Jennifer Burden, the founder of World Moms Network, asked me to share my family’s COVID-19 story from India. I have been reluctant because our hearts go out to so many I know, who have lost family and friends near and dear to them in India and across the world, from COVID-19. I hope our story can help paint the picture of how the virus is affecting the daily life of families of health workers, around the world, to our global readers. So, with that intention, I tell my story…
My husband and I are so different, we come from different cultures and languages within India, however, one of the few things that bind us together is our love for travel. We had planned to spend our 15th wedding anniversary somewhere trekking up a mountain or looking at art pieces in a museum. Thankfully, we have similar tastes in the type of travel we do, and so that is one thing less to quarrel about in our lives!
Instead of celebrating our anniversary in some far off exotic location, we knew that we would celebrate our love and togetherness from the quarantined confines of our home, as times were now difficult and different. And that was okay too.
BUT – Today I dreaded waking up to our wedding anniversary.
You see, my husband is a frontline healthcare worker, a pulmonologist, and is involved in the treatment of patients in the COVID-19 ward in the hospital where he serves. He is in contact with hundreds of COVID-19 positive patients every single day. Several days before our anniversary he was down with a high-grade fever. Slowly this took a worrisome enough turn, for him to call up the technician to come home to test him. Thus, the whole day of our 15th wedding anniversary was spent waiting in prayerful anticipation. Well, to cut the long story of the day short, he turned out to be positive for COVID-19. This was definitely not the anniversary we were expecting, and we were now worried.
Most healthcare workers have been facing enormous challenges – physically, mentally, and emotionally. They see in the eyes and hearts of patients, so much loneliness, pain, and fear, that, that in itself drains them out completely. It can be very overwhelming and many times the doctors and nurses die hundreds of deaths inside, as they let a life go.
As his wife, I seek to understand, yet, sometimes I do not. At times, I can sympathize. Other times I get frustrated, caught up in my own other problems or worries.
We have missed him at times when he used to come home very late, long after my son and I had fallen asleep. At other times, I have learned to stay indifferent. I remember, once when we were on our honeymoon, he received a call from one of his patients. I don’t always have him to myself. Being married to a healthcare worker has been a very enlightening journey, living with him and his profession for the past 15 years.
At times, he indicates that he understands and explains patiently how he cannot make more time for us. At other times, he is full of his own joys or sorrows of work.
In the midst of such a life, where I did not know when he would be back home for the day, things had only worsened in the past 8 months. Being part of the first responders in the fight against the coronavirus, I cheer for him.
Every night our family wait, patiently. I say, ‘patiently’, because, the hardest part of this COVID-19 pandemic was always to constantly wonder when my husband was going to contract it. I never doubted that he wouldn’t contract it. After all, his whole day, more than 12 hours, was spent with people who had contracted it. I just prayed and hoped that at least he would be asymptomatic or he would recover very quickly.
Now, that worry was gone. He was COVID-19 positive, and I knew how the next fortnight was going to be. All of the regular COVID-19-words now stared at my face – quarantine – social distancing – uncertainty – grocery shopping for the next 15 days, etc.
I decided to take one hour at a time and gave my attention to only the most important tasks of the immediate hour. The most important thing to do, of course, was to take care of my husband.
The next thing I decided was to get off my phone, unless absolutely necessary, such as the phone calls from my parents or from my husband’s colleagues. I uninstalled all the Apps from my phone temporarily, and that is probably the best decision I have ever made in this current digitalized year.
One thing that helped me stay positive and resilient is an everyday meditation regime, and the online group meditation sessions every Sunday morning with our Heartfulness community.
I suddenly realized how close my husband was, with his colleagues, friends, seniors, juniors, students, and the Dean in his workplace. I entered his workplace that I wasn’t as aware of, prior to his sickness in our busy lives. There was an outpouring of love, concern, affection. Most days he was on his phone, when he had the energy, talking to his students, or discussing regimes and protocols with his colleagues. He never gave me the impression that he was sick. But he gave me a lot of reasons to worry too, as he was still symptomatic with fever, respiratory infection. However before I knew it, he was back on his feet and on his job (from home, as we had to be in quarantine for few more days).
One hour at a time, one day at a time, we let time pass at her own pace. The hours were long, but the days were short, as they say.
