Why COVID's got me crying in the shower

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As a mother of two young children, I'm used to small people walking in when I'm in the bathroom. Today, after homeschooling Ms Five was mercifully over, my husband walked in as I was about to shower and asked how I was.

Crying woman image credit: Arman Zhenikeyev / Getty

Fine, I told him. Just fine. Then he left and I cried. 

It's going to be easier to stop working. With the daycares closing, Mr Toddler will be home. I can't work, and cook, and clean, and keep the kids from insanity with just one hour out of the house a day. My husband needs to work, we both do. But he got there first. 

In terms of division of labour, we are a team. But the Stage Four lockdown announced by Daniel Andrews on Sunday shows how precarious it is for working mothers. When the going gets tough; our jobs outside the home are expendable.

Just how expendable is shown in the division of communication. Despite daily press conferences (and I salute Andrews’ public service), the effect of closing childcares wasn't addressed until yesterday. While the industry may seem smaller than the big players in the Victorian economy, such as hospitality and construction, the professionals that look after our babies make all jobs possible.

Once these centres close, it’s not clear how many will be able to continue to do our paid work. Unlike the first lockdown from March to April, there’s been no commitment from the Federal purse to cover fees.  This means parents worry that they might be charged for childcare while doing it themselves, or that the lack of income to centres might mean the end of the childcare that makes many women’s jobs viable. 

 

'The next six weeks of stage four lockdown will test my imagination but not my love for this little boy, or his five-going-on-thirteen sister. But there is not a stimulus package for women’s careers knocked down by COVID-19, or an acknowledgment that we are being asked to do more with a lot less.'

 

So, I cry in the shower out of self-pity and exhaustion and frustration. Other women I know are crying in the supermarket, or while cycling furiously around the park, or late at night after the kids are asleep. In the domestic frontline of corona-fighting, you will always find a mother coming up with a new game, unveiling the new chalks bought for pavement painting, and working with her partner to entertain the kids now that there is no playing in the park, no seeing friends, and now a limit of one hour a day outside of the house.

Behind this ingenuity is a passionate desire to minimise our children’s suffering. My five-year-old daughter started Prep this year and has spent half of that at home, as her school closed early. She loves us, but she doesn’t want to spend all day with her parents. Her brother annoys her, he’s a toddler after all. Keeping them both healthy and happy is my full-time job right now, but it doesn’t mean I won’t mourn the writing career I’ve chosen.

It’s been an adult-life surprise to me, how much I would enjoy working. I thought I’d have babies and never want to leave them. The reality is both: I love my children and I love my life without them. As a writer, daycare and schooling provides me with the silence I need to research a story, pitch an editor, arrange an interview, and fact-check, triple-check everything.

This isn’t possible with children at home, any more than participating in zoom meetings for a corporate job is possible, or direct selling or human resources or anything else a mother might do. It will be easier to stop working, and that is why we’re crying.

Two months ago, my two-year-old boy found where his daddy has been working, setting up his business in a corner and managing it over a small laptop. Our son ran to him, overjoyed.

‘Daddy working!’ he cried, and then pulled himself up on to the chair and started to tap his fingers wildly on the computer keyboard. ‘Mummy working!’ he shouted, with glee. My heart burst.

I have told him that his daycare is going on holiday for a few weeks, and that we’ll have time all together. He loved this idea. ‘All together!’ he yelled, and then named all of his little friends and all the kind souls who look after them. No, I explained, no guests and definitely not ten little terrors.

The next six weeks of stage four lockdown will test my imagination but not my love for this little boy, or his five-going-on-thirteen sister. But there is not a stimulus package for women’s careers knocked down by COVID-19, or an acknowledgment that we are being asked to do more with a lot less.

Childcare is not a luxury; it is a profession that gives women the soil and water they need to help their careers grow. It enables shy children like my son to socialise without running away and gives little legs a whole day of running around. Now we’ll be inside, and I understand why, but I still don’t comprehend why they addressed greyhound racing before saying to women: ‘We see you.’

 

 

Fernanda Fain-BindaFernanda Fain-Binda is a freelance writer and mother of two based in Melbourne. She is donating part of her writers fee to Safe Steps, the family violence response centre. 

Main image: Crying woman image credit: Arman Zhenikeyev / Getty

Topic tags: Fernanda Fain-Binda, COVID-19, mother, parenting

 

 

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Existing comments

My heart aches for this family, as it does for members of my own family who are coping with the same problem. The burden falls so unequally - and it falls more on those who are in less danger from the virus. (It’s impossible for it to be any other way, unless we return to some kind of survival-of-the-fittest mode). Two of my nieces bear a burden very similar to that of the writer. Another - whose child has some indigenous heritage, is able to access childcare, releasing her to conduct her business at home. (And her business is connected with the racing industry). It’s not fair - but what’s the alternative?The aim is to reduce the amount of movement around Melbourne. If all children have access to childcare, more parents will continue to swell, not reduce, these numbers. That’s the bottom line. I don’t think it’s about women’s work not being respected. And it’s even harder for single parents trying to work at home while looking after a child.
Joan Seymour | 06 August 2020


Thank you Fernanda for your honesty and inviting us into your life. You are right. The state still has difficulty seeing men and women as part of the 'team family'. It tends to collapse back onto old paradigms. Love your babies. They will remember that love and keep your dreams alive. Jorie
Jorie Ryan | 06 August 2020


Good song to listen to help get over it. And to snap out of the hold of gloom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DL7-CKirWZE
ao | 08 August 2020


Loved this Fernanda, I can see many moms going through this. Well done!
Patricia Durden | 25 August 2020


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