The struggles of being a woman during the pandemic are universal — from caring with young and old family members to trying to keep a career together at a time when women’s work is being impacted by the economic realities.
That’s according to an NPR series that highlighted 19 women from around the world, talking to them about the challenges that they’ve faced during the pandemic, and how they’ve stayed resilient. The organization is also accepting nominations for more women to be featured.
Many of the women in the series are focused on providing, hope, kindness and comfort to their communities.
Rocks Signify Community, Connectedness
For Jessica Barrera, of Wisconsin, that means decorating rocks with messages of kindness. The rocks support Barrera’s community, and are also a means of connecting for her son Nico, who is on the autism spectrum. While he can’t be in school, Barrera is trying to help Nico engage with the community however he can.
“It’s a crappy situation all around, but it’s temporary,” she said. “It’s going to get better.”
Empowering Students During The Pandemic
Angel Marie Miles, of Maryland, also tries to bring kids comfort, but she’s focused on her 15 fifth-grade students. Many of her students, from Washington D.C., are facing tough situations during the pandemic. Miles is no longer surprised when a student ducks out of virtual class to feed a baby sibling.
In addition to teaching academics, Miles is focused on empower the kids, using mantras like “I am enough,” and teaching them about African American history.
“I can see their brains moving,” Miles said.
Giving Birth In Isolation
Some experiences — like teaching or giving birth — are universal. Sawsan al-Ramemi, of Jordan, got pregnant in March. Although it’s her third baby, the experience of being pregnant feels new with the added stress of the pandemic. Like women in Western countries, al-Ramemi worries about going to the hospital. She’s concerned about the isolation when her baby is born.
“Usually people come to see the baby and they bring gifts. Suppose they are infected? How can I let them kiss her?”
Although her family members — including her husband, who works abroad — are there for her in spirit, they can’t be there in person.
“My family supports me, but now that support is mostly through phone calls,” she said.
The stress has lead to complicated feelings about her pregnancy.
“I wish that I hadn’t gotten pregnant during these times,” she said.
Facing Cancer and The Pandemic Alone
K. Hamill, an Australian living in Hong Kong with her immediate family, has also felt the strain of being apart from the people she loves. She was diagnosed with cancer during the pandemic, and had to undergo surgery in Hong Kong because Australia has extremely strict rules about even citizens re-entering the country. While the surgery went well, being away from family during a pandemic and cancer diagnosis has been draining.
“The thing I hate about COVID the most is that you can’t get home to see people that you love when they really need you, like my auntie,” Hamill said. She missed her aunt’s illness and the birth of her nephew.
“It also means feeling very alone at one of the loneliest times in your life, facing your own mortality at a cancer diagnosis,” she said.
In the Netherlands, Nienke Pastoor has been balancing running a dairy farm with raising four teenage kids. She shared a feeling that lots of moms around the globe have had since the pandemic started.
“I had to tell [my husband and children] to get out of the kitchen so I could have some time for myself,” she said. “It was difficult being a mother and a farm manager. Everyone expected me to successfully juggle everything.”