Fifteen days, after our 15th wedding anniversary, we tested again, and the results were negative. He is back to work now, and treating patients, in one of India’s hotbeds of COVID-19 – Chennai.
Our wedding anniversary will have to wait until another day, another year, but I am proud of him for being a part of India’s fight against the pandemic. He makes me proud.
Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here .
She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award .
She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page .
She also contributes to Huffington Post .
Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!
This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.
She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.
I have used swear words for much of my adult life. I grew up in a culture where swearing was normal and common in conversation. Then I moved across the county to an area that had a very different vibe. One of my first impressions was: “No one here drinks or swears.” Now I know that is not true. It just wasn’t flaunted in the way to which I was accustomed.
I started reeling in my potty mouth because I felt I was coming on too strong. However, I learned over time that many adults in my new locale swore. They just did it privately or with certain people. Still, this experience prompted me to look at how I used language and to fine tune my filter.
Once I had children, I tightened things even further. Before I go on, I want to say I have plenty of friends who swear in front of their kids. I am not judging that. Every home has its own rhythm, and there are many ways to approach a subject. I am reflecting on my own journey.
Part of my decision to abstain from swearing in front of my kids as much as possible came from the fact that I tend to be an all or nothing person. I find it hard to moderate things. If I am going to swear, I am not holding back. Another aspect of this had to do with where to draw the lines. As the mom, I have the ability to shape the culture in my home, and while I want kids to express feelings, I also want them to be thoughtful about how to do it most effectively. Swear words are great because they put a fine point on things like nothing else. That power is undeniable. And because of that, I decided instead of not allowing certain words, I would categorize them as power words and establish some ground rules around them.
Power words for me are more than swears. Power words are anything, good or bad, that merit caution and thought.
On the negative side, this includes name calling (i.e. stupid, idiot, jerk) or overly dramatic statements. Hearing something like “I hate this show” gives me pause. When one of my kids says “hate,” we talk about it. They aren’t in trouble, but we explore the meaning of the word and think on if it’s the best choice for that situation. Sometimes it is. Often it isn’t.
A positive that comes from this attention to speech is that when emotions run hot in our house (and they do get hot), for the most part, we don’t call each other names or throw around negative power words. It’s not a perfect system, but when things break down, we take time to sort it out and find better language to communicate what is really going on.
On the other hand, I don’t leave my kids in a bubble. On a hike with my son, I taught him all the core swear words and their meanings. He’s going to hear them around, and many he already had and just didn’t understand. This subversive lesson was hand in hand with a discussion on the appropriate time and place to use them, if at all, with the caution to not use words of which you don’t know the meaning. A year or two later, after one particularly rough day at middle school involving some nasty behavior from another student, I pulled out some particular swears to sum up the situation. My son paused and said, “Yes, Mom! That’s exactly what it’s like. It’s a **bleepity bleep**.” We then had a conversation about the meat of the issue. It’s not that we can’t use these words, but I never want those words to be all that there is.
Plus, these power word conversations have been a bridge to addressing more racially and sexually charged language with my kids. It gives us a framework. When I started this process ten years ago, I did not envision the open hostility expressed daily in current American society. I think these lessons on power words are even more important now, as much for me as for my kids. I don’t know if I am preparing my children appropriately, but at least between us, we can talk (and swear) with thought and purpose.
Do you swear in front of your children? How does swearing work in your culture?
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Tara B.
Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Network!
My teenager has had a rough few months. She came to me with the information that she felt suicidal and had a plan to end her own life.
I brought her to our local emergency room, where my baby girl had her clothes taken away, an alarm strapped to her wrist, and a room right across from the nurses’ station where she could be constantly monitored. After a long day of evaluations, testing, and phone calls, my child was transferred to another hospital that had a juvenile psychiatric ward.
After her stay in the psychiatric ward, my daughter enrolled in a partial hospitalization program.
Her clinician there told me I needed to lock up all of our household medication and anything sharp. Knives in the kitchen, razors in the bathroom, and even child safety scissors that couldn’t cut hair all had to be locked up in a metal container, not plastic, as plastic could be broken fairly quickly. I asked the woman telling me all of this whether this level of action was necessary for a teenager who had only had thoughts of hurting herself without acting on any of those ideas.
