I wrote my poem for Sheroes in Quarantine Part II two months after schools closed when I was feeling utterly exhausted. There were huge pressures on mothers during lockdown – every day we kept hearing news stories about how the lockdown would impact on our children’s future outcomes, that it would take two years for those who didn’t continue learning at home to catch up. And so we did our best to homeschool them, while also trying to keep on top of our careers while making time for cooking and shopping and cleaning and laundry – and games and bike rides and dog walks and checking in on family and friends – only finally sitting down at 10 o clock at night to fall asleep on the sofa.
Women didn’t do it all – of course, they didn’t. Fathers were involved too. But women have been squeezing their work in around their children for years while the majority of men return to their normal hours just two weeks after their children are born. When men leave the house at 7.30 in the morning and come home 10 or 11 hours later, how can they have any idea what happens in between, the number of tasks that a mother crosses off her endless to-do list?
I just read an article on a legal website about some fathers’ experience of working at home while their key worker partners went out to work. You can see it was an eye-opener for them. “It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster,” the Head of Employment Law Practice at NatWest Group said, “but I’ve come out of it closer to my children.”
The more time men get to spend with their children at home – and the more they realise just how many stacked tasks a mother completes and how much love, energy and attention they devote to keeping them happy and healthy – the better. It’s better for fathers. It’s better for their children. And it’s better for mothers who feel like their exhausting multitasking is going unseen and unvalued.
In their roles as mothers and at work, women rarely have the time to stop and just be. Poetry, for me, was a way of reconnecting with myself in lockdown. Of checking in with myself. Lockdown made all of us reassess our priorities. And now I’m making sure writing for myself stays on my list, alongside all my other tasks.