The mums are not alright
VOGUE India|January 2021
Between homeschooling, work from home and life in the age of COVID-19, anxiety levels are skyrocketing, especially among mothers. Journalist Priya Ramani, the mum of a 10-year-old, speaks to other working parents as they get real about the challenges and upsets of pandemic parenting
Priya Ramani

We were walking down the road one evening when a car slowed and someone shouted my daughter’s name, easily identifying her despite her mask. It was her best friend. I hadn’t ever heard my 10-year-old squeal in delight the way she did then. The girls hadn’t seen each other for eight months, even though they live less than two kilometres apart. As my husband and I spoke to her bestie’s father, the two friends just kept grinning at each other across the car window, their eyes shining brightly, as they echoed each other’s words in a heartbreaking exchange: “It’s been so long.” “So long!”

Our daughter has always been a sporty extrovert who thrives in the company of her friends. This year, she lost a generous-sized piece of herself. I still can’t reconcile the glazed, unseeing eyes with my bright, energetic child. “You’re always busy,” has been her refrain during the pandemic, followed by, “You’re so mean.” Shivani Kariappa’s daughters oscillate between “I hate you, you’re the worst mother” and “I love you, you’re the best mother.” “The middle ground has disappeared,” she says. Kariappa runs a garment export business with her husband and admits that she’s been yelling at her two daughters more than ever before. “The children are resentful that they are not with their friends and they’re learning to juice the moment. I feel out of control, I don’t know how to ringfence this.” The good news, or bad news, is that none of us do.

PARENT TRAP

Women have borne the brunt of the new normal since March, when the world was felled by a virus with a crown. Anxiety levels among working mothers overwhelmed us as we juggled our homes, children and work in a messy merging like never before. I know I’ve spent most of last year wistfully recalling now-ethereal concepts like ‘me-time’, ‘self-care’ and ‘solitude’ as I scurry from chore to chore, role to role. Women who once managed children’s school schedules and large work teams suddenly found themselves re-enacting the gendered lives of the previous generation.

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