My daughter’s clinician told me that nothing would really, truly keep my child safe if she was determined to hurt herself. The goal in locking up those medications and sharp objects was to make it more difficult for her to act impulsively if she felt the urge to self-harm. I have thought about those words frequently these past few days. We live in a society where weapons are easily obtainable. Somehow, our society has not yet realized that legally allowing such free access to semi-automatic weapons is allowing people like my daughter, whose mental states are not where they should be, to be able to make spontaneous decisions to harm themselves or others.
Let me be clear: I am not talking about criminals here. People who want to break the law will find ways to do so, and I will not waste my words bickering over why changing the laws won’t do anything to stop lawbreakers. I am talking about people who are mostly law-abiding but are struggling with serious mental health issues or going through extremely emotionally charged situations, such as a horrific divorce. I am also not talking about infringing on anyone’s Second Amendment rights. I’m not arguing that US citizens shouldn’t be allowed to own guns.
I am, however, stating that any random U.S. citizen should not be able to obtain whatever kind of weapon they desire whenever they want it. No one told me I couldn’t keep scissors in my house while my daughter struggles with depression and anxiety. Her doctors and therapists realized that scissors would be present, much like guns will always be present in our country. Instead, her doctors told me how to prevent my child from using those scissors to hurt herself on an impulse while she battles depression. When my daughter needs to use scissors for a project, I’m going to give her the child safety scissors instead of something sharp enough to cut or stab herself. Our country should likewise exercise caution.
The Second Amendment was written long before the invention of today’s weaponry. We should update our gun laws. Horrible impulses to hurt other people with semi-automatic weapons should not be able to be planned and performed as easily as they are today.
Knowing my daughter’s current battles with anxiety and depression, I am concerned about the day she is old enough to legally obtain a gun. She is medicated and receiving treatment at the moment, but I will not always be around to watch out for her mental state. God willing, my child will fully recover and live a long and healthy, happy life. Regardless, I want our country to come together and make it more difficult for my child to obtain a gun, so if she does ever again have that impulsive thought to end her own life, it will be harder for her to do so.
This is an original post submitted to World Moms Network. The author has been verified by our editing team, but has requested to remain anonymous.
World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good.
Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms
Giving Tuesday was created to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. It has become an international movement around the holidays dedicated to giving, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now synonymous with holiday shopping.
After the frenzied commercialism of Black Friday sales (that now last through the weekend) and the inundation of Cyber Monday e-mails, Giving Tuesday provides a way to make sure we give as good as we get.
Giving Tuesday has become an international phenomenon, and for North Americans it’s an opportunity to harness all of the grateful energy amassed over Thanksgiving and transform it directly into the spirit of helping others. It feels like this year more than ever we are reminded that family, good health, a place to call home, security, access to clean water, and food to eat are not things to be taken for granted. If you are reading this chances are that you have the good fortune to live in a place where food security, education, and housing are the norm. It is basic humanity to extend a hand if we can and there are so many positive ways to give back, and celebrate the true meaning of “The Giving Season”.
Here are a few organizations doubling donations today and working to make the world a better place on #GivingTuesday:
Shot At Life – UNF, Honduras, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012. Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson
One of the greatest investments we can make in global health is to vaccinate children against vaccine preventable diseases. The impact is undeniable as demonstrated in this Impact Report by Shot@life.
MAM, has agreed to match all donations dollar-for-dollar to shot@life this #GivingTuesday and Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have teamed up to match up to $2 million in funds for nonprofits. To have your donation to Shot@Life matched, donate through Shot@Life’s Facebook Page.
Water is life, plain and simple. This #GivingTuesday is an opportunity to double your impact an provide clean water to families and villages around the world who do not have something most of us take for granted. Clean water.
Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.
My husband is a software engineer who specializes in smart phone application development. Our four-year-old son described his father’s job as “very challenging.” He said, “Dad is always fixing phones, lots of phones. His lab is loaded with phones.”
I am an independent journalist and a freelance writer. Our son described my job as “very easy.” He said, “Mom is always playing with her computer, chatting on the phone, and traveling by air.”
