With domestic help not allowed, women hit by Pandemic Fatigue

COVID-19 Health Lifestyle National Top Story Women

Apartment associations’ decision puts extra burden

With apartment associations not allowing house help to come to work during the pandemic, many women have complained of developing ‘Pandemic Fatigue’. They say it is tough for them to handle the entire workload.

“The pandemic and lockdown have only increased my work. I do not get free time for myself. I am always either cooking or doing laundry and other household work,” Shashi Devi, a homemaker from Bettiah, informed The Observer. “Never-ending household work makes me feel exhausted and prickly all the time.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Pandemic Fatigue, which has become common across the world, develops over time.  It refers to a feeling of being swamped with work while having to follow restrictions and being unable to maintain one’s psychological needs. Cultural, social, structural, and legislative environments contribute to it.

Vinita Baja, a resident of Tollygunge, Kolkata, said: “We are not allowed to call housekeeping staff and we even avoid calling house help due to the fear of getting infected. This has put the entire burden on my shoulders. Now that my husband has started working from home and our kids are also at home, I don’t get time for myself. Instead, I am always doing household work.”

Rambha Kumari, a housekeeping worker at Shashi Devi’s house, said: “For the past seven months, I have been struggling as no one was ready to call me to work. I recently started going out on work taking all precautions.”

The burden of work has made it difficult for women to handle the situation. They do not get any free time for themselves, and this has begun to affect their mental health.

Dr Devyani Jain, a psychologist, said: “Occupational burnout is the most frequent issue faced by working women these days. The imbalance between the household work and office work leads to a feeling of exhaustion; it makes a person feel irritated, which eventually results in negativism.”

Pandemic Fatigue results in psychological stress in women. A key element is depression that occurs because of restrictions in their personal spaces.

Sakshi Agarwal, a resident of Bengaluru, has been working from home since the beginning of the pandemic. “It is impossible to do household work after spending nine hours in front of a laptop screen. Sitting and working for so long is a tough task.”

The Observer spoke with about 20 homemakers from across the country and found out that 95% complained about not being able to give time to themselves during the pandemic; 70% of them complained they have headaches and feel tired.

Homemaker Seema Madhogariah shared: “Every time I thought that I had adapted to changes in lifestyle because of the lockdown, a new challenge would appear; these situations have given me many sleepless nights and panic attacks.”

Meena Banka, another homemaker from Bettiah, said: “I have forgotten what an afternoon nap is. Even if I spare some time to rest during the day, my mind does not stay at peace; I keep thinking about preparing the next meal.” With everyone working from home, her routine has become more hectic than it was before the pandemic.

Homemakers and other working women are unhappy because apartment associations still do not allow housekeeping workers to enter their premises.

Sunita, a domestic help, said: “A Muslim, I was asked not to come to work specifically because of the Tablighi Jamaat episode as it was said to be a major cause for the spread of the virus in India, I still do not have any idea why I was asked not to work on that basis. Now people have started calling me for work, but it is still not the same as it was before.”

Neha Agrawal, a homemaker from Navi Mumbai, recently started an online boutique. “I always feel tired and find myself in a state where I keep thinking about what I have to do next. I cannot give time to my family and myself because I am busy doing household work or taking orders.” She started the online boutique because she thought it would help her keep her mind at peace.

According to WHO, in the past few months, many countries have been reporting an increase in Pandemic Fatigue. People affected by it are said to feel demotivated about following precautions against the coronavirus. On its website, WHO has proposed several strategies and actions to be followed to handle the fatigue.



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