New Delhi: Through the COVID-19 pandemic, mothers have been concerned about the well-being of their children who have been cooped up in the house for over a year now. With schools being shut and the continuous spread of COVID-19, mothers are not only worried about the physical health of their children – that’s how to protect them from contracting the infectious disease, but also mental health – how to help children deal with the crisis and adjust to the situation. The challenges were also immense for expectant mothers. NDTV spoke to Parul Ohri, Chief Editor, Momspresso, an online content platform for moms, by moms and of moms, to understand the impact of COVID-19 on children and mothers.
The Changing Fears With The Changing Novel Coronavirus
Ms Ohri said that the kinds of fears and conversations have changed quite dramatically and drastically over the last one year and added,
Last year, the biggest worries were, how to pass time, how to entertain children, how to make the most of family life now that everybody is together, and how to maintain work-life balance, for moms that was the biggest headache with everyone at home. This year, in 2021, it’s drastically different. The serious fears of life and death have come about with almost every household having been through so much turmoil, loss and grief.
Ms Ohri informed that Momspresso has a COVID tracker and they have been keeping a track of online behaviour for a year now. It shows that last year around 60 per cent of working mothers were worried about maintaining a balance between personal and professional life.
Online behaviour also reflected their state of mind with typically the content being consumed was recipes, food videos, entertainment, art and craft ideas for kids and games and all. This year, the top five worry areas that we have mapped have been ensuring that my kids don’t fall sick; secondly, you are worried about the state in the country – the rising number of COVID-19 cases next door and all around us. Thirdly, we have to ensure the family is eating healthy – the whole nutrition and immunity bit has been overridingly important for mothers; keeping everything sanitised. Also, this brief period that we had where there was a terrible shortage of medicines, oxygen, medical equipment and other essentials. On the one hand, you are worried about all those things, and on the other hand, you are keeping your house going, said Ms Ohri.
Momspresso is a 95 per cent user generated content platform and according to Ms Ohri, the blogs that they received in the last year have been about people talking sharing heart wrenching experiences of loss, suffering, and of themselves going through a tough time.
For a mother of a 4-year-old to be isolated from a child for two weeks is absolutely no easy task so we have had a lot of those stories coming in also. And many profound thoughts, introspection I would say, about how we used to pay so much emphasis on trivial things which don’t seem important any longer, added Ms Ohri.
Frequently Asked Questions By Mothers
Two questions which were primary on every mother’s mind – one is how to keep my child safe. So, not only are we talking about things like your safety when you are going outside – sanitising, hand washing, and other precautions but a lot of it was to do with immunity. That is always an overriding question that in fact, it’s a thought in every mother’s mind that how do I keep my child’s immunity up and high so that they don’t contract diseases but I think, at this time, it took a totally different proportion.
Ms Ohri informed that her organisation organised a lot of expert talks and the conclusion was ‘conscious and healthy eating’. This means having a balanced diet, reducing the consumption of processed foods, staying hydrated.
Besides nutrition and food, almost all experts placed a lot of emphasis on sleep and of course, a little bit of exercise, whatever you can get indoors. But sleep becomes a pertinent point here because we know that pre-teens and teens have lost their sleep cycle at this time. They are all keeping up, studying, chatting and consuming content till late.
The Need For Online Learning Overpowers The Struggles
Ms Ohri asserted that managing screen time among children is a hassle these days because screen time has become a way of life now for everyone. And how can we restrict screen time? By balancing, suggests Ms Ohri and adds,
Make sure that essential screen time which is their school or classes or any other skill-building exercise they are doing is balanced out with screen time where they are socialising with their friends and family and non-screen time with family.
Further talking about online learning, Ms Ohri said that some schools in Delhi have had followed online classes in the past, especially during session breaks due to air pollution, violence and weather. However, back then, it was just a gap filler and children knew that there will be physical classes soon.
But now, one whole academic year has gone. This is the second academic year and we are somewhere in the middle of it. First term exams are about to start for a lot of children, it’s tough. We are checking all the boxes; we have reduced some syllabus; when almost everybody was in the grasp of some kind of loss, suffering or grief, schools actually shut down for a bit; we are doing whatever we can but I don’t know how much learning is happening. I think, going forward, we have a year to go before the next batch is up for exams. Let’s hit up a proper algorithm, a proper formula in place, let’s have a backup plan. You never know for how long this is going to carry on and we can’t be grappling at the last minute, she said.
Pregnancy And Motherhood In The Times Of COVID-19
While talking to NDTV, Ms Ohri shared the struggles being faced by pregnant women and lactating mothers. This includes the fear of stepping out of the house for regular tests and check-up during pregnancy, and feeding the baby. At Momspresso, the issues were addressed on a case basis. Elaborating on the same, Ms Ohri said,
We had a lot of experts coming in who explained the essentials for pregnant and lactating mothers; which ultrasounds are important and which can be avoided; which blood tests can be done at home. Now doctors are advising against certain screenings but this depends on case to case. Some hospitals had a mother and childcare section, separate from COVID-19 wing which ensures some level of safety for new mothers.
Ms Ohri added that pregnant women should avoid going wherever they can and see if home visits are possible. But where there is no choice, one should follow COVID precautionary measures.
Stress has been really high lately. Also, babies born last year haven’t seen the outside world so far. Their interaction would have been limited to the three to four people in the house. They will have a ifferent upbringing for a few years, said Ms Ohri as she signed off.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.
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