Chocs and flowers paper over fact mothers have borne brunt of lockdown
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Mother’s Day on Sunday, or Mothering Sunday to use the correct term, has probably never been so poignant.
Mothers with school-age children are emerging this week, blinking into the light like pit ponies released from month of dark underground labour, from three months of being cooped up at home with their children, wrestling with the burden of expectation that they must do the job of a qualified teacher, when their children know they know as much, or, in reality, less, than they do about anything that should be happening in the classroom.
Those of us with older children who no longer live at home are just desperate to see and hold them because, next to everything, being their mother is the most important precious job those of us who chose this route will ever have in our lives.
Mother is the badge we wear most proudly.
It is women, and mainly mothers, who have borne the brunt of the pandemic and will come out as lockdown losers.
They are most likely to have taken the domestic burden in families, the childcare and home-schooling, keeping every one’s spirits, while often trying to hold down a job themselves.
Domestic violence rates have soared in the last year too as homes become pressure cookers of stress, with mainly women as victims.
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Then women are also more likely to find themselves unemployed now as their jobs were in sectors most affected by the pandemic and closed or were on zero hours contracts and have taken a severe economic hit, pushed into the Universal Credit system with all the issues that brings.
So, as eyes turn to mothers on Sunday, never have people who share the same title been so polarised or put upon.
There are the mothers who are no doubt exhausted from it all in their Farrow and Ball painted kitchens, wrestling with their headstrong children to sit at their shiny laptops and pay attention, while they escape to the sitting room or office to do their jobs.
Educated women trying to ‘get their heads round’ the way primary schools teach maths these days.
Taking nothing away from them, it’s out of their comfort zone and I thank my lucky stars every day that I never had to do it with my sons.
It would have been a living hell. But their fears that their children will ‘fall behind’ in a house full of books, capability, ambition and aspiration is nothing compared to the ‘invisible’ mothers without the comfort, income and education.
Their story is very different and largely hidden, in small homes, often lone parenting, with no space for their children to learn, let alone on a laptop. It breaks my heart to think of how some children have had to ‘learn’ and be schooled on a smart phone.
These mothers are just as desperate about doing their best for their children, while dealing with minimum income, no job and wringing anxiety about the future.
Mothers have not only borne the brunt of the lockdown, but they are also more polarised than ever.
Someone told me recently that cleaning companies, a sector that employs mostly women, were going to the wall daily because working from home meant offices didn’t need cleaning anymore and thousands of jobs were being lost.
Just one invisible affect of the pandemic
Then there are the mothers at war. There’s been swelling resentment, would you believe, about key workers’ children going to school and speculation if parents are ‘key worker enough’ to merit school places and 'if she can why can’t I?' attitudes.
And the new mothers, who had babies born in lockdown and have got through without the usual support.
There’s no discredit to fathers here, and many don’t question equal roles sharing the burden, sometimes with knobs on, and all the single fathers out there do magnificent jobs.
But there’s no getting away from the fact that lockdown has become a female issue with increased childcare, home-schooling, domestic burdens, women losing work and income, and suffering career reversals, with mountains to climb to get back on so many levels.
All this while storing up a whole pile of health issues that will emerge post lockdown.
So, Sunday is about so much more than a bunch of daffs and breakfast in bed, as lovely as these are, and fuss for one day.
The best Mother’s Day gift would be greater understanding, acknowledgement and action to improve the lot of mothers everywhere.
More harm than good: The irony of THE interview being aired on International Women’s day when women are encouraged to speak out.
Even the chosen hashtag for social media for the day was #choosetochallenge.
But when a woman of colour uses her voice to challenge and not be intimidated by societal expectations, look what happens?
Whatever your views on the whole sorry debacle, the timing was more than ironic, and the negative reaction will only push more women to choose not to challenge.
Support needed: NHS absenteeism because of sickness rates have soared, with stress and anxiety at the top of the list alongside coronavirus.
Stress and sickness have been at the forefront of NHS understaffing for years, but what is being done to address this?
Most healthcare workers are female and would say it’s not all about money, it’s about being supported too to do jobs they love.