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Published on March 18th, 2020 | by Tara Dorabji

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Mothering in the Age of Coronavirus: It Begins

We asked mothers across the nation to share how they are staying grounded amongst social distancing, hand washing, and lockdowns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s the start of a new series, which we hope won’t last so long as some predict.

image from Lisa Lim’s #comics about being an Asian Mom in the virus panic, check them out

Corona Crazy

By Tara Dorabji (who also organized this series)

I’ve been watching the cases of Coronavirus in the Bay Area creep up over the last couple of months. In January, the virus first captured my attention when China built a 645,000 square foot hospital in ten days to house the sick. We could never do this in the US.

The grocery store shelves at our local market are wiped out. My twelve year old twins are happy to be home. Kali is baking brownies and Ixchel is typing up her proposed homeschool schedule—it starts with breakfast and school work and includes a list of rules around electronic use.

We are amongst the lucky ones—young enough and healthy enough to pledge our commitment to slowing the spread.

I grew up with a grandfather who cleared his plate after every meal and declared, “In the war, we never wasted any food.” We always stockpiled flour and canned goods; meats were frozen on sale. When my grandmother died, and then my mother shortly after, I cleaned out their fridges, freezers, and pantries. Chili beans, two years too old, bottles of olive oil, bags of salt. I purged the generational practice and started lightening my own load, stripping my freezer, fridge, and pantries, seeking simplicity.

And then the warnings started—be prepared to have 4-6 weeks of food on hand. Community spreading of the Coronavirus was confirmed in the Bay Area. I brought home bags of rice, lentils, and beans. When I asked my friends in Kashmir how they survive months of military curfews and lock downs, they shrugged and said, “In every Kashmiri home, we always have 2-3 months of food on hand.” It is a simple survival tactic, forgotten in our fast-paced lives of global travel, basketball games, and movie nights. What do we really need to live?

My children love staying home. The bickering, the mess making, the everyday slowness of it all. We stockpile library books. They prepare for online classes and group hangouts on Facetime.

Kali and I will make ravioli. Ixchel paints. We will plant flowers in the cracks of the concrete in our backyard. I know we are lucky, to be home, to work remote. I cancel event after event at work, a trip to LA for a film festival, Santa Rosa to see my dad, Hawaii to see my sister. Everything is postponed until further notice. As a culture we run from home. We exhaust ourselves with busy and try to fly away from ourselves.

Be still. Stay home. The cases rise each day. There are not enough test kits because the US refused to use the kits from the World Health Organization. Countries close their borders to all foreigners. We stop shaking hands and bump elbows instead. The US injects money into Wall Street instead of providing healthcare, or paying college debt, or offering relief to the uninsured or artists, or contractors, or all the gig workers who have no safety net.

Just this weekend, we hiked in the park next to our house. The girls made forts in a pine grove. I saw more neighbors. For a moment, we unplugged from digesting the mayhem.

Today, San Francisco orders residents to shelter in place. I make chili and call my Aunts and suegra. I plant basil, chives, cilantro, and thyme. I start doing the things I kept meaning to do. I order my CSA box, clean out my pantry, vacuum seal my lentils. 

Last week, San Francisco public schools finally closed. The next day, the city announced free emergency childcare services for frontline and low-income workers at the libraries. Anti-eviction laws passed from city to city and then across the state of California. I have jury duty for two weeks. Finally on day six of ten it suspends. Our prisons are full. Over 85,000 prisoners are freed in Iran. The impossible becomes possible. What will happen to people in detention centers? In this moment of global panic, is it possible that humanity can win? Will they be freed?

In our house, we still hold hands. We sleep more. We pray more. We create art. We plant seeds and remember age old wisdom that brings us back to our center, our home.

Tara Dorabji is a writer, filmmaker, and cultural strategist at The Center for Cultural Power. Her art centers themes of militarization, sexual violence, and love @tdorabji.

Sun in Seattle

By Yingzhao Liu

In Seattle, trees blossom at the beginning of their glory, and the snowy Cascades are visible in the distance. After the whiplash from all the news from the end of last week (Schools closed two weeks. No, six weeks), I’m feeling a different and more creative energy. Just a couple days ago there was the spectacle of a global disaster, a sense of chaos swirling up with each announcement of closure or cancelation. Reading all the news and analysis: Impact on global economy? Did they contain it in Hong Kong, Singapore? It was like a sportscast with diminishing returns. I resumed a media diet. 

With nowhere on Saturday to take my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Sage, I texted a few families with similar-aged kids to go on a hike. It was freezing in the morning and the parking area empty; but by the time we left around noon, there were a number of families. Toddlers were playing on the sunny little beach by the stream. The parents had time to share what they were feeling or doing: Pressure to shut down offices and to keep the paychecks going for hourly workers; Awkward transition between jobs; How to work on a dissertation while being with a child. For the rest of the day, Sage said, “I want to go on the trail again.” She and I will have many more days like this to look forward to in the shut down.  

Today, Sunday, this creative energy manifests as a desire to create more community, more ritual. It’s a little vulnerable as this group doesn’t know the part of me that participates in circles and ceremonies. Rituals mark and transcend, making magic from the mundane. I send an email to these families to hold a date, to celebrate 1,000 days on earth for our toddlers. It will be outside at one of the lovely parks in Seattle, and perhaps I’ll introduce a story circle or some other small ritual. I trust what emerges then. I trust myself as a mother, stewarding what wants to come forth. 

Being outside gave me energy and optimism that this disruption can turn us toward nature, toward slowness. There is life energy all around me in the form of spring time, in the form of young ones. This global disruption holds the potential for countless opportunities toward a better civilization—a dramatic shifting of habits, a valuing of the essential, less driven by numbers. What’s happening is emergent. It integrates the chaos.  

Ying is an artist-in-training and experiential educator living in Seattle. 

Follow MUTHA to continue to read from mothers in the midst of parenting in the age of Coronavirus. These stories are moments in a time that’s rapidly changing; as such, they’re not recommendations, check current guidelines for gathering size and social distancing based on your area’s risk level

Feature photo by Jeff Hendricks on Unsplash / others courtesy of the contributors

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About the Author

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Tara Dorabji is a writer, strategist at Youth Speaks, mother, and radio journalist at KPFA. You can read Her Single Mom Secret in the bestselling new release about motherhood, So Glad They Told Me. Additional work is published in Al Jazeera, Jaggery, Tayo Literary Magazine, Huizache, Good Girls Marry Doctors (Aunt Lute 2016), Center for Asian American Media, Mutha, Censored 2016, and Midwifery Today. Tara is working on novels, set in Kashmir and Livermore. Her projects can be viewed at dorabji.com.



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