Being a Mother in a Time of Corona

In light of the recent outbreak of the coronavirus globally, and the intense media coverage locally and internationally, a post here is somewhat obligatory.

As mothers, our natural instinct is to worry about our children’s health and safety. And when faced with periodic threats such as the school leprosy outbreak a few months ago, we heightened our usual efforts at maintaining our children’s hygiene and intensified our vigilance. The coronavirus outbreak, having swept the globe with virulence, is certainly a cause for serious concern, although until now, the impact on infants and children has been minimal.

The thing about infectious diseases is that they are invisible. It’s as if we are fighting a ghost, where we are afraid of it, but we do not know when it may appear, so we clean and scrub and disinfect, in hope that we reduce the risk of it affecting our families, but the risk is still there in many ways, because it is literally impossible to eliminate it. It is more likely to affect us, as adult women, and our partners and husbands (it has been shown to affect men more than women), but that in itself will impact our children, if we are infected or ill and unable to care for them as needed. So its perfectly reasonable if you are worried or anxious, all mothers are.

The rush on cleaning products, hand sanitiser and masks is understandable, and is a way for us to try and exert control in a visible way. The rush on toilet paper in other countries is also a means for people to build their defenses and prepare to face the wave of the virus when it hits their communities. We want to feel empowered in the face of a threat like this.

There have been an increasing number of articles on the levels of anxiety and depression experienced by people as the impact of the virus increases in intensity, with the number of deaths rising, and the limitations and restrictions on our social lives and mobility. Since the beginning of March, I have noticed increasing posts on social media on support sessions and online therapy, and research initiatives to measure the impact of coronavirus on people’s mental health and well-being (I list several of these below, if you feel your anxiety is starting to getting the better of you, or if you’re interested to take part in a research study).

I have read a few wonderful pieces on the impact of coronavirus on pregnant women, experiences of childbirth, feelings of grief and sadness of being unable to introduce a new child to family, feelings of isolation postpartum, and enhanced risk of developing postpartum mood disorders, as well as the increased risk of domestic abuse and intimate partner abuse, or child abuse (I list some of these articles below if you are interested to read more about them.)

For many mothers, having children home from school and being in lock-down has had a significant impact on their ability to cope on a daily basis. Dependent on their individual capacity and patience levels (which will vary), some mothers find it difficult to keep up with the constant demands for feeding, changing playing with, schooling, breaking up sibling fights, tidying up and generally keeping children occupied everyday, without having to completely depend on screen-time, and social media is alight with lists and ideas and tips and tricks on how to do so (I list several of these below as well).

For most, daycare, nursery and school were a blessing where children could go and interact with other children, learn and play and engage, and give the mother a few hours where she could achieve her other priorities. This is true for both stay-at-home mothers and working mothers, who will each have their own needs which are all equally imperative for their well-being. We are not only mothers, we are so much else which deserves attention and time and care for ourselves.

For mothers who struggle with the long summer months, the coronavirus epidemic only hastened the moment where children were let of from school for the summer. The efforts at online learning launched by the schools and Ministry of Education, is in fact homeschooling) although applaudable, have only added to the burden now placed on mothers, especially those with more than one or two children of school-age, in addition to managing our childrens concerns and anxiety around this experience too.

One Twitter user put it simply: “You are not working from home, you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.” We need to understand the need for normal, to pretend things are as is, but we also need to understand the need to not pressure ourselves unduly. In the words of Emily W. King:

“What we are being asked to do is not humanly possible. There is a reason we are either a working parent, a stay-at-home-parent, or a part-time working parent. Working, parenting and teaching are three different jobs that cannot be done at the same time. It’s not hard because you are doing it wrong. It’s hard because it is too much. Do the best you can. When you have to pick, because at some point you will, choose connection. Pick playing a game over arguing about an academic assignment. Pick teaching your child to do laundry, rather than feeling frustrated that they aren’t helping. Pick laughing and snuggling, and reminding them that they are safe. In you are stressed, lower your expectations where you can and virtually reach out for social connection. We are in this together to stay well. That means mentally well, too.”

