Ruvarashe Chigiya-Mujeni is a social scientist pursuing PhD studies in peace, leadership and governance in Zimbabwe. She is also the mother of young twins. She shares her story of research during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 virus has posed a great threat to global, health and human security since its discovery in December 2019. Globally, death tolls are rising but the response to the outbreak of the virus has been haphazard, uncoordinated, and reactive. Amidst all this confusion and chaos lies the agonies of a graduate mother of twins.
In addition to being a graduate student pursuing studies in peace, leadership and governance, I am also a proud mother and am currently nursing twin boys. My life as a mother and student has not been easy since the discovery of the virus. These multiple roles seem to have tripled because of the pandemic and my work has been immensely affected.
I have been an asthmatic since birth and naturally am at higher risk from contamination of the respiratory virus SARS-CoV-2. The Government of Zimbabwe issued a circular concerning people with pre-existing health conditions and as a result of that I could not go back to work and I am still at home, eight weeks into the lockdown period. This is challenging on its own since some of the resources I used to receive from work have been cut off. As a student, I need to do my research, submit my assignments and for this I need internet services. The mobile data cost from the cellular services companies has gone up three times since lockdown and data is becoming nearly impossible to buy. Despite submission deadlines having been extended, the challenges haven’t been removed and one way or another they have to be met.
The greatest challenge of all is playing nursing mother during this period. Since I’m not going to work my twin boys have decided to forgo other solids for their trusted breast milk. Much time is spent juggling the duo from my lap and my laptop. The fact that they are two means I’m always busy. The time taken to feed, bathe and nurse them seems to have replaced the time I was taking to concentrate on my work and my research. Formula would have been easy, but since borders have been closed for the past two months, supplies are short. Sadly, none of the baby product services have been listed under essential services and shops where I used to purchase formula or diapers if not received from South Africa have been shut down. The regular supermarkets which are still open had run out of these essential baby products during the third week of lockdown. It has been a nightmare since the lockdown itself has stringent movement restrictions and hence I cannot travel to other supermarkets around town.
I spend more time nursing the twin boys, which has been one of the positives during the pandemic as I’m now getting more time to bond with them. The twins suckle at night too, hence when others are sleeping, I’m forced to stay awake for my studies.
Watching my sons blossom daily is priceless. I am thankful of the privilege of being a mother. I have found that although juggling many roles, the burdens that inevitably plague women in their caretaking roles are not all insurmountable. Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic heightens the gender role disparities in society, but also raises a challenge for the rethinking of the burden of caregiving for female graduate students.