New Pagans’ Lyndsey McDougall: “This pandemic has only dilapidated a system that was already failing mothers and carers”
Firstly, thank you Kerrang! for demonstrating so much support for New Pagans and inviting me to write something for International Women’s Day on the theme of ‘Choose To Challenge’. It doesn’t take much to get me agitated – anyone who has listened attentively to our lyrics will vouch for that.
I’m a mother and I’m terrified. Generations of women and their allies have fought for equality and autonomy, and yet our social fragility has once again been evidenced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. My focus in this essay will be on the difficulties facing mothers and carers, but there are many others who feel abandoned. So many of us mothers felt like we were doing a pretty good job of balancing home and work before this pandemic; we were exhausted but we managed. Personally, I was even able to fit in my first tour with New Pagans across the UK and Ireland. Honestly, it was like going on a holiday compared with the domestic duties of parenting two toddlers. I got so much sleep, my skin and hair glowed and someone even tried to flirt with me on the flight home. Not that it’s overly important, but when you’ve been covered in milk, pureed food and other lovely things for two years, it definitely felt like something worth noting. My husband (Cahir, who is also in New Pagans) and I had worked hard to build a complex support network for our new family so we could keep making music. Two weeks after that tour the global pandemic hit, that network vanished.
Kim Gordon sums it up best in her book Girl In A Band: “I found that no matter how just and shared you expect the experience to be, or how equal the man thinks parenting should be, it isn’t.” I’ve had so many conversations about this with my friends and I conclude that in most situations, the mother still takes on the majority of childcare and domestic responsibility. During this pandemic many working mothers have been expected to educate their children and work from home all at the same time. A Mumsnet survey demonstrated that 79 per cent of mothers during the pandemic stated that the ‘responsibility for home-schooling fell largely to me’. Many of us are drowning, trying desperately not to mess our kid’s futures up, but at the same time are trying to stay on top of our own careers. As usual, mothers have been expected to fill in the cracks, to find time in their already oversaturated days and nights to prop up the whole screwed system. It’s unfair to undervalue care.
We’ve come so far in the last few decades, things have definitely improved for women, for mothers and other marginalised communities. We should be proud and celebrate every little inch of progress, but we also need to keep checking ourselves, our systems and mindsets. This pandemic has only dilapidated a system that was already failing mothers and carers. For what it’s worth, I believe the root of the problem lies in us placing little or no value on care, in our own homes and in our society. Being a carer does not make you weak, it demonstrates resilience, strength and compassion, and this role should be respected as one of the most important aspects of any community. I am fortunate, Cahir and I have managed to take the hit equally and share our caring responsibilities as much as possible.
So, I wrote this for the mothers and carers out there who are too busy to come up for air and haven’t even had time to take stock of society’s deficit. I hope that once the pandemic recedes, we can all demand a greater value be placed on the role of mothers and carers, and campaign for systems that support – not marginalise them. Just because things got better doesn’t mean we should stop asking for more equality, for more fairness. It’s wrong to undervalue care.
Read this next:
- Sharon den Adel: “It is the right of every woman to be able to decide independently in all matters related to reproduction, including abortion”
- Saint Agnes’ Kitty: “Choose to challenge the people you love, choose the difficult conversation, and we can create something beautiful”
- Spiritbox’s Courtney LaPlante: “I want to hold every human being accountable to actively fight for equality”
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