So this is how my son looks at writing to deadline, phone interviews, and business trips. How cute, yet how annoying! My husband and I joked about this, and I told him, “So our son thinks your job is challenging and mine is easy. That’s not fair. I don’t want to be looked down on—not by our own child!”
For the first time I saw myself through my child’s eyes. I was both surprise and amused to realize that I actually have a fear of being looked down on by my child. Then I thought about my mother, and what she was like in my eyes when I was four years old.
Back then, I was afraid of my mother. She was a so-called “tiger mom” who spanked me often. Most of the time, I didn’t know what I had done wrong. I was constantly scolded for my “bad attitude” when I was too young to even understand what an attitude is. I vividly remember how scary my mother was when she was beating me, but I barely remember what I did to anger her.
There are a few things that I remember, though. Here is one memory. My mother used to make fried rice noodles and throw in a lot of dried shrimp. The smell of the dried shrimp totally covered the flavor of the shiitake mushrooms and the sweetness of the cabbage.
I asked my mom, “Can you not put so much dried shrimp in the fried rice noodles?”
She effectively silenced me with an angry shout: “This amount of dried shrimp is necessary in fried rice noodles! Shut your month and eat up, or I’ll beat you up.”
When we visited my uncle, his wife made fried rice noodles, but without the dried shrimp. It was delicious. I ate two bowls and happily said to my mother, “Look, Auntie made fried rice noodles with no dried shrimp! It’s good! Let’s try this, too!”
When we got home that day, my mother grabbed a tennis racquet standing by the door and started to strike me with it. She was too upset to find the rattan that she usually used. The racquet strokes fell on me like raindrops; the pain was great. I started to cry, “Why are you hitting me?”
She shouted, “Because you have a bad attitude! Stop crying or I’ll beat you even more!”
For a long time, I didn’t know why I was punished. My mother was an irritable and horrible person in my eyes. I guessed she hated me, but I wasn’t sure. I dared not ask.
Later, when I was in middle school, a friend of mine lent me her CD of Blur’s. I brought it home, totally forgetting that we didn’t even have a CD player. I put the CD on my desk.
My mother saw it and asked me, “What’s this?”
I said, “It’s a CD I borrowed from a friend. But we don’t have a CD player at home, so never mind.”
My mother asked me what a CD was. I said, “A CD is a compact disc. You don’t know that?”
She suddenly raged, grabbed a clothes hanger and hit me in the face. I cried, “Why are you doing this?”
She shouted, “Because you have a bad attitude!”
I was fourteen years old. While I was being hit by that hanger, I started to hate my mother. I thought she was being unreasonable. I thought she was just randomly beating me up because she happened to be in a bad mood, or worse, for no reason at all. I vowed that I would never become somebody like her.
Then I grew up. I left my parents a long time ago, but I’m still searching for the answer to the tough question, “Why my mother physically abuse me?” I tried to look at her from a mature woman’s eyes, and not from a child’s eyes. I finally figured out that maybe, just maybe, I knew one of the reasons behind my mother’s abuse. She spent her whole adult life as a housewife, and was kept at home for the whole time. My father’s parents did not have a harmonious marriage. My grandmother once ran away from home, and as a result, my father was insecure about relationships. He limited my mother’s social and career life. My mother hated to be isolated from the outside world, but she was helpless. She was afraid of being despised, especially by her children. And when I showed the attitude that she considered scornful—for example, by criticizing her cooking or questioning her knowledge—she beat me to maintain her dignity.
When I was a child, I first feared and then hated my mother, but I didn’t despise her until I became a teenager. Now, when I think of her sense of inferiority, my heart almost aches. But I don’t want to be sympathetic. My mother had a big ego, and it would be painful for her to know that her daughter had sympathy for her.
When my own son described my job as “very easy,” I realized that I too did not want to be underestimated by my child. So I reminded myself about my own mother. She was eventually despised by her own daughter, not because she made bad fried rice noodles, not because she didn’t know what a CD was, and not because she was an isolated housewife, but because she had abused her child. Ironically, she abused her child exactly because she didn’t want the contempt.
I realized that children are not confused. They only despise parents when the parents despise themselves.
I asked my son, “Surely Dad is great! When you grow up, do you want to be an engineer just like him?”
He said, “No. I want to be a writer just like you. So that I can play with my computer, chat on the phone, and get on airplanes all the time.”
