Mothers have always found it difficult to balance work life and family. Still, we have always managed to pull through by rewarding ourselves with ME-times and mum-to-mum tête-à-tête sessions with good company and cake.
Unfortunately, when Covid-19 hit, it became a global pandemic. Restrictions were put in place and shops had to be closed. The whole world came to a stop. Everyone remained home, worked from home and were discouraged to go out unless you needed to buy rations. Gone is the luxury of going out to catch a breather. You can pretty much throw your ME-time out the window.
Suddenly mothers are not only tasked with being an employee, but they also have to parent and teach all at once. It is no wonder many working mums are finding it hard to keep things together.
Here are some of the common challenges that could affect a mum’s mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic.
No mum is free of this. It seems self-blaming is a favourite pastime of ours. Take for example after a long day working from home. We would think back the hours we let them watch too much TV or have gadget time. Or how we should be monitoring their school work but are unable to because we are too overwhelmed with work ourselves. How many times did we say we’ll do that later, we’ll make that slime tomorrow and only give a quick glance when they come to show you their best work. It is actually our love for our children that causes us to second guess our own actions which contribute to this ongoing regret.
Mums are always exhausted! Some work late into the night because that is the only time they can get any work done without any interruption. In the morning she has to juggle work, house chores, and spare time to ensure everyone in the house is fed. What naps? Unfortunately, being sleep deprived is dangerous for a mum’s mental health. When mums do not get sufficient rest, they become less patient. Those who suffer severe sleep deprivation could end up with depression, anxiety, stress, panic attacks, and other health problems.
Work and family balance
There are also work cultures and employers that expect us to work as if we do not have children and families. These clashing expectations can cause a lot of psychological stress and affect a mum’s mental health especially when we are already scrambling to find balance every day. Without having any breaks during the pandemic and with little to no support from others, there are so many of us who feel worn down, exhausted, and mentally tired. Every day we’re just trying to get through the day by crossing out our long to-do, thinking what did we forget?
Children with chronic illnesses and special needs
As if the isolation and work stress wasn’t enough, there are also parents who have children with chronic illnesses and special needs. Imagine the amount of pressure a mum faces when support is cut off and she needs to become a full time caregiver. Her efforts are rarely appreciated and rewarded. With next to no time for self-care, this could lead to that mum burning out.
Domestic violence and abuse
With nowhere to go and having to deal with different personalities, possible retrenchments, losses and children all under one roof, the rates for domestic violence and abuse have spiked this season. So many mums suffer mental and physical abuse in silence every day. Where else can they go? Even those who make the difficult decision to leave, it still leaves a scar on a mum’s mental health.
Being a single parent
What about single parents who shoulder on the full responsibility of feeding everyone in the family? Handling the financial demands on their own is sure to take a toll on their mental health. Some only earn minimum wage and are already working full time. Some have even been made redundant during the pandemic. Despite the greenlight for daycares to go back into operation, all this hardship could push a mum’s mental health over the edge.
Supporting mum’s mental health during Covid-19
There’s a way to tackle this problem. An easy acronym to remember is BACES from Steps to Positive Mental Health by Carol Vivyan. B.A.C.E.S. stands for Body, Achieve, Connect, Enjoy and Step back.
Whenever you feel stressed, check, have you been taking care of yourself? You need to make a conscious effort to take care of your physical BODY so that you are able to deal with the emotional onslaughts on a daily basis. This means eating healthily, exercising when you can, taking breaks, getting enough rest and staying away from things that are bad for you like smoking, drinking and drugs.
Set reasonable goals so that you can ACHIEVE them because your brain gets a serotonin boost after a super productive day. But don’t just limit these goals to work. Include simple achievements too like being able to finish a book, bake something or even finishing a 30-minute workout.
Remember to CONNECT with people as often as you can. Do not withdraw, isolate and disregard the importance of relationships. Every single time you reach out to a close friend for a short catch up, it builds bonds and releases hormones like oxytocin which will boost your general wellbeing. Be intentional about connecting with people during this season, even if it is only virtually via a zoom call.
Know when to stop to take a break and ENJOY other things. It is natural to withdraw and isolate ourselves when we’re moody or tired. However, doing that will only deplete our mood even more. Try doing fun and enjoyable activities at home instead because those are the things that boost our happy hormones. They don’t have to be very long, a short one would do – your kids would thank you for it.
But most important of all, learn to take a STEP BACK when you’re overwhelmed with emotions. When you are too caught up in the moment, it is harder to think clearly and see the bigger picture. This could result in you reacting in a way which you may regret later. Try removing yourself from the situation, even if it is only for 5 minutes. Walk out of the room or lock yourself in the toilet if you must. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back to regroup and to calm yourself down. Often times when you’ve managed to get over the emotional part, you’ll be able to rethink things in a more positive manner.