Chennai-based doctors show us how to be rockstar mommies at home while saving the day at work during quarantine
Guess who is baking cookies, delivering babies, cleaning closets and managing a workout session, seamlessly during the lockdown? We could call them the Supermoms. Juggling their mommy duties with their frontline responsibilities with quiet fortitude, we catch up with six Chennai-based doctors who demonstrate with good cheer how to balance it all. When we started working on this story we were all set to handle grim narratives of quarantine stress, work anxiety and health risks. While we did encounter all of that - we also found a brigade of women who are hard-working, multitasking and doing it all with often tired but infectious smiles and endearingly positive spirit. When they are not wrist-deep in cookie dough or helping a child with an art project, they could be in their scrubs in the middle of the night at the hospitals facing the world's scariest pandemic.
It is 2 am in the morning and Dr Ezhil Malar has to rush to her hospital to attend to an emergency delivery. She has to show her ID proof and papers at every checkpost as lockdown had been declared. "It is not as simple as marching into the ER and saving lives. It takes nearly half an hour to follow the protocol of getting into a PPE gear. Furthermore, during surgeries inside the gear, my glasses tend to fog and I cannot breathe comfortably - yet all my focus has to be on the task at hand!" says the gynaecologist who shares how the fear of being infected with the COVID-19 is looming over their heads at every turn.
Getting back home, Ezhil has to remember to leave her footwear outside the door, put all her clothes that she has worn to the hospital for wash, take a shower and wipe down the doorknob and then serve dinner for her family. With all the domestic help quarantined in their respective homes, Ezhil has to cook for her 85-year-old father-in-law, her two children and her husband. "I have to cook for Barbie also and take care of her," she says, referring to their gentle giant of a St Bernard, and adds that right from rigorously washing the milk packets at 5.30 am, much time is spent in sanitising everything and anything.
Dr Aarthi Senthil agrees that going to work is indeed challenging. The process of getting into the PPE at work and also ensuring all her staff her clinic are following the protocol laid out for frontline workers is stressful. As a dermatologist, she also has an online consultation option. However, once Aarthi is back home she has a different role to play as she can be seen creating stunning artwork with her older daughter and rustling up delicious cookies with her younger one. "I love spending time with my kids," says the dermatologist, who is a fitness enthusiast and manages to find time to fit in a workout schedule at home. "Though most of my workout is also from all the cooking and cleaning I have to do!" says Aarthi, with a laugh.
We find that though the COVID-19 crisis has added more chores to their workload, the lockdown has also added more opportunities for quality family time. "This is a great time to catch up on many of the promises I have made to the kids in the past," says Dr Divya Sivaraman. The gynaecologist who has her share of emergency calls at her hospital, however, has another added stress factor. Her husband, also a doctor, is at the frontlines of the COVID war in UK and unable to get back home. "He has already operated on 25-odd COVID positive patients there!" Among her patients here the most distraught are those who were trying to have a baby and now have to put the fertility treatment on hold. "What I really miss is my daily routine - I had a tight schedule with a morning that begins with a gym workout," says the gynaecologist, who admits that the quarantine has messed up her sleep pattern and now she struggles with insomnia. "But we have started new routines like how the ABC (apple, beetroot and carrot) juice has become a part of our attempt at a healthy diet," says Divya.
Meanwhile, Dr M Sangamithrai is a coordinator for COVID samples that are processed in the laboratory in the hospital that she works in. "We are primarily working with asymptomatic patients," she says, further adding that before any surgery they have to give the patient a clean chit on COVID. "Since I am closely working with blood samples at work, I have to be very careful when I get back to my son at home," says the microbiologist who loves playing boards games with her son. Sangamithrai further adds with a smile, "We are all set to try our hands at baking a cake this week."
They do make multi-tasking sound easy. When Dr Manu Arun is not attending to her patients at her clinic, this paediatrician is checking up on the online classes being conducted for the students of her school (for children with special needs). A hands-on mum, she admits that she often focuses on academics even though she did have many sporty classes planned for her son for the summer break. "Now I am trying to push him into an exercise routine at home," says Manu who is using the quarantine time to read the Mahabharata along with her son and is determined to complete it this summer. One of the biggest challenges at work for Manu is the lack of awareness and adherence to the social distancing rules amongst the patients. "However, now the sanitising process has already become part of life. The washing, the showers, the wiping down of everything we handle - it has become the new normal," says Manu.
Dr Radhi Malar Anand, a pediatric ophthalmologist, adds to that and tells us that the medical profession is always challenging one's ability to balance work and home. Mother of a 14-year-old, Radhi says, "Both my husband and I are doctors so the only fear for me is I don't want my kid to get exposed, even though we are taking all the needed precautions." Her daily routine includes wiping down doorknobs with sanitiser, ensuring that everyone washed their hands 5-6 times and the house is mopped with Dettol infused water regularly. The biggest challenge during the lockdown? Radhi sheepishly admits, "I am terrible at cooking!" She further confesses in good humour that even her attempts to whip up her son's favourite dish - the biryani, was a disaster!
As these dynamic women make us smile with their cheerful attitudes and indomitable spirit, this Mother's Day let us celebrate all those moms out there at work or holding fort at home - all those who are helping us tide over this crisis in one way or the other.