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On 2020, and business unusual

Are you hanging in there? It has been an unimaginable year. When the clock struck midnight on the first day of January, we welcomed the new year with great expectations. 2020 was supposed to be “Twenty Plenty”. I doubt anyone could have predicted what this year would mean for us. Restrictions, isolation, illness, death, unemployment, grief, struggle and frustration. Some of us have been deeply affected, and others less so, and I think it is fair to say that 2020 has been a challenge for everyone.

Mothers, we see the burdens you’ve had to carry. The additional emotional labour, the increased household chores as everyone has stayed home. The anxiety of all the unknowns and the fear for the physical well-being of your loved ones. The creativity required to keep little people occupied and budgets stretched further than before. The juggle of work and home life and the energy required to create the illusion of balance. We know you might be clawing your way to midnight on the 31st, unsure if 2021 will provide any respite. When these feelings rise in your chest, I hope you have another mother friend who can affirm that you are doing the best you can and that you are enough. If you don’t have that friend, perhaps you could be that friend to a mother in your street or on your Facebook group or even in your family?

As I am writing this letter, the news of a devastating fire in Masiphumelele has hit. An estimated 1200 families lost their homes and everything in them in the space of a few short hours. The appeal for urgent baby items has me thinking about the mothers who, still in the throes of postpartum, must now scratch through the ashes whilst rocking babies on their backs. It is an unimaginably cruel sting in the week leading up to Christmas. We need to step up and act. Please consider donating to Living Hope, the organisation coordinating disaster relief efforts, if you are able.

The world is not always kind to mothers. It is often on other mothers to forge networks and systems and safety nets to catch and connect mothers to resources and support they need. We see the pain of a system that fails women and we see the potential for things to be so much better. Comprehensive antenatal support, compassionate birth experience where individual agency and choice are celebrated. Paid and supported maternity leave. Continued breastfeeding mentorship and gentle parenting empowerment. Financial stability. A prioritisation of mothers’ mental health. There is so much that can be done – much of it not ‘out of reach’ but perhaps currently ‘out of will’.

This is our 2021 pledge – to continue to fly the flag for empowered and prioritised motherhood. The burdens mothers hold can and must be alleviated. As a movement, we are focused on seeing this happen, not on our own, but together with individuals and organisations who see truly see mothers too. We hope you will continue to stand with us and work with us as we step into the New Year.

For now, I hope you are able to find some time to rest, play, and seek moments of joy, even in this difficult year. May you hold on to the knowledge that you matter and that you are a part of a community of mothers and mother-supporters who wish to firmly have your back.

Sending love and light to you and yours.

Together for mothers,

Julie Mentor

Embrace Movement Leader