Lockdown is easing but with schools out till September at least, the unequal burden of homeschooling and domestic chores isn't easing for many women. Mumboss author, Vicki Broadbent (aka Honest Mum) explains why she's taking a different approach
As we emerge into our New Normal world, how's the past four months been for you? For me there have been positives to lockdown: less rushing around spreading myself like butter, more quality time with my family and finally watching Tina Fey’s Sisters. And yet, I’m emotionally and physically drained. I’d like to work during daylight hours and sleep before 2am, please.
I'm sick and tired of the groundhog daily routine of washing, cleaning, cooking, homeschooling, only to carry on working night shifts from my kitchen table/office. Whoever coined the phrase ‘sleep is for the weak’ must have been deluded by insomnia.
Of course, I’m grateful for my family’s health. But let's be candid, lockdown hasn't been great for my mental health -I’M BORED TO PIECES of the same four walls (and the same four parks in Windsor).
This week's highlight was my local Waitrose finally, FINALLY restocking the vanilla extract I’ve been looking for. Hurrah. I can now make the Keto desserts I so badly need to sustain me on my diet, thanks lockdown weight-gain. But it made me wonder: who even am I, anymore? I’m unrecognisable from the woman I knew 17 weeks ago (today I'm also rounder, and joyfully hairier thanks to not being able to complete laser sessions on my legs).
For me, the most challenging part of this pandemic is juggling three full-time jobs. I'm a parent (aka chef, carer and all-round dog’s body to the kids), homeschool teacher and writer, the latter being the easiest and the only one that actually pays. Mumboss on a grand scale. And I'm one of the sleep-deprived lucky ones.
My husband and I pride ourselves on our normally equal partnership, but being the only one with the flexible job I was quickly promoted to 'Homeschool Headmistress'. The minute my husband’s work day ends, his childcare job kicks in so I can start my work day long into the night.
A recent lockdown survey of 3,500 families, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, looked at how two opposite-gender parents shared paid work and domestic responsibilities. The most economically fragile of the two: women, have unsurprisingly taken on the lion’s share of the child-rearing. But this time, thanks to lockdown, we're doing so minus help from relatives or any childcare support.
It takes a village to raise a child and a village to raise up a Mumboss, but what happens when that village disappears overnight?
The findings saw mums were simultaneously caring for kids while working, compared to fathers. Women were more likely to have left paid employment to take on role of primary childcare. Plus many still working had seen a reduction in paid hours. Mums were also 23 per cent more likely than Dads to have lost their jobs (temporarily or permanently) during the current crisis. Sobering stuff.
Leila Gregory, who blogs at Swanny.me, is a mum of two who recently lost her full-time job. ‘After being on furlough for six weeks, I was made redundant from my job as a software tester,' says Gregory. 'Although I wasn't surprised when the redundancy came, it's been a huge blow to my confidence.
'I've developed anxieties I've never experienced before and I feel more more pressure than ever. I'm juggling everyday chores and homeschooling my two kids, who both have special needs. Now I'm looking for a job in an impossible marketplace. It's really hard on the motivation, morale and confidence front.’
Dr Emma Svanberg, a clinical psychologist, has witnessed many patients experience the same frustrations exacerbated by the pandemic lockdown. ‘The days can feel relentless at the moment and it's easy to go into autopilot, with weeks passing us by. Take the time to pause between tasks. Say to yourself, 'This is what I am doing right now'. It helps bring you back into the present, lowers your stress hormones, grounds you and gives you a chance to take a pause.’
The crisis has accelerated the digital age times a million. Digitisation is happening whether you’re ready for or not. We’re also experiencing the brave new world of automation (the robots are here already) with millions having lost their jobs to AI. And, sorry to say, many more will, too. It’s time to upskill and embrace working digitally. You can do it.
Mothers may save the day, and the economy while we’re at it. You're an agile, creative, resilient multi-tasking Mumboss. You can embrace the online world with ease, content creating or managing those processes all the way to the bank. Start building your digital career now. While raising the kids and being the lioness of the family. The future depends on it.
* If you would like to upskill, take Vicki Broadbent’s online courses at The Working Mother’s Academy (includes an Instagram bundle to transform your Insta handle).
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Originally born and bred in that there Welsh seaside town kindly given a new lease of life by Gavin & Stacey, I started out as a junior writer for the Girl Guides and eventually earned enough Brownie points to move on and have a blast as deputy editor of Bliss, New Woman and editor of People newspaper magazine. I was on the launch team of Look in 2007 - where I stuck around as deputy editor and acting editor for almost ten years - shaping a magazine and website at the forefront of body positivity, mental wellbeing and empowering features. More recently, I’ve been Closer executive editor, assistant editor at the Financial Times’s How To Spend It (yes thanks, no probs with that life skill) and now I’m making my inner fangirl’s dream come true by working on this agenda-setting brand, the one that inspired me to become a journalist when Marie Claire launched back in 1988.
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