Anna Halsall lives in inner London, with her partner, who is a GP, their 1 year old and her 9 year old from her previous relationship. As lock-down started she was just returning to work from maternity leave.
Friday June 12th.
At the beginning of lock-down – when life seemed clearer than it does now – I listened to a lot of news on the radio. There was the repeated acknowledgement of key workers going all out to hold the bones of our society together as the world imploded. And rightly so.
Yet each time I heard it, I thought: “and the mums, they need acknowledgement too. 24-7 caring, feeding, educating, cleaning, negotiating, managing, organising… Oh no, wait, we don’t need extra acknowledgement. We’re just caring for our own children.” And I’ve felt for a long time that I shouldn’t write this chronicle. As a mum working at home, caring for a baby and homeschooling my 9 year old, there’s nothing special about my experience, I’m just doing what millions of other parents are every day.
This might be a common experience, but it is not normal. It’s extraordinary work, in extraordinary times. And it’s mostly invisible, done without recognition, financial or otherwise. It’s done within the confines of our homes, and at present mostly without the human face of support – without the grandparent visit, the commiseration from an understanding companion at the school gate.
As lock-down progresses, no parent needs me to say how exhausting it is. How relentless. The days start early and end late, and involve a never-ending juggle: figuring out what we’re going to eat, when and how I can go to the shops without any children in tow, providing entertainment within our small 2 bed flat with no garden, managing schoolwork (desperately googling ‘partitioning’ in key stage 2 maths!), supporting children’s emotions, managing my own, worrying about older parents hundreds of miles away, supporting my husband – a GP in a deprived area of inner London, navigating my daughter’s father and his demands for additional contact while we navigate a custody battle, figuring out the confusing messages of what we now can and can’t do – how to keep everyone sane without exposing them to the deadly killer virus… oh, and doing my day job.
Our family has its own distinguishing features (inner London, GP in a pandemic, custody battle, cramped housing) and we also have the same experience of ‘normal’ of pretty much every mum, parent, carer of children up and down the country.
But, again, it’s not normal. Human beings aren’t designed to be in sole charge of children and juggle all the other responsibilities, within four walls, with no social contact, and no support.
Lockdown is exhausting, relentless, and confusing. Yet we keep on keeping going and going, visibly and invisibly, day in day out, because we know in our bones that this invisible, unacknowledged work that we’re doing is changing the world.
We’re pouring our love, our wisdom, our strength, our mess ups, our apologies – our hearts – into the future of our species. Moment by moment, as we pick up toys, draw rainbows, and walk around the park again; we are creating the threads that hold our society together, while whispering into the ears of our children the vision that weaves the future.
So, we can acknowledge our key workers, and we really, really should. Their work has often been invisible too. And I also add this celebration of the army of mothers that hold our whole world together. The powers that be may not recognise us, but we see each other, and our children – the future – see us.
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