Mother’s Day might be a bit different this year. No breakfast out at a café, romantic dinners out or even getting a babysitter. But for many of us, a day celebrating motherhood feels more deserved than ever. Covid-19 is bringing unprecedented change to how and where we work. For many women, this has meant juggling work and parenting like never before. By the same token, we are also seeing powerful female role models in the media more than ever. It certainly seems like a good time to celebrate woman and motherhood.
Lockdown, reduced working hours, less work, and working from home has meant challenges on many levels. Financial; do we have enough money coming in to buy food and pay the bills? Technological; do I have the technology I need to do my work from home? Spatial; where can I work? Added to this an underlying concern about why we are doing this in the first place; will I or someone I care about get sick?
These all add up to a stressful situation, which will be handled for many families by ‘Mum’. In a ‘normal world’ Mums do around 4 hours of unpaid work a day. So it’s not a big stretch to imagine that it will be Mum that works out where everyone can work, that everyone has the space they need to do schoolwork or to play. That it’s Mum who works out how to login to school distance learning and makes sure that everyone has a device. It’s also Mum who still does the bulk of the shopping, cleaning, laundry and cooking.
It is difficult for the work of Mums to be the family priority, the wage gap has created a self-perpetuating environment which makes it difficult for a woman to be the primary income earner. So Dads are taking their meetings and working uninterrupted while mothers do their job, however and wherever they can.
To juggle parenting and a career in our pre-COVID-19 world, women got creative. They worked flexible hours, they asked for help, they started businesses, and they worked part-time. Now their creative thinking has been pushed even further. Women are working from their cars, and turning their bathrooms and laundries into offices. Bathrooms appear to be particularly popular because there’s a lock on the door, zoom meetings can go uninterrupted.
Does Jacinda take zoom meetings in the bathroom at Premier House? We suspect not, but she is another example of a woman doing what it takes to juggle a career and parenting. In her case, she has been able to enlist her husband and parents to help, not all of us have that luxury but not all of us have the pressures of running a country either.
She is not the only woman running a country at this time. Nor is she the only woman winning accolades for doing a good job of it. There is also Angela Merkel in Germany, President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan and Mette Frederiksen of Denmark. All have been called a voice of reason in a time of chaos, recognised for their decisive but calm leadership, an ability to listen to medical and scientific experts and to share ideas with other leaders. Mette Frederiksen also juggles working with motherhood.
Finally, many of our essential workers are jobs that have traditionally been dominated by woman, for example, nurses, caregivers and supermarket checkout operators. All suddenly catapulted into front line roles keeping NZ running and safe. These women have also had to think creatively about keeping themselves and their families safe. From removing clothing as they come in the door and doing untold amounts of laundry, to moving their kids out to stay elsewhere, they’ve done what it takes to make it work.
Celebrate all the mothers you know on Mothers Day, whether they’re running a country, taking zoom meetings from bathrooms, or manning the supermarket checkout. Mothers Day is May 10, so plenty of time to think of ways to spoil yourself or a Mum in your life.