Before Covid-19, young Indian working moms were already juggling two separate lives — their work and their homes. Today, with Covid-19 cases spiralling in India, not only are they working from home (WFH), their husbands are too, and so are their children. Then there’s also a mountain of housework to get through. To cope with the chaos that’s their lives now, young working women have had to dig into their bottomless reserves.
Says Dr Aarthi Doss, a family care physician and child care specialist, “It’s a bigger message that nature is giving us, to slow down and stay in the moment. I realise the inevitability of the moment. What I have in my hands is now, there’s no past and no future. I make a conscious effort to distance myself and stay on top of everything.” What has also bolstered Aarthi’s s resolve is her 20 minutes of daily meditation.
Archana A Padaki, who tests software for an IT company, has also realised the
inevitability of the moment and that everything cannot be achieved.
“Some days it happens, some days it doesn’t.” Archana has found walking with her 13-year-old son every morning therapeutic. She also finds time to play her flute every day.
Adds Rashmi Choudhary, who works with an IT company on order management for the sales team, “Many days I feel so disconnected. It’s a rush, I am always juggling everything. One moment I am attending to a work call, then the next moment I am distracted by housework or attending to my child.” What has helped Rashmi is yoga and gardening.
WFH & school work
In this quarantine reality, WFH also comes with the added responsibility of overseeing children’s online school work. Archana and her husband share the children’s school work and the housework. While she cooks, her husband washes the dishes and her teenage son pitches in with cleaning. “I don’t have to do any hand-holding with my son’s online classes. But, with my five-year-old daughter, it’s difficult. I’ve told her she’s my cubicle mate and put up another table and chair beside mine to do her school activity.”
Rashmi and her husband also take turns with their three-year-old son. “My husband works from morning to evening; my work is from afternoon to night. So, I get breakfast done and get our son ready to be sent to the home tutor. My husband takes over in the evening. And, we have a maid coming in to do the lunch and the housework.
However, for Aarthi it’s not been easy. Her husband, also a doctor, has been away for the past three months studying for his hospital administration course. So, Aarthi has to juggle her teleconsultations; her clinic work; her research study on Covid-19- related issues for a government body, plus school work of her nine and seven-year- old daughters.
“I have a super backlog on my daughters’ school work,” she says. Although Aarthi’s parents live close-by, given the Covid-19 situation, she can’t get them over to watch a sick child. She does have a maid coming in to watch the kids and do the housework, but there are days when she calls in sick too.
Leave alone juggling their different roles, often with no help, young moms are also living with the constant fear of Covid-19.
Says Rashmi, “I am tired of living with this fear of Covid-19. All our travel plans are gone. I wish I could meet my friends or call them over but I am always wondering whether it’s safe.”
Adds Aarthi, “I can’t plan ahead. Like 24/7 I am coping with this feeling, I am wondering whether it’s okay to visit a friend or plan a potluck with them.” Archana sums it up, “I miss the bonding with colleagues at the office — our lunch and coffee breaks, birthdays and annual outings. We used to eat out once a week, now we have to make do with takeaways. I miss our annual holidays. It’s been months since I visited my parents in Mangaluru. I am always living with the fear of Covid-19 and am afraid to plan anything. I have to have something to look forward to.”
Looking ahead, planning for the future? Whoever thought these would be strange phrases in the quarantine reality of today!