I sit to write this on day one of the kid at home for me here in Mumbai. Yes, it's just day one. So far Maharashtra has the maximum number of COVID-19 cases in the country. In India, we are just about beginning with the onslaught and hoping that timely measures will help us win this battle. With schools closing down, no playdates, and the mandate of social distancing how are we coping? How are we to deal with the gloom and doom which is all over the internet and news channels, basically anywhere you look around? Thankfully, young kids are largely not getting sick with the virus but does that lessen the anxiety a mother has? Globally, people are at different levels in dealing with this pandemic. I caught up with friends who are mothers based in different parts of the world, and looks like we are all in the same boat. Just what is parenting in times of coronavirus? How is everyone dealing with this pandemic and not letting the anxiety pass on to the kids.
Hong Kong-based Koel Ghosh Mishra
She is in week 8 of being at home with her boys who are eight and four. Schools closed down for Chinese New Year break for kids between January 13 and January 21. Since then the kids have been at home. As of Sunday, Hong Kong has 155 confirmed infections.
Koel says that at the peak of the outbreak she could remain calm compared to what was going on around her. She says, “Most of my husband’s colleagues sent their families to India when the virus was spreading like wildfire across Mainland China and there were quite a few cases in HK as well. My children’s classmates were all heading to their home countries to “ESCAPE” the dreaded virus. There were false forwards and posts on social media which were making people nervous. I just remained firm that I will only believe the trustworthy sources, PERIOD.”
She refused to give in to the mass hysteria and become a victim of unjustified panic. She says, “How was everyone so sure the virus would not reach their home countries? And guess what many people are now stuck in their respective home countries, due to the travel bans imposed by HK, even though they wish to come back now since the situation is crawling back to normalcy.”
There were false forwards and posts on social media which were making people nervous. I just remained firm that I will only believe the trustworthy sources, PERIOD.
Shruba Bhattacharya in Abu Dhabi
She shares that even though the schools only closed early in March, the school admin had stopped all after school activities much earlier. She still needs to commute to her workplace. She says, “I am disappointed with the half-hearted efforts. What is the point of letting parents work where we meet so many people and may bring germs home? As a lawyer, I meet many clients a day.”
UAE has reported 98 confirmed cases of Covid 19 as of Sunday.
Nafisa Ali Sayed in Toronto
She has just moved to Toronto and is staying alone with her seven-year-old daughter. Nafisa says, “In our case, I am the only parent around (her husband is still in Dubai, their previous place of residence) so although it is scary sometimes, one has to self-motivate to stay healthy. I guess fear is creating more panic, the constant calls and messages from family and friends. Sometimes, a simple headache which might be a result overstraining and you can easily be tempted to think to be infected. Apart from precautions and staying positive, there is hardly much we can do anyways.”
As of Monday morning, there were 324 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada.
Amrita Bhattacharya Majumdar in Chicago
She has a typical motherhood challenge. She says, “As the mother of a four-year-old thumbsucker I had been pretty much on the edge for the last few weeks which made me talk about some really naughty viruses which make people really sick and as a result, people have to stay in some closed rooms (hospital isolation)without anyone around for 14 days with occasional visits from some masked alien-like people. He knows that because of these naughty viruses there's not going to any schools or visits to the parks for quite some time.”
As of Monday, Chicago has 105 confirmed cases.
Nafisa shares, before the schools shut down students were already made aware of the situation by the teachers and authorities. Childcare got cancelled a few times too. The matter was further explained when they planned to fly to Dubai to meet her husband and that was cancelled due to travel restrictions.
My Situation in Mumbai
I'm sitting in Mumbai, on a bed full of Lego and many such block-like creatures are around me. We are periodically drawing various monsters and other creatures who are saving the world. Papa still doesn't have work from home! WhatsApp groups are buzzing whether any house helps who are not living-in 24 by 7 should be asked to stay at home too, with full compensations, also a few messages asking if it is true someone from the adjoining neighbourhood was rushed to the hospital! Little one's best friend's birthday party stands cancelled, a conversation I will soon need to have. Full-time working friends are messaging about the difficulties of "working from home" and I want to yell I have have been a work-from-home mother for the last three years, welcome to my world!
Dealing with no schools
Shruba says, “Given the sudden closure of all nurseries and school many families faced a lot of issues particularly where both parents work. The govt has still not mandated work from home for all people. I am fortunate to have full-time help who takes care of the kids while I am in the office. Because of the sudden closure, we were helping my older one's friend who also happens to be a family friend of ours tide over this problem. The parents of the child would drop the kid off to our place at 8:30 and then collect him at 5:30 pm.”
Given the sudden closure of all nurseries and school many families faced a lot of issues particularly where both parents work. The govt has still not mandated work from home for all people. I am fortunate to have full-time help who takes care of the kids while I am in the office.
Koel says, “Both kids have online schooling going on for the past eight weeks. Elder one gets tons of work just as his regular school day would include. The younger one has fewer tasks as he is still in Kindergarten but we try to play for a good part of the day once his activities from school are over (scrabble, puzzles, Lego, etc) and then both of them get their share of screen time.”
Life goes on
We all know panic is not going to help but one sneeze or a cough is enough to give you a sleepless night. We are all trying to tickle our funny bone, a friend recently put a post that she now matches her sanitizer with her clothes instead of a handbag. While Koel is convincing her four-year-old how on the other side of the naughty virus he can go back to school and meet his teacher and friends Amrita is worried how to explain that Disneyland is not possible now, a trip they had long been planning together and Nafisa has decided that this is a perfect chance for her to teach her daughter Hindi. We are all finding our coping mechanisms, and looking forward to a day when we will not be worried about shaking hands anymore, even with complete strangers.