This has been a tough year for the average working man, and woman. In many workplaces, salaries have been reduced if not halved, workers dismissed, and to those who work part-time, shifts cut down. It has not been easy managing money in these trying times. And for me, a working mom with a son and a newborn, it has certainly been a stress, even though I had the good fortune of maintaining my stable job from which I was on Maternity Leave.
Firstly, let’s take the First Wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka. When we went into lockdown mid-march, no one was very much prepared. For me, with a one-month-old baby in the house, my first thoughts were of acquiring the necessary baby supplies and groceries needed to keep the family going. Since grocery delivery services were yet to get on their feet, I remember sacrificing all my waking hours (and those where I should have been sleeping) to scouring all the social media notices on my phone to find people and stores that would deliver our necessary groceries in the shortest possible time (I once waited a week-long for our protein purchases to be delivered). It was harrowing, and tiring. AND expensive, to say the least. I soon discovered that when supermarkets began delivering and you could send them a text message with your grocery list, they would take the liberty of sending the most expensive brands they had in store. Often, they said that that was all they had. There were also times when there would be errors in the invoice, either in calculation or in the products sent. When notified, their reply would always be to hold on to the invoice; as soon as lockdown was over, we could come over and get it sorted out. Of course, I knew that would never happen, especially for me in my situation. Needless to say, I spent much more on groceries this entire year, than I normally would have. Even when we came out of lockdown, I still preferred to have my groceries delivered in order to remain safe, and this became quite costly.
Then, there came a time when the necessary vaccinations needed to be given to the baby. Stepping into a hospital was my worst fear. We stocked up on face masks for the family. Visiting the hospital, filling in forms at the entrance, having our temperatures checked, then meeting a doctor who was barely recognizable in his pandemic garb, took its toll. So much so that if it was not a vaccine, we avoided the hospital and began telephoning the doctor on one of those platforms where you could pay and the hospital would patch you through. This added to the expenses. In normal times, I would have had all my questions answered in one visit to the doctor. Over the phone, it was so impersonal that it was impossible to have a proper conversation. Invariably, two or three calls over several days would be made, especially when both my sons battled an unending cough.
All this, I would have liked to say, is behind us; but it isn’t. In fact, now it’s worse. With the Second Wave of the pandemic hitting the country, the fears run deep. I have also spent much more than I normally have, on acquiring the bandwidth necessary for my son to continue his education online. Having paid the year’s school fees, this was an added expense. In addition, photocopies and printouts of notes were needed on a daily basis. This is a necessary expense- as necessary as food and medicine- but nevertheless, another additional burden.
And so, the year wanes and draws to a close. Are we out of the woods yet? Certainly not. My prayer for the New Year is that some relief comes to every human being struggling to stay afloat in this awful pandemic. With this, I spare a thought and say an extra prayer for the weary parent out there…may we look back on this year and draw courage from our collective resilience! We have now, truly done it all!