Juggling WFH and childcare amid the COVID-19 crisis – how mothers stay positive

The coronavirus has upended all our lives one way or another.

The Government has imposed strict social distancing measures, one of which is the temporary closure of all nurseries and schools across the country. This measure severely impacts many parents, especially mothers with young children, and their lives have become more complicated. There are, however, two sides to this coin. Two mothers, who work from home, share their experiences of how they cope with this challenge and stay optimistic during tough times.

“I wish we had a babysitter”, said Assistant Professor Dr. Patreeya Kitcharoen, a lecturer at Mahidol University. She is currently working from home.

“In the past, I always had someone to help me look after my baby boy, while I was working full-time at the university. Now I have become a full-time mother, while working from home. It is really exhausting.” Patreeya has a sixteen-month-old son, who depends on her most of the time, which makes working from home a real challenge.

Assistant Professor Dr. Patreeya Kitcharoen is working from home

Teaching online requires more preparation than normal classroom based lessons. Patreeya admitted that, sometimes, it is very difficult to concentrate on work when the little boy is clamouring for her attention.

Fortunately, she has help from her husband, who is a lecturer and also works from home. They began split-shift parenting; he looks after their son in the morning, when Patreeya is teaching online, then she takes over for afternoon shift, so her husband can get his work done.

The biggest concern for this working mother during the virus crisis is the confined space for her son. “I want him to have a chance to explore the world outside our home, so we go to a local park once a week.”

While her work-home divide has gone, she stays positive in a potentially negative situation. Patreeya said that working from home presents a good opportunity to spend quality time with her son. “Another thing is, I had never been interested in online teaching before, despite encouragement and support from the university. Now, I have to do it, due to the COVID-19 crisis. At the moment, I am learning and focusing more on the distance learning system.”

Patreeya offered advice to mothers, who are struggling with simultaneously working from home and looking after their small children. She says “you are lucky because you have a job and still get paid. You also have an opportunity to spend quality time with your loved ones. Of course, it is tough and exhausting, you may need to talk to your partner and make mutually agreeable arrangements.”

 

Thailand now has an accumulated total of 2,811 COVID-19 cases and 48 deaths. The Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) reported 19 new cases on April 21st, relatively low compared with the peak of 188 cases on March 22nd. While the situation seems to be improving, the country remains under a tight lockdown. Earlier this month, Thailand’s Ministry of Education postponed the opening of the new school term, from May 16th to July 1st. In the meantime, some parents may have to take on more responsibilities, by home schooling their children.

“I must be very creative in finding ways to entertain my kids and setting activities for us to do together. There are plenty of ideas on websites, such as virtual tours of zoos or museums. I am particularly interested in executive function (EF) and building self-regulation skills, so I find games and activities which help to improve these key skills. The good thing is that we can learn and improve together, my kids and I”, said Patcharalada Jullapech, a creative and mother of two.

By working from home, she saves a four hour daily commute, between her home in the Ramintra area and the office in Prachachuen. She said her children are delighted to have their mother stay home all day and thought that all of mum’s time was for them.

Patcharalada admitted that, at the beginning, she could not get used to the casual atmosphere of working from home, and was constantly interrupted by her 7 year-old son and 3 year-old daughter. She looked forward to the day when this pandemic would be over, so she could return to her normal routine.

 

Patcharalada Jullapech and her kid

“I hardly get any work done during the day. My children do not pay much attention to their father. They always want to play with me. There was a problem though. Whenever I had to attend an online meeting, they would not leave me to work in peace. So, I went upstairs and locked myself away to join the meeting. Later they began to understand that when mummy finishes work, she will come downstairs to play with them”.

She prioritizes her tasks and works on less urgent jobs while the kids are sleeping. During the day she focuses mainly on her children.

When asked how she remains positive, Patcharalada said, “I have to be optimistic. If I am depressed, the situation will get worst, living under the lockdown is depressing enough. I try not to overthink and look after myself and my mental health. I think that, if I get stressed out, how will I be able to take good care of the kids? I never see it as a burden. I believe everything’s going to be alright.”

By Jeerapa Suvanvitit

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