Lessons from Covid

27th June 20

Covid - a global & personal change

It is clear, as we approach the fourth month of the corona virus pandemic, that the world and its people are living different lives. We have been told to isolate, shield, shop alone, not to shop, wear a mask, wear gloves, wash your hands, use gel, not to drive, work from home, not work at all, be creative, go online, read more, craft more, learn a new skill, quiz on zoom, learn how to use zoom, look after the vulnerable but don’t become vulnerable and don’t risk passing on anything to those who are vulnerable.

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At the time of writing, U.K. Covid-19 deaths stood at 43,414. Politics & economics aside, the consequences of weeks of isolation has taken it’s toll on physical, emotional & psychological well being. ‘A&E services have remained open throughout the coronavirus lockdown, but there were only 916,581 attendances in April 2020 – a 57% reduction from the 2.1 million visits in the same month last year’ (NHS). GP surgeries increased their telephone appointment capacity, businesses were encouraged to enable their staff to work from home, places of recreation closed and online shops opened or saw an increase in traffic. Amazon announced in April 2020 sales of ‘$75.4bn in the first three months of the year – over $33m an hour’ (they did state that profits were down due to coronavirus-related expenses, including getting products to customers and keeping employees safe, but openly admitted this to stakeholders as a short term measure for long term gain). As a nation, our capacity for physical interaction reduced overnight and key workers aside, few of us ventured outside apart for a brief form of exercise or to food shop. Some making more money, some making less and some wondering if they’d still receive pay or a p45.

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Many of us turned to social media to search for activities for our children, networking with our friends and family, sharing photos and experiences of our often long days. Those with children and non key worker roles had to navigate home schooling, full-time childcare alongside jobs that required us to, well work (the paid kind anyway). Those who were/are key workers, risking their own health and that of their families because they were asked or forced to step up. Our reliance on the internet became an essential part of managing every day.

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Facebook group ‘Family Lockdown Tips & Ideas’ has over 1.1 million members worldwide; a platform for sharing, supporting, guiding & educating - started by one mother and growing to a team of volunteers to sift, promote & invigilate. As with MERS, SARS, and the Avian and Swine Flus before it, there is a certain amount of media hype attached to coronavirus at the moment that’s hard to disentangle from reality. We’ve been inundated with fake news from the innocuous giant lasagne of London to reported refusal of medical treatment by some as a consequence of widely spread mis-information of the outbreak.

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HEC Paris Associate Professor of Marketing, Kristine de Valck writes, ‘Just like we have seen with other crises, such as the earthquake and following tsunami that caused the nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, the terrorists attacks in Paris and elsewhere in Europe over the past years, we see today that people all over the world reach out to each other – close by and far away – through social media to make sense of what is happening’. Our personal connections and every day interactions are essential to our well-being and balance.

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On a personal note, I have two young children. And parenting in a crisis has been hard. Really hard. The days are long and often tedious and repetitive. I am sleep-deprived as is my partner. He is working longer hours than he did previously and I have no let-up (I am self-employed within the hospitality sector so my paid work has dried up) and we are financially worse off. I have shouted more, cried more and felt substantially less able to deal with the ups and downs that the days throw at me. I miss my family and friends. I miss the trips to the shops and car journeys that take up time doing something other than imaginary play. I long for a holiday (I’d take an overnight at this rate), or a visit out where I don’t have to worry about my kids touching everything and everyone. I miss stepping away at times of childcare so I can concentrate on something else, and come back to my kids having missed them and desperate to spend time with them.

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I am also aware that I am co-parenting, which not everyone is in a position of. I have not had close friends or family die or be directly affected by someone close dying or struggle through the virus. But everyones circumstances are different and everyones capacity to deal with varying situations fluctuate greatly depending on the severity or intensity.

Prior to the outbreak, the momentum for environmental change was at an all-time high. Greta Thunberg led rallies across the world and large companies were striving to go plastic free, make less of a carbon footprint and be more economically aware and conscious. What has Covid-19 done to all of the hardwork? It’s hard to know, our debt is mounting and likely, so is our plastic.

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The death of George Floyd and the subsequent outpouring of grief and anger across the world alongside BAME covid-19 figures are not coincidental. We were forced to address global racial issues, long ignored, seeped into every part of society. BAME key workers & communities abused and disproportionately at risk of illness or mortality from COVID-19 pandemic; mothers 5 times more likely to die during childbirth or be affected by postnatal mental health issues, (prior to Covid-19). Has it really taken a global pandemic for the Government to address this, and to address it as a consequence of the publics refusal to ignore the statistics? LGBTQ+ have continued to fight against prejudices and ignorance, with legislation slow to change and rights consistently ignored. LGBTQ youth make up at least 40% of all young people experiencing homelessness in the United States — an outsize portion, considering LGBTQ youth comprise only around 5%-8% of the total population of young Americans.

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Many of the marginalised groups require consistent support and understanding. Change takes time and not everyone is willing to listen and modify their interpretation and ways of thinking. Re-education is often time consuming and hard. It requires varying platforms and exposure on a consistent basis, our own personal lives are so demanding and our to do lists, exhaustive.

The point is, we are not supposed to do this alone. We build our lives around meaningful connections, friendships, morals and beliefs and as ‘lockdown’ eases, I ask myself regularly about what I’ve learned and what I can take away from all of this - because this time has to count, right? We have experienced so much in such little time. So much heartache and destruction and change and disparity. In order for us to make sense of the effects, we must address the cause. Covid has not just taught us to wash our hands more, it’s highlighted the global inequalities that filter to our community differences. How we live directly affects how others do as well. I’ve read so many ‘this isn’t forever, it’s just right now’ wallpapers that jar with how I’m feeling, because it’s not just a fleeting moment. It is not enough to go back to what we were, but to start again; pick up what we know and what we’ve learned and apply it to a new way of living.

The absence of monthly meetings has been hard but we've been supporting each other online and being able to reach people who couldn't make the groups. Being able to physically support one another, to maintain the importance of building community between ourselves, a space where we can share, feel seen, be heard. Our challenges in this have shaped who we are. Seeing how Becoming Mums support one another and cares and connects gives us hope and we are grateful for every single one of you incredible women and the experiences you bring.

We can tell our kids about what changed, how we changed and how we helped because if we take anything from all of this - it’s learning about who we are as people, as mothers and how we can change and re-build as a society.

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