Women have been shouldering the majority of homeschooling and childcare responsibilities throughout the pandemic and with the school holidays now officially upon us there are even more demands ahead. The prolonged period at home has for many meant catering for three meals a day, extra housework, alongside juggling academic support and their own jobs.
Women across the UK have been balancing all these responsibilities at once under one roof and despite lockdowns easing around the world, there is likely to be a long-term impact on women’s work and home lives as a result of the coronavirus.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t the norm and that this will not go on forever. Remember your own needs as a person and ensure you prioritise time to talk, seek help, and support others through these challenging times, this will help provide positive mental wellbeing for both yourself and your family.
As the furlough ends, we will know who has a job and who doesn’t and for double income family households and especially for single income households, this is a time of significant fear. With all these possible fears and problems, we could easily succumb to anxiety and depression. Many workplaces cannot work at capacity because of the social distancing rules so home is going to continue to be a workplace going forward.
What is clear is that working patterns and those associated with gender patterns of working are seeing significant change, but we can’t predict what the exact outcome will be.
It’s almost certain we will see the increase in house husbands. Gender role changes are likely to be accelerated by this pandemic, an event that is still with us and will be here for the next two years at least.
We are faced with an unusual summer holiday that isn’t really a holiday at all, even less so than normal summers where the holiday bit can wear off quickly anyway. There is significant uncertainty about whether all school-aged children will return to full-time education in September, and when childcare provision will return to its pre-pandemic availability, but additionally if we are going to be facing a new wave. Many mothers are naturally still very concerned about what the future holds.
Lockdown and lifestyle choices
Lockdown has taken its toll with many women reporting weight gain, feelings of anxiety and depression. A high number of women are drinking more than they did and alcohol consumption plays a major role in the increase in instances of anxiety and depression.
Compulsive drinking is another impact that lockdown may bring; ensure you don’t become a statistic by following these simple measures:
- Don’t drink regularly. The healthiest pattern of drinking is random and irregularly.
- Don’t drink to manage anxiety, stress, depression or because you can’t sleep. Seek professional help if this is happening.
- If you wait until you have a problem with drinking it’s too late; be proactive in your health with alcohol.
- Take regular breaks from drinking – times when you don’t drink at all
- Use alcohol-free alternatives to drink socially with others
Many people have found the lockdown manageable, and many have flourished. Having extra family and relationship time has been welcomed but reality is setting in and this needs to be embraced and planned for as it will add pressures. But knowing this allows us to put in place things that reduce the negative impact:
- Prioritise self-care. Remember your own needs as a person. There is an instruction in planes to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, you are your children’s most important resources, value yourself and give yourself oxygen
- Take care of your own mental health. Mental health is one of the most important aspects of health in women, such as practice meditation every morning, find time to do things that make you happy, take up new hobbies and interests that don’t cost much except time
- Plan for high pressure. Like at Christmas and other times of high-pressure plan for that. Accept that we are all in a tough situation and don’t blame yourself if you struggle, accept it as a natural part of these very difficult times
- Learn how to manage stress symptoms. Expect yourself to have anxiety and depression and learn about it and how to manage it – learn the symptoms, use exercise, good eating, proper sleep, good social network, learn CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), etc.
- Encourage open discussions. Be open as a couple and family, have regular meetings about this situation. Make sure your husbands talk about their worries, have family time and nail them down to this; they are at significant risk
- Make time for love as a couple. Stress reduces libido and loving feelings, acknowledge that and don’t diagnose your relationship is on the rocks. Take time out, have date nights, be loving, be gentle and be kind.
- Have a ‘me time’. Try and make me time and insist everyone in your family finds me time.
- Plan a break. Have the holiday you can’t afford; you can’t afford not to.
If you feel overwhelmed and are experiencing problems in functioning that are persistent over a two-week period, then there is likely to be a problem needing proper diagnosis and treatment and asking your GP for advice is a good idea. Periodic anxiety or depression lasting a short period of time is to be expected and will generally shift of their own accord if your general mental hygiene/lifestyle is resilient.
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Noel McDermott is a psychotherapist with over 25 years’ experience in health, social care, and education.