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Mums’ Wellbeing During Lockdown

Posted May 19th 2020 by Outside The Box

Lockdown has thrown up unexpected obstacles for everyone in all kinds of different ways. Mums already face challenges around maternity discrimination, and finding working arrangements that suit them and their children. Lockdown has disrupted the norms and forced us all to find different ways to adapt. Below, we share our experiences of being pregnant during lockdown, returning to work during lockdown and trying to juggle work with looking after a young child during lockdown.

As well as sharing our stories, we have also shared links and tips for support that has helped our wellbeing. We’d like to know what has helped you so we can develop resources for other mums, who may be struggling. Please take a moment to fill in our short survey. 

This wasn’t in the birth plan, but I’m staying positive

I’m currently 37 weeks pregnant, with my first baby due at the beginning of June. When I imagined the third trimester of my pregnancy, being cooped up indoors wasn’t what I had in mind. I had envisioned wearing maternity dresses at picnics park, attending pregnancy yoga classes, and joining the NHS antenatal classes – getting to know other mums-to-be in the area.

 

All this is now off, but there have been some silver linings. A huge amount of the antenatal groups have moved online. And while it may be odd doing everything through Zoom, there’s very much a feeling of all being in it together. I’m now in several Whatapp groups, all full of supportive women from all over the country, as well as in Glasgow. It’s certainly a lesson in being flexible and adaptable.

Being stuck at home all day every day is not how I’d chose to spend this time, but there are some benefits to that too. I normally lead a very busy life, but this has forced me to slow down. I have much more time for practicing relaxation techniques and getting both my body and my flat ready for the new arrival.

I work in two part-time jobs, both of which value the wellbeing of their staff. While there’s still lots to do, there’s a recognition that we’re all just trying to get through this as best we can. Regular Zoom chats, check-ins and phone calls means that in some way we’re connecting more than we might have done in regular circumstances.

There is also something quite nice about being pregnant during this time. In a world of uncertainty, it’s a nice feeling to know that my baby is coming, and it’s not long now until I get to meet them. It’ll be a shame that my family and friends won’t get to visit right away, but there’s something to be said for establishing ourselves as a new family unit.

So far, coronavirus and lockdown hasn’t affected by maternity plans at all. My partner has lost some freelance work, but our outgoings are lower too, and we’ll find a way to make it work. 

Maternity Discrimination

However, I have also become aware of some of the ways that mothers are being discriminated against during the virus. There are three petitions calling for mother’s rights and contributions to be recognised:

Useful Resources

Wellbeing

Rights

I never imagined my return to work would be like this

Earlier this month I returned to work after taking maternity leave then shared parental leave. My son is now seven-months old and I could never have imagined my return to work would have looked like this. The plan was that I would return to work on a part-time basis when my partner would be off on his shared parental leave. We had planned to use this time to transition into what would be our childcare routine for when we were both back at work. I would go back to work knowing that our son would be settling-in to his new routine with the comfort of having his Dad available for early pick-ups if needed. The learning here is that very few things go to plan during parenthood – we have learnt that much already.

 

For now, we are all at home – this means that I’m there in the morning to have cuddles with my little boy. I can be on hand at lunch time while we try to wean him onto solids, and I‘m always home for bedtime stories. Those moments won’t come again so I’m thankful that we do have this extra time together. Saying that, it’s not been easy. I’ve found it hard to catch up on what I’ve missed during my time away and I’ve found myself struggling to find my place within the ‘new normal’. I know these emotions are very normal for Mum’s returning to work and for those of us experiencing a change in routine due to the lockdown.

As a woman who is juggling all the emotional, mental and logistical challenges that new motherhood brings, and as an employee of an organisation who puts my wellbeing at the forefront – I’ve really benefitted from our flexible working approach. I can start later if we’ve been up through the night and I know I don’t need to be tied to my computer when my son is crying with teething pain – flexibility is the name of the game at the moment.

I miss being around my colleagues – it’s amazing how much information you absorb by just being in a busy office with others or chatting while you make your afternoon cuppa tea, but my colleagues have been great at making themselves available for Zoom chats and check-ins.

We are still in the midst of the lockdown as I write this, and I see my return to work in two phases. The current one during lockdown and the next will be when we can finally travel to our offices, schedule meetings in-person and slowly return to what we knew before. I’m sure this will bring a new wave of emotions as we have to drop-off our son to his childcare for the first time, after being only the three of us for several months, but I know there is support there when this time comes.

Useful Resources

I read our Mums Returning to Work; A Guide for Working Mums while I was on Maternity leave and found some great resources, such as: www.workingmums.co.uk. It was also reassuring to read the experiences of others – good and bad.

I have also followed the ‘Flex Appeal’ closely – a campaign for flexible working. They have recently joined with The Fawcett Society, Pregnant the Screwed and The Fatherhood Institute to form the coalition campaign ‘Flex for All’.

Parent Club offers a range of information for parents with specific resources for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Online peer-support groups have been great to connect with other new mums, you should be able to find one that covers your local area on Facebook.

Working in and with uncertainty

I’ve worked in the third sector for most of my working life- a sector that relies heavily on funding to create new and innovative ways of working with people. I have experienced good and bad employment through the years, including experiencing pregnancy discrimination. What struck me about this experience is how much it affects your mental wellbeing and if you can get through it, what your left with can be a distrust for the next employer- not a good mindset to go into a new job with. It makes me pause and think of the number of women who must feel the same and the implications this has for gaining secure employment, that respects their rights.

 

I know my skill sets- they mostly centre around in person relationships with people so moving into this new reality where that just isn’t the case hasn’t been easy. But there is something to be said for working in a sector with very little certainty – it makes you resilient to constant change and for that I am most grateful. Having an employer who respects my wellbeing as a person with responsibilities and a life past work is golden – particularly in times such as these. I can’t stress enough the benefits of sincere flexible working for employer and employee- not only does it maintain a good standard of wellbeing in the staff team but a continuous level of productivity and belief in the work. I miss my colleagues and their energy – zoom is good but I know it will never suffice as an equal alternative – for me anyway.

My daughter is three, full of energy and mischief with an expectation that mummy and daddy are here to entertain until she finally sleeps! It took what felt like forever to get a balance of the right care for her, between nursery, grandparents, her daddy and I working full time flexible hours- it worked. But now like a lot of people we find ourselves cut off from family and friends, all her wee friends at nursery who are too young to facetime or pick up the phone. The relationships she has with other wee people are just as important as adults, yet how on earth do we maintain them? How do we explain about bad bugs being the reason for not seeing the people that matter to her without causing anxiety? And how do we work effectively in our jobs and be there enough for her?

Useful Resources

I’ll be honest that I haven’t yet cracked how to manage all the uncertainty whilst finding new innovative community engagement approaches, at the same time as being there for my daughter and supporting my husband maintain his workload. So I often turn to Suzanne Zeedyk for invaluable information for coping strategies at home with my new work buddies

Axel Scheffler the illustrator of the Gruffalo books etc has created this wonderful FREE digital book for young children to ‘inform and entertain’ in their questions about Coronavirus

I turn to what I know too in the wonderful work of mums and employers we know through our Mums Returning to Work project www.mumsreturningtowork.org

From a family perspective via Family Friendly Working Scotland

Just a final thought- talk to the people you feel you can be vulnerable with in work and at home- it helps, and be there when you can to do the same for others.

So we can be of use  to others, we’d really like to hear your experiences whatever they are so they might help shape our new normal and let other mums know we hear you!

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