What can Melbourne mamas do to survive stage 4?

Melbourne is now in stage 4 restrictions. We have been told this was needed otherwise our Covid-19 numbers would remain averaging 500 new cases a day, more deaths, for the next 4-6 months. We couldn’t go on like that! Many feel this is needed. But life feels heavier this time. There is less motivation for online classes, zoom drinks with girlfriends, and it’s harder to voice the things we are grateful for. I see you Melbourne mamas. I am feeling those feels with you.

Its been 4 weeks in stage 3 restrictions, and this week here in Melbourne we have now entertained stage 4. This means we have an overnight curfew, we can only be out for exercise once a day for an hour and we can attend the shops for one hour a day for essentials. These things don’t affect me greatly. As a mother with 3 children 5 and under, I was managing these restrictions in stage 3 anyway. As if I go out past 8pm for most of the year regardless of a pandemic!!

However, I think the big kicker for most parents with younger children especially, is the changes to childcare/kinder access and working. There are now only “permitted” workers, and it’s those workers (and vulnerable children) who can access childcare and school. So, for many this has meant pulling children out of childcare or kinder. Its still unclear but it is also strongly encouraged to not use grandparents as babysitters even if you have two full time working parents at home. This has been a blow for many parents. It was the last inch of respite and help that many parents had during this time. Myself included.

The work permits and who qualifies has also been causing many a great deal of stress. I feel there are many who are wanting to do the right thing, but it can be hard to decipher who qualifies for what. A doula is a perfect example. We can’t really perform the care we need to by being at our home. So much of it is hands on and within the mama’s home. Many of us are sole traders, so lack the support of a manager or organisation. But can we prove enough, to get a permit that we are essential and come under the providing care classification? That is still to be determined.

We also throw into the mix, our feelings of what we need to achieve during this time and pressure to be grateful for the silver linings. We can get stuck in all the should’s- I should spend this time learning a new skill, organising, cleaning, playing more with the kids etc. Or we don’t feel valid in our feelings because there are so many silver linings- we get extra time home as a family, we are all well and safe and financially secure.

These things may be true to some extent. It is for our family. But we need to acknowledge as a collective, that we are in survival mode and are experiencing our own grief and losses. Our main focus now is our safety; that we are fed and that we are sheltered. Our bodies and minds have been in an extended state of flight or fight since the start of all of this back in March! This survival mechanism is only suppose to be for a short period of time.

So, is it any wonder that wherever you turn everyone is feeling crap? Many are exhausted, teary, angry and lonely. Our phones and computers have gone quite as we don’t have the energy to keep checking in on our friends as we are just barely able to keep our own heads above the water. As my psychologist told me this week “we are all just too thirsty to receive our own support”.

So what can we do to get through this?

-Firstly, acknowledge this is survival mode. No matter how stable and secure things may be at your home. This is not the time to be adding extra pressure on yourself to achieve more things. Only do extra if it gives you peace and joy. This includes helping others. Kindness is essential at the moment, but if you are struggling, you don’t need to be the one helping others if it drains you even more.

-Change your should, to could. For example, I should go take a bath tonight when the kids go down. Instead, ease the pressure, tell yourself I could go take a bath when the kids go down. But if it gets to that time and all you feel like doing is zoning out in front of Netflix with a bowl of ice-cream, then do that.

-Do not rely on others to be checking in with you and offering support. If you are needing to talk with someone, then start making the call around to friends and family. If you feel they won’t be able to provide that support to you, get it from a free online group/phone hotline or a professional. You can now access up to 20 sessions with a psychologist or mental health social worker if you are here in Victoria.

-Drop the things that are adding more stress to your day. If remote learning is stressing you all out everyday, minimise it, do your own learning, be child lead. You are not mandated to complete all the tasks, just inform your teacher what you are doing. Same goes for other activities like tidying up. If you don’t have it in you to pick up every toy your child leaves on that dam floor every second, then leave it. Have a family group effort in the evening to tidy up, and make clear walkways, mostly so you don’t stand on Lego in the middle of a night with a half asleep toddler in your arms.

-Try to figure out what gives you peace and joy and try to achieve that. So, if listening to music helps, make yourself a playlist, or download a free streaming service. If you know a walk helps you, then prioritise that over the folding or that one last remote learning task. If a daily shower helps you feel alive, then give the kids an apple, and stick them in front of the TV while you do it.

-Do not make self-care a task that adds pressure to your list of things to be doing. If you can achieve it yourself, then I strongly encourage it. But if you are struggling, then seek help from others. Tell your partner you really need a moments peace and get them to figure out how that can be achieved, let your mum know you don’t have the energy to cook so she can perhaps organise a meal to be delivered from your local restaurant, if someone like myself is offering to guide you on where or how to get help, message them and let them help.

This is hopefully, a once in a lifetime experience for most of us. Much of the stuff that we usually do to feel healthy, supported and loved has been taken away. So, we need to try and change our thinking about how we need to get through this. On our good days we can practice self-care and gratitude, on our not so good days, we need to practice survival mode and do whatever it takes to get through the day. We’ve got this mamas, and when we feel like we don’t, which might be often right now, pick up that phone and get guidance and help!

Much Love, Rach

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