First thing first: I’m not going to tell you the amazing feeling of motherhood or how precious and special it is; because, I don’t really think it is. To me, it is simply a decision that I made 11 years ago. However, I have had the experience of adjusting my life accordingly and trying to manage the emotions and anxiety that it has brought to my life, and, eventually, I and several others are on the verge of an entirely new maternity experience. Yes, I mean the “virus phase”.
Parenting in the coronavirus era is stressful and emotional; handling the virus threat brings a unique and significant amount of domestic and emotional labor to our lives for me and many others. Of course, parenting or at least motherhood involves some basic anxiety. Especially, in this part of the world, let’s say in Anatolia, anxiety about motherhood comes from the genes; at some point you find yourself saying to your child “don’t walk barefoot” or “wear a coat, you’re going to get cold,” just like your mother or grandmother or grand grandmother used to. Until this risk of virus, our levels of anxiety function on the limits as ‘threat detectors’, but, what makes the anxiety of coronavirus much greater is its potential for disruption to our daily routines, along with a deeper confusion about the process.
It’s very easy to shift from the point of anxiety and unknowns to a whole range of questions. With the burden of information and disinformation we are exposed, we’re trying to understand the disease, the symptoms, measures, tests, cases, deaths; and we’re also trying to handle maternity along with it. At the core of this anxiety and frustration, I can’t reason why the government doesn’t do more (like more testing, more transparency) and give us a reason to believe in its ability to handle this outbreak (fact-based, scientific reasons obviously, not patience and prayer).
With all these voices in my head, I patiently waited for the addressing of President Erdoğan on March 18 after the presidential coordination meeting; knowing that he is the only decision maker in Turkey after the adoption of constitutional amendment package changing the regime in Turkey to a one-of-a-kind Presidential-like system.
Addressing the nation following a coordination meeting on coronavirus, President Erdoğan said: “As the state, we have mobilized all our means to eliminate as soon as possible the virus threat our country is faced with. The biggest duty during this process falls to our individuals. I ask each and every individual of my nation to remain at home as long as possible until the COVID-19 threat is over.” (Ask? This is a brand new concept for us and very polite indeed; and, under these conditions, I don’t know whether an authority should “ask” anything or not.)
“The balanced policies followed by our country have supported the production potential of the private sector on one hand and ensured services in such areas as education, healthcare and social security to continue uninterruptedly under the state’s guarantee on the other.” “As a country, which has already made progress towards the direction where the world is now heading, we will, inshallah, make the 21st century Turkey’s century.” (Ok, inşallah)
The President stressed: “I wholeheartedly believe that, with Allah’s help and our nation’s support, we will emerge stronger from this difficult period, let alone stumbling or falling.” (Well, this is becoming more and more like a Friday sermon)
“Some have tried to stir chaos, demoralize our people with false news and complained about not seeing any cases in our country. However, we, along with our people, have risen to this challenge wisely and determinedly as we always do in the face of attacks against our country. We have frustrated those malicious people, who rubbed their hands as they expected the virus to take our country captive, and will continue to do so. Turkey’s greatest strength is its unity, solidarity and brotherhood,” President said. (Still waiting for answers)
“All taken and advised measures aim at protecting the health of both ourselves and other people. No one has the right to endanger the entire society’s health because of their own selfishness or negligence. As individuals, each of us has responsibility to make self-sacrifices for the health and serenity of the entire society. Like in all other countries in the world, the measures in Turkey will be temporarily executed until the risk of pandemic is over.” (Well, we all agree on this)
“The more we keep social distance and reduce social mobility, the more we slow down the spread of the virus, thereby reducing the threat it poses,” President Erdoğan pointed out, and noted: “It is time to do everything we can do at our homes and minimize our physical contact with the outside world.” (Yes, definitely Mr. President; we are on the same page)
“Our economy performed well during the crisis and now we are introducing the Economic Stability Shield Programme to decrease the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our economy,” he said. And, he counted 21 economic measures. (Mr. President, economics is not my area of expertise, so I can’t comment on the economic situation in Turkey; but my budget doesn’t tell me the same. We ring alarm bells for such a long time.)
Underscoring that all citizens must not leave their homes unless they have to, and must avoid contact with others until the threat is over, President Erdoğan stated: “We ask our children to remain indoors, continue their studies at home, read books. It is best for the elderly citizens, who are the greatest risk group, to remain at home and keep their distance with their family members who have contact with the outside world.” (And? And, that’s it. What about the schools? How long will the suspension last? Will you open the schools or will you pursue distance learning? Or what?)
Ankara had taken further steps on March 12 by closing schools and switching to distance learning programs. Elementary and secondary schools in Turkey went on an early spring break for a week on March 16, “At the beginning of March 23, all students will receive online education via the internet and television,” the presidential spokesman said, adding that more information on the distance learning system for elementary and high school students will be announced by the minister. Ziya Selçuk, the Minister of Education, revealed the details of the distance learning program, but there is no clarity as to the suspension of schools until now (night of March 21). In a live TV interview on March 21, the Minister only said that they would discuss the suspension with the Ministry of Health. We remain in the darkness and uncertainty.
The Twilight Darkness
With all the real and emotional measures we have to take, as many others, I constantly imagine the worst-case scenario. Personally, I love routines and my rituals, and believe the routines make children more comfortable. For this very reason, I raised my boy by valuing the importance of the routines, and got a real payback. All the routines of our lives, however, are now being overturned. Although, all children feel very anxious, those whose schools are suspended are likely to be especially unsettled. As many scientists and experts say, children depend on the routine and stability. It’s up to the parents to decide how to manage when it’s shattering. Frankly, I strongly believe in face-to-face education; since, schools are not only about learning, but also about socializing. However, I can justify the motives for suspension under emerging conditions. Yet, I can’t really figure out how distance learning is going to work and how we are going to motivate the kids to participate, make them understand the lectures and encourage them to do their homework. Many of us aren’t teachers; therefore, we have no professional expertise on the process and we do have pedagogical formation. Consequently, how are we going to guide the children? How are they going to start next year with the missing knowledge of this academic year?
We need to lower stress levels of our children as parents; however, we’re in the dark. I, personally, am trying to set up a new routine with proper lecture hours, exercise time, meals, some fun etc. for my son. I have to arrange something realistic; maybe I have to ease up on television and computer. I don’t want to be the one keep telling “wash your hands”, “do your homework”, “sleeping time” etc.
I’m a mother. But, ultimately, I’m also a daughter, a free-lancer, a friend, etc. I worry about my family, my friends, my kid getting the virus. I worry about going out for grocery shopping, and also, scared of running out of things. I worry about the number of cases in Turkey and the geometric inclination it has started. I worry about schools shutting down, and also, I worry about schools not shutting down.
Please kindly take this as a heart-to-heart talk with a mother. I have many questions and concerns bubbling in my head: How long are our children going to be out of school? When will we go back to normal life? Beyond that, what is ‘normal’ after all? Following these, what will be the political climate and economy? What about education, will we continue by distance learning? How will the world emerge from this? I apologize; but your responses, your statements and your measures are not covering at least the required areas. We are doing our part as responsible citizens: maintaining social distance, staying home, practicing good hygiene and supporting the elderly. For your part, please do value scientists, be more transparent and straightforward, don’t take everything as a political pro and con, do more tests, and take necessary measures. And, lastly, within all these uncertainty and darkness, please at least clarify the suspension period of schools.