So, here it is, the reason, or at least my version as to why lockdown is hard/harder on mothers. It won’t apply to everyone, and it’s not meant as sexist scripture, but it’s my interpretation as a mother. Having spoken to other mothers our experiences differ but I think collectively we’re all feeling a little overwhelmed, and on the verge of total burn out. Here are a few reasons as to why this might be the case.
1. 75.1% of mothers in the UK work.
Such was a time when mothers stayed at home and kept house whilst Dad’s were out winning bread. This is no longer the case for many families. Mums have to work. In fact statistics show three in four mothers with dependent children work. This alone shows the struggle mothers are facing trying to parent, and work and play teacher. It is not a reasonable request. Some of us are expectant mothers too and still trying to do everything whilst growing a tiny human. Most of us are also being separated from our own mothers and extended support network. Our mothers are being separated from us and their grandchildren. Whilst childcare bubbles are permitted currently, they are not without their own restrictions and even mums who work from home and part time are still being asked to do too much.
2. Homeschooling is impractical
Asking us to teach our children is one thing, asking us to teach our children school work is another altogether. Schools are under immense pressure to provide sufficient learning and in turn that is applying immense pressure to parents to deliver that learning. Mums who have their own learning difficulties are not being given the support they need and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have conversations around how the hell were expected to integrate home schooling into our already full time tables of work, house work, childcare and staying sane. Picture this: Jane is a mum with 3 children in different year groups studying different subjects, whilst also running a business from home. She’s not entitled to furlough and she doesn’t understand year 11 maths. Her kids are becoming frustrated because she can’t answer their questions and she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Jane’s husband is a key worker and isn’t entitled to furlough but because Jane is home her kids cannot get a place in school…. is the penny dropping yet? To top it all off, Karen is on the group chat dishing out daily updates of how much she’s squeezing in with her kids only adding to Jane’s incessant guilt. It’s toxic, it’s draining, it’s not achievable.
3. Mums get sick too
What happens if you’re unwell, you can’t work or homeschool and your kids aren’t able to yet fend for themselves and make their own toast? If you’re single you might usually rely on your own parents to help share the childcare load when you are unable to care for your children due to illness, but what happens if your parents are vulnerable? Maybe it’s common for you to lean on a friend, but what if someone in your support bubble is unwell too? You guessed it, you’re stuck at home with a hyperactive child who needs you, when all you need is a day in bed. If you get covid and you become seriously unwell but have no support whatsoever in place, what happens to your kids then? This may seem like a really unlikely scenario, but the worry surrounding it isn’t. As mum’s we’re natural worriers and these unprecedented times are only causing our already full cups to overflow.
4. 1 in 5 mothers suffer with mental health issues.
One in 5 women develop mental illness in their pregnancy and the year following the birth of their child. The average UK family consists of 2.4 persons. This is a family consisting of two parents and two children. If the mother develops mental health issues as a result of her maternity or otherwise and her partner is working, who is around to homeschool her child? Moreover who is supporting her? I am pregnant currently and trying to access mental health support is increasingly difficult with current lockdown provisions. Support is available but the need for it isn’t being picked up early enough. I have been trying to call my doctor for two weeks to be told I cannot book advance appointments because of covid, and when I call on the day to get an urgent appointment I am entered into a queue of more than ten patients so by the time I get through they are always gone. I’m not sick enough to call 999 but I still need to speak to my practitioner!
5. Disabled mothers are not able to access the support they need.
Even if disabled mothers are able to get their children into school on the basis of their needs, if the disability is a result of something that makes said mothers vulnerable to covid the anxiety again drastically increases.
What happens if your disability is recognised but you don’t usually receive financial support or extra care as a result of it? The provisions that are in place for disabled mothers during lockdown are drastically lacking, and as a result many mums are left feeling ill supported, inadequate and unable to provide sufficient care for their children.
6. Mums are fearing for their jobs
Mothers are already treated unfairly in comparison to men in the workplace. Policies in place for emergency childcare is not enough during this time. Keyworker mums and mums in public sector jobs might have the right to get their children into school, but they don’t have the right to furlough. They also then have the additional worry of bringing covid home to their families. It is unprecedented times, but what isn’t unprecedented is the unfair way in which women are still being treated in the workplace. This is not everywhere of course, but it’s still a resounding number of women in comparison to men who are made to feel guilty, for their job as mothers.
7. Mums feel guilty – a lot
Whatever the expectation, whatever the situation, whether your child is home from school and you are juggling or whether you’re sending your child to school to fulfil your job role, the guilt is mounting – ergo the mental stability is declining. We can’t do it all, we can’t be teacher, have a career, provide full time childcare and meet all of our children’s needs during lockdown. We want to comfort, cuddle and protect them and instead we have shorter fuses, unmanageable work loads and less support than ever before. Lockdown is impacting everyone, I don’t claim for a minute that all mothers are disadvantaged in comparison to the rest of the population, but I do claim that it’s a disproportionate amount of women with children as opposed to our male counterparts.
If you are personally impacted by points listed above please visit Working Families to see if you are entitled to furlough and if not what can be done to support you. Please speak to your child’s school and explain your personal circumstances they may be able to help you.
Please also visit Flex Appeal for more information regarding your right to request flexible working. The charity Pregnant The Screwed are working tirelessly and have an amazing Covid-19 hub on their website providing answers to common questions.