This year has really turned our lives upside down. So many things changed. I still look back and think wow, what an unbelievable year. As mums I feel like we took on the lions share of the changes. Sure, our husbands had to work from home but that was just a change of scene for them. They set up a little office in the corner of the house and got on with it. For us mums, our whole life got turned upside down.
Before corona came along, there I was getting on happily. My routine was fool proof. Get packed lunches ready and then get my wonderful children off to school. My day would consist of a few chores, that I had spread across the child free hours I had, a quick chat with friends on the phone and maybe a walk with a local mum in the afternoon. I would then spend a few hours on my laptop to get a little work done. Life was good and I had this motherhood thing in the bag. By the time 3pm rolled around I was ready for the kids to come home. Homework with the kids was a struggle but hey it was only an hour or two in the evening so I was fine with that.
Then corona came and life as we know it stopped. It wasn’t long before schools were shut down and the darlings were home. At first it was all about keeping the kids safe and therefore being home was the best place for them. I felt so nervous that I actually asked my kids school if I could keep my kids off school even before the first lockdown. After a few weeks of them being home, I just wanted to scream, PLEASE TAKE THEM BACK!!!
The lockdown really highlighted two types of mums. The mums that seemed to thrive and the ones like me, who at the end of each day was left exhausted and drained. I watched on social media, as other mums had these perfect kids sitting doing school work and taking part in exercise classes with Joe Wicks. In our house all routine had gone out the window and breakfast, was a two-hour buffet, depending on which child or teenager woke up first. Then before breakfast was put away, there would be one child asking about lunch. In reality my home had turned into an all-inclusive holiday resort. Don’t forget in the first few month’s schools hadn’t yet got it together with the whole remote learning thing, so kids didn’t have that much to do.
I now had to be the teacher, lunch time supervisor and generally stop them killing each other. This was on top of all the household chores. Chores which suddenly became double. Instead of putting the dishwasher on once a day, now it was on several times a day with all the eating! Cast your mind back to Desperate Housewives and Lynette taking her kids ADHD tablets to cope with her crazy children! I didn’t take tablets but a lot of coffee was consumed to get me through the days.
Now I was like this and I didn’t have a full-time job. I merely had a side hustle. But those working mums, who suddenly had no child care and had to carry on working from home. How did they manage? Do they have some superior strength to deal with wild kids or do they just have nice kids who do as they are told? Maybe because they already had full time jobs, their organisational skills were already geared up for these circumstances. I guess having a full-time job outside your home makes you plan your life with military precision and your kids get used to that. As the days turned into months, there has been tears – and not just from the kids I might add. Helping with maths homework definitely pushed me to the edge.
All I could think of was how I was struggling to help teach my own kids and frankly couldn’t understand how the teacher taught a class of 30 all day long. This of course was alongside the mum guilt, were they doing enough during the day, did they get enough exercise etc. Plus seeing the creative ideas other parents come up with to engage and entertain their kids only compelled my torment. And believe me tormented I was because here I was pulling my hair out and my husband was at his laptop sipping coffee at leisure.
As the months rolled on, we all got used to our new life. Then when September came, boy was I happy!! Feelings of pure euphoria and joy to have the darlings back in school. But then when the house was empty and there was a minute to think, my mind wondered. What I and all the other mums had been doing was nothing new. Mums always took on the task of parenting disproportionately to their husbands. It really was that invisible part of parenting. We shoulder the planning, the organizing and the remembering of everything that needs to be remembered. The mental load that comes with that work was changed by the corona pandemic. The pandemic just turned those skills up a gear and mums across the land took on that challenge head on.
If there is one thing to take from this year, is that mums truly deserve medals for their invisible work.
How did your first year dealing with the pandemic go? Let us know in the comments!
All guest writer articles come from our Muslim Mamas community or from our network of supporters. Some contribute one-off stories; some contribute as anonymous mamas. All experiences and opinions are those of the writers.