I thought I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and my life would begin its transition back to what it had been. But I soon realised that even with the easing of restrictions, life was far from normal. As we entered September, I found it was bitter sweet, I was still working from home but free of the home-learning. My daughter was back at school but this meant a staggered school run, masks at the gate and my work lunch-break now being taken to collect my daughter from school, as wrap around care provisions had diminished. Not to mention early school closures on Friday’s for cleaning. I know that this has been the reality for many mums around the UK.
While I have touched on the difficulty of parenting during tense changes, I feel it is important to acknowledge that there was so much more that came with it. During this year, working mums have had to perform at home and at work, at a time when job security fears are soaring and redundancies have increased by 227,000, between June and August alone. We are talking about numbers of redundancies that have not been seen since May to July of 2009!
Households were struggling financially in the midst of redundancies and furloughs, whilst relationships were being tested. I’m sure many households experienced something similar to me. The beginning of lockdown was met with happy families and colour-coded timetables detailing work-time, activities and chores but this was quickly followed by the demise of responsibility sharing, leaving mums under immense pressure. Research scientists from the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Zurich found that during March and April, working mums handled more of the childcare and home-schooling compared to dads. And still continue to take on extra hours of house-work and childcare.
I was concerned when I read a United Nations study about the pandemic’s impact on gender equality. The truth is Covid-19 presents a risk for everything women have worked so hard to gain, equality at home and at work. And I take it further to ponder what this second wave will mean for all working mums. Covid-19 has already resulted in a vast number of working mums taking on greater childcare responsibility and or reducing their working hours, to decrease the burden for the household.
My conclusion lies with the fact that it is becoming ever clearer that this balancing act we are attempting is not sustainable. Many of us have been and will be subjected to further change due to Covid-19. As we feel the current situation puts our hard-work, happiness and sanity at risk in our roles as employees/business owners, mothers and partners. We must now face the question of how we can manage the impact of this risk in our daily lives.
First things first, talk about it. Let someone know how you are feeling and if you are struggling. Writing this blog was like taking a weight off of my shoulders. As they say, a problem shared, is a problem halved and my problem is now shared with you all. It is all out in the open, which has allowed me to identify the areas I am struggling with the most and make a plan to combat them.
Secondly, ask for help. You are a superwoman but you do not have to be alone. If you have a partner or family members available, request their support! Whether this be with the children or the house-work; bring back the colour-coded timetable and make a point of updating it weekly. Ask your partner or family member, where possible, to take on some of your tasks, it will make all the difference. For example, I now split the school run responsibility with my partner. I gain an extra fifteen minutes in bed and an uninterrupted shower, while my daughter blissfully skips down the road with her book bag in one hand and daddy in the other.
And my final piece of advice is to make time for you on your to-do list! Keep you as a priority; ultimately your best efforts are no good if you are burnt out! Pencil in even just one hour a week to relax, do something you love or just do nothing and by no means are you authorised to cancel, reschedule or postpone that hour! I hope that you have found my final words helpful and I am wishing you all the best in finding and keeping whatever happiness means to you, despite all that is going on.