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Family role reversals in a pandemic

Updated: Apr 7

a photo of a father, mother and child with their dog waving outside the front of their house

This article was written for Kangatraining Australia, May 2020. Our family photo was taken for The Driveway Project by Landi Bradshaw and is here with her permission.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be” Lao Tsu

I love being a work-at-home-mum. For the past two years, I have had the honour of being with my son while I put my health management role on hold. I am so grateful to our system and my husband for supporting me to do this. It is this opportunity that also allowed me to reconnect with my clinical physiotherapy roots and start my micro business Sprout & Me, focusing on physiotherapy-led services to nurture new life. Enter Kangatraining, Babywearing Practice, Possums and a further five-year study plan to broaden my clinical skillset, including women’s health and breastfeeding support. I had recently extended into my third year of unpaid leave, being available for leave relief stints in my pre-baby job as a staggered return to work.

Life was full and fulfilling.

Enter COVID-19. Like a bowling ball into my neatly arranged ten pins.

I got the call up out of the blue to consider being put back into the casual pool to support our local emergency response. Of course, I said yes, and discussions commenced with my husband to determine how we would manage childcare with his small business needs. Then I got another call asking if I could start, full-time, tomorrow. I looked at my husband and we nodded at each other.

When your community is in need, you step up. And we did.

We live in a small town in the remote Kimberley region of northern Western Australia. We are privileged to live and work on Miriuwung Gajerrong country and many of our population are considered at high risk of COVID-19. I am so proud of how our communities have pulled together and supported the call to protect our neighbours. The team are incredible, working tirelessly to ensure the health and wellbeing of those needing essential services. I am humbled to think that my small contribution is considered valuable enough to call me back into the workforce.

The whiplash effect has been significant for my family.

For me, gone are my morning snuggles with my child as he climbs sleepily out of bed. Enter late naps and 10pm bedtimes as my child fills up his cup after I get back from work. Gone is intimately knowing the details of my son’s day and delighting in each shared experience. Enter snippets of stories and admiring the achievements of my rapidly growing child without me. Gone are the daytime breastfeeds-as-needs. Enter amplified overnight breastfeeds-as-needs and bleary eyed wakings. Gone are the evening hours connecting with my husband. Enter fragmented conversations, missed messages and snatched snuggles as we pass in the hallway. Gone are the hours whiled away studying. Enter copious apologies for skipped tutorials, missed deadlines and delayed replies. Gone are weekly workouts and leisurely cuppas with my kangafamily. Enter navigating a shift to virtual classes squeezed into a full-time work schedule.

For my husband, gone are his productive days in his backyard workshop. Enter pandemonium of misplaced tools and saving the dog from the armed child. Gone are his abilities to concentrate and complete a job. Enter toilet training, mealtimes and household chores. Gone are his timelines and promised deliverables. Enter apologetic phone calls to clients and fluffy promises of some-day-in-the-possibly-foreseeable-future. Gone is his identity as a breadwinner. Enter the stay-at-home parent trying to keep the household intact while interpreting often unintelligible and intermittent reminders from his partner. Gone is his adult companion for most if not all his support. Enter managing each day mostly on his own.

For my son, gone are the social outings and catch ups with his friends. Enter prolonged periods of time constrained at home with a dog and an adult as company. Gone are the comfortable rhythms and established expectations of being with his mum. Enter learning about and pushing the boundaries of what daily life looks like with his dad. Gone are the late afternoon catch ups on our front lawn with our neighbours. Enter tears and distracted greetings while we restrain plaintive children from crossing the road to play.

It's tough. And yet in all this there is hope. That we will survive and be better for it. Letting go of what was and embracing what is. Grieving what we had and appreciating what we have.

Life is full and fulfilling.

Following the bowling ball of COVID-19, my scattered pins will be slowly stood back up. They might not be neat, and some might not make the cut in the new arrangement. And that is okay.

Kato x

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be” Lao Tsu


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