I hope you are well. I am grateful for yet another chance to see a new week. Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, present and future mothers-to-be. Happy Mother’s Day to all our grandmothers, aunties, cousins, sisters, nieces and all the women in our lives who have cared for and loved us unconditionally.
Since we are in the mood of celebrating Mother’s Day, allow me to bring this conversation closer home. The last three months have seen men and women going through unprecedented times coping with COVID-19. While many are walking with their heads held up, putting on a brave face, creating a new normal has not been easy for most women as witnessed in conversations happening in various chat groups. It has been challenging if the memes are anything to go by. We make jokes and laugh about our struggles which is a practical way of coping. It is our unique way of maintaining some sanity.
Two weeks ago, the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) organized a virtual engagement whose sole purpose was to help women in media have a conversation about coping with COVID-19 stress. Yes, COVID-19 pandemic indeed has brought with it abrupt changes that have proven stressful to many people. There has been fear, uncertainty, job losses, decreased or loss of income, health challenges, limiting curfews, social distancing that has continued to cut off many people’s social networks.
At the same time, women have been faced with more demanding schedules. They now have no choice but to work hard to maintain a safe balance between work and parenthood. Gone are the days that women delegated house chores to their house managers/helpers and had a full day out of the house.
“I am doing my best, but I honestly feel exhausted. My body and mind are weary. I realized I had delegated so much, and now, I am unable to deal with all this. I am tired of three children calling and shouting mummy, mummy, mummy all day long. All my three children are in lower classes, keeping up with the assignments and online studies is hard for me. Some of the tasks under the Competency-Based Curriculum are outrageous. Besides, there is a husband to deal with. I feel he has been quite needy in the last few months. I have a very demanding job with strict deadlines. I feel stressed, and I am losing it. I need help,” remarked a journalist with a local media house in Kenya in one of the digital chat groups. Well, this is indeed a distress call.
Managing young children and additional parenting roles including parents turned into teachers, nursing grief after the loss of a loved one whose funeral you were unable to attend due to government restrictions on movement, expanded wifery roles and the demands of a typical job in the media, has left many women in media calling for help.
The Media Council of Kenya saw journalists listed among the essential service providers during the fight against COVID-19. “Every morning, as I leave my family to go to work, I cannot stop thinking of how risky it is. I have a family of three. While they are home and keeping with the government directions on staying at home, I have to to go out and fend for my family. As a single parent, I have no choice but to live to fight another day. I feel like I am gambling with my life and that of my children. If only I had another option in life, I would have quit this job by now,” remarked Liz.
AMWIK members had a chance to discuss various problems facing them. Notably, many of the women are battling with silent stress and depression. The forum resulted in more questions than answers.
“I lost one of my parents during this COVID-19 era. How do I get closure from the loss of my parent without losing it? How do we even deal with this pain away from people? In normal cases, we would be surrounded by family and friends during grief which makes it easier. I am finding it so hard to deal with it.”
“The call to have our children go through online studies assumes that all families have access to more than one laptop. I have three children in school; truth be told, I cannot even afford an extra laptop in my situation. Adding WiFi to my monthly bill complicates my budget.”
“My husband and I both work in a media house, and our salaries have been cut by 50%. Our bills are still the same. How do we deal with this? This feels quite traumatic, and I am feeling overwhelmed.”
Dr. Nancy Nyaga, a Psychotherapist and Dinah Kituyi, the Regional Centre Manager, SAFE Program in East Africa who were attending the virtual meeting as guests had a lot to say and their counsel was timely.
“It is ok to feel all these emotions. Do not wish your situations away. Be alive through it all. Look for ways to maintain your sanity. Talk to a trusted friend and seek help. But, you must be willing to be helped. Cry if you must. Seek therapy if you must. Find a reason to remain motivated. Get in touch with me if you need help, ” urged Dr.Nancy.
“You must do everything to find your bearing. Superwoman is only but an illusion. We are here for that much-needed help. As a woman, I understand the demands that COVID-19 has brought with it. Talking and admitting that you need help is one way of helping yourself. None of us has been in this situation before, so there is no manual on how to deal with this. It is ok to be vulnerable and to seek the much-needed help,” emphasized Diana.
The two-hour conversation courtesy of the AMWIK Executive Director, Ms. Marceline Nyambala and supported by the Media Council of Kenya was a great way of creating an avenue for women in media to speak out, share their struggles and together, chat a way forward.
“Thank you, ladies. Your insights have been valuable. Thank you, Marceline, for the great moderation,” Said Munan’ye Muna. While we empathised with our colleagues from the various media houses, I couldn’t help but marvel at how women in media have had to cope with the stress that has been brought by COVID-19. “This has been an exciting conversation. Very enlightening and empowering,” commented Wilkester Nyabwa.
Well, we all must do everything to #StayAlive. We must think of all the men and women who must go through glaring scares of domestic violence. We must think of families with persons with disabilities and those with sick family members. The role of a caregiver during this time becomes more challenging. While we might not be able to offer much help based on social distancing and the challenges therein, it is crucial to reach out to one another. Be kind to one another and genuinely care about each other’s welfare.
Are you struggling in one way or another? Do you need help? Dr.Nancy and Diana were kind enough to allow women in media to reach out to them in case of need. You can contact them through the AMWIK ED who can be reached through her Twitter handle @Marcelblessed.
How are you coping with COVID-19 stress? Will you share your story with me?
See you again next week, Inshallah.
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