How many of us are aware of the impact of the Corona Virus besides the obvious ones like loss of lives, jobs, being confined to our homes during lockdown, children attending online classes and so on?
We are so conditioned to focus on the external which gets heightened under the influence of media that we tend to ignore what is happening internally, in our immediate environment, in our families and in relationships. After all, the family can be taken for granted, right? More so the women of the household, irrespective of whether they are working or are homemakers.
Let me share some scenarios and facts which might be an eye-opener for some of us.
First, let us go back to early 2020 when we became aware of the pandemic and its potential to impact our lives. Initially, we were taken aback by the first lock-down and wondered if the virus was really so deadly and the situation so serious that we had to be confined to our homes. The next was panic – the hoarding of essential items, buying masks and sanitizers and maintaining the recommended physical distance. We even turned to the deities and protective functions of the universe to save us from this calamity and wished it to go away soon.
None of us were really prepared for what followed. Weeks-long lockdown, with partial lifting in phases and then with complete lifting, all hell broke loose. Malls and cinemas opened up albeit maintaining the prescribed norms of safety but people in general went on a denial mode. They wanted to make up for the lost time especially vis-a-vis socializing. Partying, going out for dining or walks for that matter, become a regular feature once again. Wearing masks and maintaining physical distance, not social as per World Health Organization (WHO), became a farce. Then came the second wave and we are now anticipating the third wave with no respite on the horizon.
Everything has changed – the way we do business, the way we work, the way we socialize or don’t for that matter, the education system, everything. All this is quite apparent.
However, what is not apparent is how this has impacted our mental and emotional well-being? Our personal relationships – with spouse, children, parents, and self, more than anyone else.
Let us take this one by one – the woman of the house, the most affected of the lot. For her, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown was possibly the worst. With no domestic help, children and spouse being in the house 24X7, she suffered the most. Cooking meals, not just three anymore, but whenever there was a demand and craving. Remember, initially there were no food delivery or takeaway options either. That desire had to be addressed by the mother/wife/ daughter-in-law.
As we are aware, most Indian husbands and parents-in-law still operate from the age-old belief that the house and associated chores are a woman’s responsibility which she has to manage anyhow. Children’s schooling, albeit virtual, required her to be on her toes all the time – waking them up, keeping track of their virtual classes, reminding them to log in on time and so on and so forth.
As far as the man of the house is concerned, his primary responsibility is to provide for monetarily and so he focused only on his office work. Very few husbands lent a helping hand to their wives in household chores.
This is the physical scenario. All this confinement, constraints, restrictions, no breathing space, etc., affected our psyche more than we cared to acknowledge. So much uncertainty, change in social settings, no outlet, lack of physical activity led to panic, anxiety, fear and a loss of control. For a lot of people, the world as they knew it no longer existed.
Added to this was the constant influx of negative news in the form of people succumbing to covid, first unknown ones and then near and dear ones.
How did we, collectively as Humanity, react?
People either became more isolated and withdrawn or resorted to substance abuse. Alcohol was readily available and in fact, if the news is to be believed, it seems the last two years have witnessed an all-time high sale of alcohol. With an increase in alcohol consumption, there was a corresponding increase in cases of domestic violence. There was no escape and a feeling of hopelessness engulfed many. Some even decided to take their own lives giving in to paranoia and depression.
I had a chat with some clinical psychologists and counsellors who shared the desperate situation of the mentally vulnerable, increase in the numbers of calls on helpline numbers and their own inability to attend to all and having to prioritize as per severity. Some even reached out to their clients (existing and erstwhile) to enquire about their weal-being and offer support. Everyone was affected, only the degree varied. Some were aware and some pushed it further under the carpet.
So,What is the Way Forward?
This is the time when we have to really support one another; however difficult it may be. A normal life may seem distant for the time being, but we cannot lose hope. Be conscious of the people in your surroundings, beginning with your family members. See if they need any help. Be there for them. Acknowledge and accept that it is normal and extreme situations like the pandemic can make the vulnerable even more vulnerable. Reach out. It will make you feel valuable and useful as well. At the end of the day, we all want to attain self-actualization (Maslow’s theory of motivation) and make a difference in this world.
On the brighter side, however, people got to spend quality time with their family members. We heard stories of how children enjoyed spending time with their erstwhile busy parents. They came up with meaningful ways, like playing board games, watching movies together, cooking or baking together. Even children learnt new things during the pandemic and developed their skills. Relationships improved as there were no means of escape and fewer distractions.
On a societal and environmental level, we heard of low-key marriages taking place, leading to saving of money, conserving resources, protecting the environment, and highlighting the importance of close-knit family members. A lot of cases of parenthood were reported as well – with people sharing that it was the best time to get pregnant and experience the joys of parenthood together. Whereas earlier, the fathers-to-be missed being part of this experience, now they could be with their wives and to-be-born children having an experience of a lifetime. I believe as far as women or new mothers are concerned; they could not have asked for more. They weren’t alone in this journey. This definitely improved their bonding and feeling of closeness and made it a joint experience of togetherness in the real sense.
Essentially, it depends on us how we face any challenge or obstacle and how we view a perceptible adversity. We can let the circumstances get the better of us and succumb to them by letting our inherent negative tendencies come to the surface. Or we can rely on our resilience and decide to use it as an opportunity to expand our lives and manifest our goodness – not just for society but with our immediate family members as well. The loss of one precious member of the family can be a big jolt and shake our world; but such an event also made us humble, appreciative, and grateful for all that we have.
Let all the positive changes in our relationships not be temporary. The pandemic may have forced us to dig deeper into our issues, adapt and evolve but let us strive to make this a permanent one in our lives. Let the change in the dynamics of our relationships become ever-lasting so that this period of intense emotional upheaval leaves us with fond memories of time well-spent with our loved ones as well. A happy family will lead to a happy me!
Source: This article has been taken from the previous issue of B-Proactive EHS magazine (23rd Issue) in its entirety.