“Juggling with work and childcare gave me a nervous breakdown”

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While the cruel impact of the lockdown on mothers was not already clear enough, two sets of statistics released this month illustrate just how serious the situation has become.

Last week, Mumsnet revealed that 76% of women surveyed believed the pandemic had negatively impacted their mental health. Many of these respondents will have been forced to work while looking after their children during the lockdown; According to a survey of 50,000 women by the Trade Union Congress, 70% of mothers who work or who have requested leave in the past year have had their request rejected.

As part of the Telegraph’s emergency mental health campaign, which pledges to give a voice to those whose mental well-being has been compromised by successive blockages, a mother who wishes to remain anonymous writes about the effects on the sanity of juggling work and childcare during the pandemic. ..

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my car in front of the local businesses, frozen in place. I had received a text message, rather than a WhatsApp, which meant it had to be someone from work. The mere sound of the text was enough to make my heart beat.

Last November, I was stopped working with severe anxiety. A complete mental collapse followed.

I have been a social worker for 12 years. The essence of what I do is to remove children from dangerous family situations and put them through public court proceedings. It’s very emotionally demanding.

I am also a single mother of two daughters aged 8 and 11. Usually their dad and his partner have them every other weekend, but due to the pandemic they were protecting each other last year. Towards the end of 2020, balancing work and childcare on my own became too difficult. Something had to crack – and that was me.

It doesn’t surprise me that a recent Mumsnet survey found that 76% of mothers say the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, with most saying they struggle to balance work and childcare at home. the House.

I had a lot of support in the community before Covid – girls could go play on dates after school or hang out with their grandmother, and I would pick them up after work. But in March, I suddenly went from a lot of options to none.

As I am a single parent and a key worker, the school said my daughters could go – they attended “educare” from March to July. Educare lasts between 9am and 3pm – but I couldn’t check in at 3pm. After picking up the girls, I had to continue working, sometimes until the early hours of the morning.

My job became very busy during the summer term as Social Services received more and more referrals and my workload increased exponentially. A few times I was out of the house until 10 p.m., putting children in foster homes. I was not allowed to take my kids with me so we had to break the Covid rules and they went to a friend’s house. We felt paranoid about the police knocking on the door, but what else could we do?

I felt guilty for sending my children to educare. It was a crib. Other parents were sending things they found online – children’s lectures, YouTube videos, and resources. I couldn’t do any of that with my daughters because I was working all the time. The school also had a contest every week, like a pastry shop, and my kids couldn’t participate. I was afraid they were missing something.

I did not ask for time off. To my knowledge, no one in my industry has been put on leave because we are frontline workers. The volume of my work kept increasing, and in October there were three consecutive weeks where I worked until 1 a.m. every day, including weekends.

When I took a five-day vacation in the October semester, the anxiety leading up to my leave was horrendous. It rocked me in terms of mental health. I started to feel suicidal and talked to my GP. I had never felt this weak before, but balancing work and childcare and trying to make sure girls were okay had become too difficult.

At the beginning of November, I was disconnected with severe anxiety. I don’t think I realized how sick I was, from a mental health standpoint, until I had some free time. I felt total panic all the time, and I couldn’t concentrate or make simple decisions. Even making a cup of tea has become impossible. I was planning the steps: walk, fill the kettle, put the kettle on, but I couldn’t decide what to do. It was crippling.

After about a month, the rest had some effect. I wouldn’t say I’m 100% cured now, but my employer has offered me therapeutic support, which has to start overnight, and I have to go back to work soon. When I go back I will have a gradual return so I am unlikely to be working until 1am so early. I will also have more support during this confinement, because the father of the girls agreed to have them after school.

I don’t feel as gloomy as I used to be, but I am aware that most things will still fall on me.

As said to Katie Russell


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