Thursday, April 22, 2021

Covid 19 induced parental burnout – Botswana flying blind

Type Covid-19 parental burnout in Botswana on your google search engine, and it will turn up a number of threats, but none that addresses the query.

Not surprising. Botswana has not invested in creating knowledge on what effect COVID-19 has on how we raise our country’s future leaders.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the knowledge divide between developed countries and developing countries like Botswana, and its effects are likely to determine how our future generations will measure up against their counterparts from developed countries.

Listening to Dr Orapeleng Phuswane-Katse, a physician under the Ministry of Health, Batswana would be forgiven for worrying that the country faces the clear and present danger of reaping a whirlwind.

Explaining to Sunday Standard Lifestyle, Dr Orapeleng Phuswane-Katse said, “during the best of times, parenting can be challenging. Concerns about behavior, health, education, socialization, and even everyday tasks, can serve as significant stressors for parents. When these ordinary stresses intensify, they result in parental burnout, characterized as exhaustion in one’s parental role, emotionally distancing from one’s children, and loss of parental efficacy and sense of accomplishment. Added to conventional stressors of parenting, stressors caused by the threat or reality of parental unemployment, financial insecurity, low levels of social support, increased social isolation, lack of leisure time, lack of alone time characterizing pandemic-related conditions, can amplify normative stress and trigger significant psychological distress.”

Many Botswana families may be experiencing increased stress due to working from home, serving as their kids’ teacher, employment loss, or stress due to significant life changes as a result of COVID-19. Note that I say MAY because so far there is no local knowledge on the issue and all information is gleaned from sources outside the country whose experiences tend to tally with Dr Phuswane-Katse’s explanation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted family life around the world. Some parents find themselves losing their temper at their children because of significant changes in all aspects of daily living during the phases of disaster.

The home quarantine and lockdown situation caused by the COVID-19 crisis has affected the well-being of families and challenged the ability of parents to carry out parenting responsibilities by imposing more education and care responsibilities. Parental burnout is a state of emotional exhaustion that is associated with a change in positive attitudes toward children and is characterized by feelings of exhaustion of parental role further leading to low parental efficiency, feelings of being fed up, a contrast with the past parental role, and emotional distancing from children. PB is associated with parent–child demographic factors, such as the age of mother and child, the number of children at home, socio-economic status of the family, the physical and mental conditions of parent–child.

Gender plays an essential role in the distribution of role and power in the family and social status. High non-stop parental and household tasks, the monotony of endless daily affairs, and the low level of control in mothers can be an explanation for the poor mental health compared with fathers, it is the mothers who, as the primary and permanent caregivers of the children, are more exposed to PB than the fathers. Mothers, especially those who have young children or more, or who do not have the capacity of fathers to cooperate in parenting responsibilities, suffer from more PB, because of high parenting expectations and social pressures for being a perfect mother.

Dr Poloko Ntshwarang, senior Social Work lecturer at the University of Botswana says, “burnout is inevitable when you are facing an impossible task such as parenting in a pandemic without established coping mechanisms and support. Many of us are working from home for the foreseeable future. With increased pressures at home and work, majority of mothers have had to work fewer hours because of childcare issues. Some mothers, said they need childcare in order to be able to do their job while for some, this is something that’s not available to them.

The pressure to be just as productive at work while ensuring your children are doing any school work set has been immense. Women are more likely than men to lose their jobs and sadly for some working mothers, their employer has refused to give them the flexibility they need. Job security during the pandemic has become a massive source of worry. Many people have faced a cut in wages, lost work or taken redundancy due to companies struggling to keep people on.”

The ever-shifting demands of parenting in a pandemic are leading to stress, anxiety, and depression, not to mention economic hardship for those forced to leave their jobs to care for kids.

Since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, almost all families have experienced a disruption in work and/or school schedules resulting from the pandemic and ensuing school, day care and afterschool program closures; the inability to work; job loss; and/or, shifts to remote learning and work. For parents who were able to continue working (i.e., essential workers), juggling on-going work obligations with added childcare responsibilities and homeschooling has posed new and significant challenges.

These challenges are further compounded by anxiety around virus exposure while at work and during travel to and from work. Parents who were able to work from home also face new challenges around establishing a new work routine and creating a workspace conducive to productivity while balancing child-care duties and homeschooling. Parents now at home unable to work or having lost their jobs found themselves having to manage childcare and homeschooling duties while struggling to address new financial concerns and economic stressors related to their inability to work and/or job loss.

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