I once listened to a podcast featuring an interview with author Gemma Hartley. Gemma has written a book about the unique strain women experience due to what she calls "emotional labour". It isn't just women or mothers who experience it, however, I would bet they capture a huge percentage of those affected.
It really struck a chord with me. In recent months since my youngest started school, I am working more. I thought having two children in school would be when life became a little easier and less chaotic, and in a sense it has. I have one drop-off and pick-up each day and my daughters are old enough to be a lot more independent. What I didn't expect is the sheer volume of "stuff" to think about. On any given day at any given time I have multiple balls in the air. It was already exhausting without the stress of the virus.
There are physical education days, library days, home readers, magic words, excursions, school projects, lunches to pack, dinners to make, swimming lessons, piano lessons, choir, play dates, parties, athletics carnivals, swimming carnivals, home work, psychologist appointments, optometrist appointments, dentist visits, paediatrician visits, occupational therapy ... the list goes on. Not to mention the cleaning and washing!
All of this while also trying to find time for myself to socialise and exercise and stay sane. I also need to find time to check in with my kids to see how they are going, check in with my husband, check in with friends and family. This is all happening every single day and more often than not just when you think you are doing pretty well, a curve ball will hit and someone gets sick, a huge bill comes in or there is a massive hailstorm and your car is written off.
As I write all of this, I am in disbelief and I have no idea how it all gets done. No wonder I get to 5pm desperate for a glass of red and by 8.30pm, I collapse on the couch opposite my husband before falling into bed at 9pm.
My husband works very hard, he has long hours and a very stressful job. He is at capacity as well, however, I know his stress is focused in one or two areas. Women seem to be on their own in the exhaustive juggle of a list similar to the above and many of us are also working full time. We carry the bulk of the family management and often manage the family finances and budget as well. Ultimately, we have what feels like 100 jobs. All of this while many of us have our "day job" for which we actually get paid.
I am not sure what the solution is. If lucky, you will have a partner who helps around the house or family close by. I suggest getting those wonderful mum friends who will, on occasion let it all stop for an occasional evening. Go to each other's house, order takeaway, put a movie on for the kids and crack open a bottle of wine. Now more than ever it's important to look after ourselves, and each other.
- Christy Kidner is an editorial administrator at The Canberra Times.