While the author contemplates the struggle of working from home and caring for little ones during lockdown, she also tells us: being a stay-at-home working parent right now is tough as shit, don't beat yourself up for it.

I am starting to think that the Movement Control Order (MCO) is a test to see if I am fit to be a mom.

I am a reporter attached to a local daily, and a mother of two, the eldest is four, and her little sister turned one recently. I have been working from home during MCO (most days), with the kids around, obviously.

During the first week of MCO, I became an avid reader to my friends’ postings on social media. Most of them are working mothers, just like myself. Almost instantly, they switched from workaholics to the world’s most devoted moms. They made it look so easy. Mummy-ing without a hitch.

MCO really brought the best out of them—they cook, clean, laugh and play with their children. They seem to have endless ideas about what to do with their extended spare time.

And here I am, feeling helpless, asking myself, how am I the only one that seems to be struggling? The only one feeling frustrated for having the kids around? I mean, I have MY kids around with me all day, shouldn’t I feel great?

One day, the MCO finally got the best of me and I was, well, defeated.

I was assigned to do a story about how people cope with their lives at home during the MCO period. Having been surrounded by the now amazing moms on Facebook, I couldn’t think of any other topic than how they ‘mom’ during this time.

I wasted no time, sat before my computer and tried walking through my article of how the moms are happy and grateful to be spending precious moments with their kids.  But it was hard because my elder daughter, four-year-old Zoey, was shouting, asking for my attention.

“Mommy look! Look at this!” she said, with her little finger pointing at her cell phone (yes, she has a cell phone to keep her busy).

I kept working. She continued yelling, and at one point, I could feel her breath on my neck and her voice piercing my eardrums. I just snapped and yelled back: “Mommy is working! Go away!”

The excitement on her face suddenly vanished. She cried.

The anger I had just drained, and the guilty feeling crept quickly. I hugged her and explained: “Mommy is working. You go over there and play by yourself first, ok? Mummy will join you soon…ok?”

She wiped her tears, and she obediently went on the bed to play with her cell phone like it didn’t just happen, like her mom didn’t just yell at her.

But I was heartbroken and told myself that I would make it up with her when I am done with work, while I continued typing my article.

Even then, every ten minutes she would just come up to me and repeat her question, over and over again: “Mummy, are you done with work?” To which I replied: “Almost done.”

An hour later, finally, I was done. I stretched my arms and I turned to Zoey. But there she was, asleep. My baby girl fell asleep while waiting for me.

Ironically, I just finished writing about how people are thankful to have the opportunity to spend time with their kids. And there, my kid fell asleep waiting for me, AFTER I shouted at her. This writer failed the motherhood test.

I was overwhelmed with sadness that I ran to the toilet to cry. I had mixed feelings, and asked myself if I was even fit to be a mother? I thought I could handle this stress. I never told anyone, but I always thought I was a good mother: I had used the excuse that I breastfeed to justify that to myself.

After that crying-in-the-toilet incident after making my daughter cry and wait for me made me look at MCO in a different light. I lost the battle. I concluded that I am a bad mother.

The whole scenario made me think; I never really had alone time with my daughters for long hours. When I am at work, Zoey will be in kindergarten, while Ella (my second child) will be taken care of by her nanny. The only time I get to spend long hours with them is during public holidays. Still, the time I have for them is not spent exclusively with them because I split it between my husband and in-laws who are there to help me out.

Am I a bad mother because I could not even handle my own children? Is the toilet going to be my go-to place every time I need to cry, or take some rest from my busy schedule, or to drown in my guilt?

Is there even a reason for writing this article? To me, YES. This is my salvation. This is where I get to learn to appreciate myself. We are human, we adapt. I have adapted and adjusted, little by little.

This is how I cope with the mom guilt:

#1 Look, raising kids is a full-time responsibility. It is unpaid labour that we commit to when we have children. It’s the reason why women are disproportionately paid less at the workplace. The work-life juggle will always be real. So, I learn to make adjustments between my work schedule and mummy time. I try to get as much work done possible when the kids are asleep. It’s one way to keep my sanity in check.

#2 Lower my expectations and standards! For both work and parenting. It is okay to give them more cookies, to let them jump on the couch, to let them have more screen time. It is okay! It is okay to take it easy on work as long as I am working and trying my best. Sure, I could do better without the kids around, but I do what I could and just be satisfied with myself.

Am I an amazing mom now? NO! But I am a happier mom because of these two points; at least I stopped going to the toilet to cry.

To all the working-from-home-moms out there, I understand! I get you! The guilt could be overwhelming sometimes but we can do this!

We do not have to prove to everyone that we are perfect.

We do not have to be perfect right now as we adjust to the new normal.

More importantly, no one is perfect anyway.

Learn to accept our weaknesses, just settle to “I did the best I could”, it would be more satisfying. So what if we cannot handle these situations like a champ? At the end of the day, it’s what makes our children happy and healthy that counts.

One day could be better than the other days, or it could worse. It’s ok! Take one day at a time, you just have to survive one day, and then the next, then by the time you know it, people will be looking at you, wondering how you are handling everything so well.

So, ask yourself this, is this lockdown period a test to your motherhood? If it is — you are the judge of the test — be kind to yourself; give yourself a pat on your back and reward yourself with A+. You deserve it.