As a mother of two school-aged kids, I want to acknowledge that this is a difficult time for every single mother out there. We’re all affected differently by the Covid-19 pandemic – as we all have unique family and life circumstances.
As a counsellor and psychotherapist who specialises in supporting mothers, I’m hearing stories every week of how many mothers are struggling right now.
They’re struggling with their emotional wellbeing, their mental health, their relationships, the demands of their work, their finances, and the fears of how this virus many impact them or their loved ones.
And these worrying thoughts or daily challenges aren’t going away when they go to sleep. They are feeling heavier, day after day in many instances, and it’s feeling like a chronic challenge that doesn’t have an end in sight – because right now, it doesn’t.
Nobody else around you will know exactly how you’re feeling right now, or what’s keeping you awake through the night.
Your stress and anxieties which are tied to this global pandemic are unique to your situation.
Comparing yourself to how others seem to be coping isn’t helpful or healthy.
The reality is, we have all been forced to adapt is some way(s) because of this viral threat that we can’t see.
Two of the common ways that Covid-19 is impacting mothers – work and parenting – keep coming up in sessions.
1. Your Work
You too, are likely working from home full-time or part-time. Or, you may have lost your employment through this crisis (and I’m sorry if this is the case for you).
The transition to suddenly being forced to work from home might seem like a real challenge to many of you. How on earth do you juggle video meetings and work deadlines from home when you also have children to care for, a partner who may also be trying to work from home too?
The need to simultaneously wear the hat of a respected employee, while also playing the role of mother and parent/carer, school-teacher, house-keeper, partner, can seem extremely overwhelming and stressful. That’s because it is. We would never choose to place this upon ourselves. This is part of the real challenge we are facing – adapting to what we have been forced to do – because we don’t have a choice right now.
2. Your Kids are at home 24/7
For many families, kids are being home-schooled. They are at home, with you, all hours around the clock, day after day after day. This is stressful and very exhausting.
How do you get time-out or time for self-care?
Where do you find peace and quiet to just ‘be’?
Where is the time and place to disconnect and separate from your loved ones? You love them, yes. But it’s not healthy to be attached to them 24/7 for an extended amount of time, while your freedoms to leave and fill your cup in your usual ways isn’t an option at this time.
And you’re suddenly required to oversee and manage school-work each day. But, please, mums, take the pressure off yourself. Again, you have not chosen to home-school your children. You are being told to keep your children home from school, to keep your family safe. For those who are too young to learn independently, and need you to help them read, write or comprehend material – you are trying to do your best. You can not be expected to be a teacher. You are a parent, a carer, and keeping your children safe, loved and as happy as they can be in this abnormal reality is a priority right now.
Children will look back at this time and remember how they felt, not what they learnt.
This isn’t easy for our children either – not for a moment. They’re also experiencing big losses that have rocked their worlds. The life they’ve known has been taken away from them. Their sense of normality, their routines, their friends, teachers, sports and activities – it’s all changed and life feels upside down. What you may be seeing are changes in their behaviour, communication, appetite or sleep. One of the toughest parts for many parents is managing those big, messy emotions at times. It’s hard work, and very exhausting too.
Make no mistake, we are all suffering in some way.
The sooner we can ACCEPT this suffering, the more quickly we can get back up, find ways to manage our health and wellbeing and our relationships in the best possible ways, albeit with limited options right now.
As human beings, we generally like to feel that we’re in control… but right now our sense of agency feels like it’s been stripped from us… and for some of us, this can be a real trigger for greater fear or anxiety or feelings of hopelessness.
So what can you do to feel more empowered, more in control, more at peace?
CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO START THINKING DIFFERENTLY:
Learn to Accept the Reality of Your Situation
Much of life is feeling heavy, hard and out of control – it’s okay to feel however you are right now. Remind yourself that this is only temporary.
If you are finding this all too much, please reach out for support if you feel too overwhelmed in some way. Are your moods or behaviours feeling out of your control more often? It might be time for you to start talking to a professional so you can get back on track and start feeling a greater sense of wellbeing as this challenging time continues. It takes courage to reach out, but this could be the greatest decision you make to empower yourself and support your family in a healthier way.
Improve Your Tolerance for Uncertainty
How can you move away from seeing uncertainties or unpredictable events as unbearable, or situations to be avoided? (Hint: life will always have times that feel difficult or painful – they just show up in different situations or as life events).
Are you predicting bad things will happen, that may not be likely to truly eventuate?
How have you coped in difficult situations in the past?
Do you need to let go of trying to find a solution, or fixing something right now?
Focus on the Present Moment
What do you need to get through TODAY? What matters most at this time?
When we can consciously pay more attention to what’s happening right now in front of us, rather than dwelling on past events, or worrying about what may happen in the future, we can quickly ground ourselves, and find a sense of peace. Mindfulness or meditation practice can be a great help for many to feel more present, more often.
What do you Value Most in your Life?
How can you focus on the important people in your life or aspects of your world that are important to you?
By paying more attention to these people and activities, can bring you greater joy, stronger connections or a sense of relief, fun or inner peace.
Start showing yourself more Self-Compassion
Become your own best friend. How would you support your closest friends through stressful times?
How can you replicate this for yourself?
What words do you use?
What gestures of support do you offer others that you can give to yourself?
Sometimes, the biggest shifts in how we feel, and how we’re coping come from our thoughts. When we can learn to challenge them, and re-frame them, or look at things from a fresh new perspective, we can start to feel a greater sense of control over our lives, one moment at a time.