How did you see your parents when you were growing up? How would you like your children to see you?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by To-Wen Tseng. Photo credit: Mu-huan Chiang.
Enjoying chocolate paczki – a national Polish treat – after preschool one day
A little over a year ago, I posted an article on WMN that announced all of my hopes and dreams for when my kids go to school. I talked about the things I wanted to do, the things I had been planning to do and put on hold for awhile, the freedom and the feeling of being on my own and pursuing anything I wanted in my newfound free time – whether that be a enrolling in a photography course, writing a children’s book, joining a cooking class, taking a tour of this beautiful city I live in.
With my youngest turning three last March, I decided it was time for her to try out preschool for a couple of days per week for a few hours per day. She would join the same class as her older sister and is familiar with the teachers, the kids in the class, and everything surrounding the school. She has been with me for every pick up and drop off of her sister over the last two years.
Ivy on her first day of preschool: not a tear in sight
Since she is my third and my last, she is both extremely close to me, but also very “grown up” in order to keep up with her older siblings. So, I was ready for anything. I was ready for her to cry. I was ready for her to rebel and run right out of that classroom. I was ready for her to be proud and march right in. Lucky for me, she was thrilled for her first day. With a wave and a smile, she said, “Goodbye Mommy” and headed straight on into the classroom. I waited in the coat area for a few minutes to see if she changed her mind or if she would start to cry when she noticed I was no longer in sight. Nope. I went to a cafe less than half a mile away to have a cup of coffee and catch up on email. I found myself incessantly checking my cell phone to see if I had a missed call or text from the teacher, saying that perhaps I should come to pick her up. The phone was silent.
After seven years of being with one, two, or three children all day everyday (besides a few babysitting hours here and there), I was on my own.
If I had to describe the mix of emotions I felt after dropping the last of my three children off at her first day of school, it would be nervousness, excitement, freedom, joy, uncertainty, and a little bit of fear.
I think all of those feelings are to be expected.
But here is what I didn’t expect: loneliness.
For my whole life, I have been around others. Whether that be at work, at university, with my children, with my parents, or with my husband. Nearly seven years ago, I delivered my son just two days after my last day of work at the U.S. State Department. And for the following seven years, I have been with my children. So the thing I felt the most acutely after dropping her off for a few hours? I was lonely.
Who would I talk to? What would I do?
I did not expect to be lonely.
As I had expected, coming to grips with finally having all of the children at school, especially when you have been a stay-at-home parent, is hard.
Most of us use our new unstructured free time to run errands, clean the house, read a book, go to the gym, catch up on email, or have an actual, uninterrupted phone call with a friend. But as my youngest went to school for the second, third, and fourth time, I realized that I needed to structure my time. I needed to have a plan. I needed to reach out to friends and other moms – meet them for lunch or an exercise class. I needed to schedule a lunch date with my husband. I needed to volunteer to read to my son’s first grade class. I needed to be around people.
It is funny, and even a little bit ironic, how it all comes full circle – or at least, how it did for me. I have waited all of this time for a little bit of silence and time to myself. And what do I find myself missing the most? Human interaction. The noise. The chaos. The laughter. The bonding. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I found myself talking to the dog in the car after preschool drop-off one day recently.
In the daily hustle and bustle of parenthood, we often don’t realize how the energy and joy our children exude nurtures us.
Parenting requires us to be in the moment 24/7. We are concerned with what we are providing for our children and how we are shaping their thoughts and actions, but have we ever thought about how they are shaping us? What they are providing us?
Love, joy, humor, and sure, a little bit (or boat load, depending on your day) of impatience at times. In the absence of the noise and chaos, I realized how disturbingly quiet life can be without the kids at home. So while you still have them at home, try to remember that and cherish it. And when they do go to school, have a plan, and nourish the part of you that needs the support, love, and interaction of others – because loneliness is something you might not have expected.
Loren Braunohler is a former U.S. diplomat turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She is a world traveler who avoids the cold (don't ask why she is currently in Poland). Former assignments have included Mozambique, Venezuela, Australia, Sudan, Thailand and Washington, D.C. She enjoys running, although she probably enjoys sleeping even more. Loren blogs about her family's international adventures and parenting at www.toddlejoy.com.