Initially, many mothers may have started out with good intentions, considering it a time for de-cluttering, or spending time achieving latent goals, or taking up a new hobby or exercising more, or eating better…but over time, and for some the lock-down is bordering on 5 weeks now or more, the willpower has ebbed and flowed, and that is normal too! Yes, if you find it within you to write a novel or bake your way through a cookbook, or submit research grants or color-code your wardrobes, I admire you, but I also want to ask you to give yourself a moment to pause and breathe. It is okay to take some time to just sit and reflect over a cup of tea or coffee, or spend an evening watching mindless TV shows, or spend a few hours without obsessively checking your e-mail inbox. Be kind to yourself.

It’s truly amazing how the virus has called humanity to an utter standstill. It’s made us all see how much we were rushing and running and over-scheduling and struggling to fit it all in, how many meetings we had in a day, and how many activities, and how much of our lives were being spent on things that within a week, became extraneous and we were perfectly able to manage quite well without…

At this time we cannot predict how long this phase will last, and so we must think of it as a marathon and not a sprint. Give yourself grace and live with ease in that this is a time for us to reassess and reorient ourselves to what’s truly important in our lives, our loved ones, our children, our connections, our health, our safety.

List of Articles I Mentioned:

NYTimes March 25th 2020: How Coronavirus Exposes the Great Lie of Modern Motherhood:

Articles on the Increase in Levels of Anxiety and Depression Linked to the Coronavirus Pandemic: *

NY Times April 16th, 2020 What The Coronavirus is Doing to Our Mental Health

Harvard Medical School March 26th, 2020 Coping with the Coronavirus Pandemic for People with Anxiety Disorders

Links to Online Support Sessions and Therapy in KSA:

National Center for Mental Health Promotion

Active Research Studies from KSA Measuring Anxiety and Depression Linked to the Coronavirus Pandemic:

دور العوامل النفسية في التغيرات السلوكية في وقت الجائحة لفيروس كورونا: دراسة استقصائية في المملكة العربية السعودية

تقدير الأثر النفسي لجائحة كورونا (كوفيد-١٩) على سكان السعودية

Mental Health Outcomes and Associated factors among health care workers treating patients with COVID 19 in Saudi Arabia:

Articles on the Impact of Coronavirus on Pregnant Women:

Harvard Health April 2nd 2020: Pregnant and Worried about the Coronavirus?

NYTimes April 2nd 2020: What Pregnant Women Should Know About the Coronavirus

Refinery 29: April 1, 2020: What It’s Like To Be Pregnant In The Coronavirus Pandemic:

Articles on the Impact of Coronavirus on Experiences of Childbirth:

Propublica March 19th 2020: What Coronavirus Means for Pregnancy, and Other Things New and Expecting Mothers Should Know

The Guardian March 25th 2020 Pregnant in a pandemic: how will coronavirus affect me and my baby?

Articles on Feelings of Grief and Sadness of Being Unable to Introduce a New Child to Family

Harvard Business Review March 23rd 2020: The Discomfort You Are Feeling is Grief

Miami Herald April 3rd 2020: Birth in the age of coronavirus: How families are welcoming their newborns to the world

Articles on Feelings of Isolation Postpartum: April 20th 2020: Pandemic isolation is leading to more postpartum depression, anxiety

The Conversation April 3rd, 2020: New Moms Isolated in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Articles on Enhanced Risk of Developing Postpartum Mood Disorders April 2020 How to Combat Postpartum Depression and Anxiety During the Coronavirus Pandemic:

Articles on Increased Risk of Domestic Abuse, Intimate Partner Abuse and Child Abuse

American Psychological Association April 8th 2020: How COVID-19 May Increase Domestic Violence and Abuse:

The Guardian April 22nd 2020: Every abuser is more volatile’: the truth behind the shocking rise of domestic violence killings:

الحجر المنزلي و ضحايا العنف عكاظ

Lists of Ideas and Resources for Kids Activities During Lockdown:

Marie Claire April 26th 2020: 29 Kids Activities to Keep Them Busy During the Lockdown:

World Economic Forum April 2nd 2020: COVID-19: How to Stay Creative and Keep Your Family Sane During Lockdown:

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