How The Pandemic Is Pushing Working Mothers To The Verge of Meltdown
Balancing a career and a home has always been hard. The pandemic and subsequent work from home has made life tougher for many working moms. We lend a sympathetic ear to some of these brave women
By Monali Bordoloi • 9 min read
Life of a working mother during the pandemic is not at all easy. For many, office timings have extended as they are working from home. Add to this, the fact that all working moms are burdened with household chores. While moms have always had to multitask, many are now finding it difficult to balance work calls, deadlines, cooking, cleaning, washing, feeding kids and other chores around the house. To make it worse, you have to maintain higher standards of cleanliness and hygiene to keep the coronavirus away!
Overworked is a constant state with all working moms. In the current situation, while some are facing gender bias and even abuse, at home, others are dealing with financial crunches, and almost all are feeling stressed by the whole situation. For some, this has been so overwhelming that they have even quit their jobs to take care of their home and kids full-time!
We reached out to a few such brave women to learn about their life during the quarantine and how they are coping with it. We also talked to Dr Meghna Singhal, clinical psychologist, to find out her views on this pressing issue. Read on to find out how some working moms are almost on the verge of breaking down and what Dr Meghna is suggesting one should do to tide over it!
Lack of support from family
Last week, Chitra and her team of software developers successfully completed a product release. Everyone congratulated her but amidst all the congratulatory messages, her eyes welled up. Only she knew the personal sacrifices she had had to make to complete the project on time. Both the outside world and her home were reeling under the pandemic effect and yet she had to deliver.
It so happened that Chitra started working on this important project in February this year. Soon the pandemic happened, and like most IT workers, she started working from home. But then, everything started going awry. Till then, with a maid and a cook, life was manageable for Chitra. Her two school-going children were quite independent and her in-laws stayed with her. The house used to run smoothly. But all these changed when she and her husband started working from home and her children shifted to online classes. Her previously independent boys, aged 7 and 11, now needed her to sit with them during their online classes. The cook and maid has stopped coming and she had to cook elaborate meals for the entire family and her husband wanted to ramp up the sanitization at home. The only available work desk was occupied by her husband and all Chitra got was a corner of the bed as her 'office.' Every day Chitra was cooking, cleaning, caring for kids, her in-laws, her husband, and also managing a team of 12 working on this critical project under her guidance.
"By the end of the each day, every bone in my body would ache. But what hurt the most was the absolute lack of support from my husband and in-laws. For my in-laws, my husband's job is 'important', so he is not to be disturbed with any household chores or any other work for that matter. They just do not consider the fact that I am working too and contribute equally to the household income. I was aghast to know that they believe that child rearing, cooking and cleaning are exclusively for the women folk. I can understand this attitude in my in-laws, but I didn't expect this from my husband of 12 years. As the days go by I am getting more and more frustrated. My husband is not bothered by the fact that his parents have such an attitude. He thinks that I will be able to manage, sorry change that, he expects me to manage our home, the children, job, his parents all by myself. There are times when I had to lock myself in a room to finish some office work. When I'd open the door again everyone would be sulking.
So, when I managed to finish the project on time, I was overwhelmed and broke down because only I know what I am going through during this pandemic. I am so looking forward to getting back to the old days. But if the situation continues like this, I may not be able to continue my job!”
(Name changed on request)
Many of us can relate to what Chitra is going through during the pandemic. That is why we decided to talk to Dr Meghna Singhal on the issue and find some solutions.
This is what she says, "It's unfortunate to see the state of many working women, who were anyway putting in double shifts (coming back from office and then starting with household chores). But due to work from home, the work-life balance has gone out of the window and working women are struggling to manage it all. Should they attend their work meeting or sit with their child for online classes? Should they cook or tackle that deadline at work? With no support (partly due to the non-availability of household help and partly the patriarchal mindset that enables the husband to close off his door and focus eight hours straight on work!), working women across all sections are struggling. We have seen a rise in cases of mental health issues particularly among working women during this global crisis. And if you feel burdened or overwhelmed about the situation, discuss it with your family members and set expectations. And if the situation is affecting you mentally, never shy away from reaching out and talking it out with an expert (professional counsellor or clinical psychologist) who can guide you on how to cope with the difficult situation.”
Having to do it all
This is what Rashmi Harish, who works for a corporate giant in Bangalore, has to say about her experience during the pandemic, “Since the pandemic started and we have been cooped up at home, I have begun to wish there are more than 24 hours in a day or that I have more than two hands. There are N number of things to do in a day and I struggle to maintain a timetable. My children are always eating their breakfast when their online classes start, despite several warnings by the teacher. I am always late to log in for my meetings as I have to first make sure that my children are quiet. On weekdays, even putting lunch on the table on time is a challenge. On top of all this, I always have that niggling mommy guilt of not being there for my kid’s online classes. On most days, I cannot help them with homework as I have to focus on my job. Earlier, since office timings were fixed, I had some time for myself. Now, I am not even getting time to call my parents.”
Mom to a 4-year-old, Aishwarya Sezhian shares with us, “During the pandemic, I realised that it is very difficult to work with little kids around home. You can’t focus and work on anything unless they are asleep or monitored by other adults. I try to make my child sleep in the afternoon and work during that time or wait for my husband to come home and play with her so that I can get some time to complete my pending work. Yes, it has been hard, both for us working moms and our kids who try to get our attention and want to play with us.”
Rashmi Navada, a freelance writer has this to share: “Once the pandemic started, my earnings took a hit as projects went on hold. The initial complete lockdown gave rise to a new set of challenges. With preschools and daycare centres completely shut, I had to take up the task of home-schooling my twins. Besides, I had to don the hat of an event planner to plan activities for my kids to keep them occupied throughout the day. As the kids and the family members acquired a new appetite for fancy food, I had to turn into a master chef too. Between all this juggling, I had to find the time to complete the projects I had already accepted. Even now, the only time I get to work on my assignments is during the night, and this eats into my eight hours of sleep time.”
Challenges at work
Let’s hear what Shreya Suraj, a teacher and artist, has to say. “Life was smooth till the first week of March in Doha. I was busy preparing my students for their tenth and twelfth standard board exams. Then came the pandemic and I had the biggest challenge of my life. I had to deal with worried parents and panicked students. Overnight, I had to change my strategy and mode of teaching. Many of my students did not have Zoom accounts, so I started taking video classes on WhatsApp. With the restrictions of calls in Doha, we had to install an alternate system and even then, our calls used to get disconnected every 40 minutes. It was a difficult period, but we all cooperated. Later, my students wrote their exams and came out with flying colours. Now, I continue to take my classes on Zoom smoothly. I even conduct free art workshops. I urge other women not to feel low and think that we can all get through the pandemic together. We just need to be patient with everything, and things will be better for sure.”
Looks like no matter what you are doing, it is tough being a woman during the pandemic as well. But we say, as parents, as wives and as women we have it in us to rise above all this and emerge a winner. Just hang in there!
Also read: 10 Eternal Struggles of Working Moms
About the author:
Written by Monali Bordoloi on 5 October 2020.
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