Speech pathologist Paula Ferrari loves her young clients, her work and the income is important to her family of five, The Age reports. But during the latest, gnawing stretch of Australian lockdown life she has been forced to decide: “Either I help other people’s children, or I help my own.”
She has one full-time small business, two 13-year-old girls who struggled with the shift to Year 7 in the pandemic, an 11-year-old son who also needs parental support to get his school day done, and a husband whose work hours aren’t flexible enough to allow him to step in.
A weightlifting buff pre-pandemic, Ferrari is candid about the impact of role overload on her body and mind. “I realised at the end of [Melbourne’s 112-day] lockdown last year that coming out into the world I was a total mess,” she says.
“I had developed an alcohol use disorder, I had to get counselling. I’d just been in survival mode. Some days I hadn’t left the house – I’ve got a step counter and some days in July there were, like, 20 steps,” says Ferrari, who put on 20 kilograms.
“I came out of that and realised I was in a really bad state. I was going to fall apart. The family was going to fall apart, my health was going to fall apart.”
When the home-schooling/Zoom-working/domestic juggle was at its most stressful, she had a glass of red wine at 1pm.
Ferrari reclaimed her health by quitting alcohol entirely, training, getting psychological support and investing in her mental health with her family’s support. As lockdown resumes, she has taken the difficult step of shedding half her paid work to focus on her kids.
Her experience is emblematic of what multiple studies show is happening to Australian working and home-schooling mothers who are stretched, now to near breaking point.