A Q&A with mothers around the world on what it’s like mothering during a pandemic.
In the past two months, my mom has texted or called to check on me every day to make sure I’m healthy, eating, and haven’t run out of toilet paper or flour. I’ve seen (much to my delight) my coworkers’ kids pop into the video call to fumble for an ear bud and listen in or show off a school project they’ve been working on. I’ve seen on my daily walks around the neighborhood how mothers instinctively watch from their front porches as their children play, calling them closer if they get too close to the edge of the yard near the sidewalk where strangers like me pass by.
Not being a mother myself, it’s hard for me to fully understand the pressures that come with raising children and supporting a family, and that much was true before a global pandemic. Now, it’s only become more apparent how much gratitude we all owe our mothers. To reinforce this truth, I surveyed mothers from all around the world about what motherhood is like in the midst of a pandemic. Some of their responses to my questions are funny, others heartbreaking and empowering, but in honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share their words to hopefully inspire gratitude and global connectedness. Below are just a few of the mothers carrying us through COVID-19: fair trade farmers and factory workers, Fair Trade USA staff, and advocates. Give them—give all moms for that matter—some extra chocolate this year.
As a mother, what’s been the most challenging aspect of the past month?
“Seeing the restlessness that my son feels sometimes by not being able to take part in his regular schedule. On top of that, I am currently in my last weeks of pregnancy with our second son and my husband and I are confronting the added stress of bringing a newborn into this chaotic climate.” – Kristina, Sales Manager at Wholesum Harvest
“If it stays this way much longer I might have a big financial problem. Staying at home in a one-room house is also one of the biggest challenges. It is affecting my kids diet as well.” – Maya, Designer at Everest Fashion in Nepal
“While I love being home with my family, finding time to get any work done and take care of myself has been a challenge. I’m cooking, cleaning, and having to be engaged a lot more now, so I’m more drained at the end of my days. But overall, we have been incredibly fortunate that we are healthy. – Whitney, Co-Founder of Sustainable Brooklyn and We Wear Fair Trade Model
“Attempting to balance continuing to get work done with the demands of suddenly being the “full time” educators of small human… attempting to do a science lesson between conference calls… worrying about everyone’s health, both mental and physical… feeling like every trip to the store is a death wish exposing me and my family to pathogens.” – Anna, Chief Marketing Officer at Fair Trade USA
“Being strong before my kids in reassuring them that they will be okay during difficult change” – Nancy, Partnership Development Specialist at Fair Trade USA
“Anxiety around me or my toddler touching anything. Heightened awareness around invisible dangers.” Anonymous Fair Trade USA staff member
“I now worry about how this impacts my son’s development or his perception of what is normal. On the positive side, I think it has also made our nuclear family more united—we eat out less and sit down to dinner more together. We have tried to make regular activities more fun, adding in his favorite snacks to meal time, extra time playing in the yard or having ‘picnics’ in our car on a weekend.” – Kristina, Sales Manager at Wholesum Harvest
“I have had to adjust the ways I’m raising my son to interact with people in person. The reality of this pandemic is that it requires physical distance to the point of fear. Like I’m now having to hold my two year old child whenever we see one of his friends during our daily walk around the block so he doesn’t run up and hug them. Pre-COVID, I would have never thought I would fear an interaction like that. But now, I’m cautious, as we all should be. I’m just more hyper aware of how I teach my child to be cautious of germs and viruses, rather than fearful of people.” – Whitney, Co-Founder of Sustainable Brooklyn and We Wear Fair Trade Model
“I can only work 50 percent of the time during the day—the rest is time spent caring for my kids. This entirely changes my self perception of how I present as a “full time working mother.” – Liz, Director of Program Operations at Fair Trade USA
“As a mother, I am in constant fear for my own health and the health of my children. I’m the main breadwinner for my family, so if something happens to me, what then? That is my biggest fear.” – Julie, Strategic Partnerships Director at Fair Trade USA
“I have been able to focus more on the education needs of my children and start a home garden. With this home garden I am able to reduce the cost of living.” – Anonymous factory worker in Sri Lanka
“While I understand why some people without kids are bored to tears and why some parents are jealous of those people, I feel so lucky to be the parent of young children right now—they are funny and delightful and loud and have very strong opinions and tire me out so much I don’t have as much time for existential dread.” – Rachel, Contraceptive Access Professional and Fair Trade Enthusiast
“Transitioning from being an empty nester to having both college-aged daughters back home has been interesting! I’m so relieved to have them both home and under our roof where we can help protect and care for them, but rather sad for their lost independence and university experiences.” – Jodi, Senior Partnership Development Manager at Fair Trade USA
“I am trying to keep my family members always happy. I arranged indoor games like playing Ludo/chess/cards with them, watching TV, gossiping with them, and reading magazines. My daughter who is a graduate student is also doing online classes.” – Minoti, Worker in the Embroidery Department at Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills in India
“I just keep going. And cry and listen to podcasts and the cooking oddly helps.” – Rachel, Contraceptive Access Professional and Fair Trade Enthusiast
“I let go of any standard of perfection. I’m giving myself grace because none of us expected to be in this position a few weeks ago. And none of us have lived through a global pandemic of this scale. That said, I have established a loose routine, which really is a set of goals to meet during the day. If we accomplish those goals, great! If we don’t, we try again the next day. Screen time has definitely increased because sometimes my husband and I need a break to cook, work, shower, etc… I’m learning how to be gentle with myself through this.” – Whitney, Co-Founder of Sustainable Brooklyn and We Wear Fair Trade Model
“We set a schedule each day, and I tell them when I won’t be available. We take breaks together. We go easy on each other. We bake. It is not easy to juggle.” – Nancy, Partnership Development Specialist at Fair Trade USA
“Self care, self care. Meditation, yoga, and moving the body throughout the day to release the stress.” – Juliette, Certification Specialist at Fair Trade USA
“Finding fun things we can all do together—we have gone on A LOT of family bike rides and we have taken to doing 7-minute YouTube exercise videos together in the living room. Good exercise and also good for a laugh.” – Anna, Chief Marketing Officer at Fair Trade USA
“I want all mothers regardless of any religion to be respected, not only in their family but also in society at large.” – Minoti, Worker in the Embroidery Department at Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills in India
“I want us all to learn how to be the best mothers to ourselves that we can be. I want society to wake up to the matriarchal wisdom that will get us out of the messes we are currently in. I also want pancakes.” – Whitney, Co-Founder of Sustainable Brooklyn and We Wear Fair Trade Model
“It looks like we will be on lock down on Mother’s Day, so I am not expecting much this year. We can make some nice food and celebrate simply.” – Maya, Designer at Everest Fashion in Nepal
“A day off where I can just slow down.” – Juliette, Certification Specialist at Fair Trade USA
“Cliche as it sounds, there is nothing better than having someone bring me fair trade coffee in bed. That and some sunshine so we can take a nice long walk together in the afternoon.” – Katherine, Executive Director of Chicago Fair Trade
“Chocolate, a workout, and a nap.” – Nancy, Partnership Development Specialist at Fair Trade USA
“Alone time.” – Liz, Director of Program Operations at Fair Trade USA
“I want us to talk about what it means to be a family and how we will do anything for each other and care for one another. Maybe a little song from my 4-year-old and cuddle from my baby.” – Rachel, Contraceptive Access Professional and Fair Trade Enthusiast
“A day to do whatever I want. Two days would be even better.” – Anonymous Fair Trade USA staff member
“As a mother I want the end of this crisis and end of this disease so that we can take care of each other and proceed further to make a better future and better world.” – Kundan, Thread Cutter in India