Shirley le Guern meets a Kloof doctor and first-time author.
In a year where so many superheroes were acknowledged, one group of everyday heroes worked incredibly hard and took on enormous responsibilities but had very little support. Those were the mothers who wore many different hats and assumed a plethora of titles – chef, chief of police, homeschool teacher, “Minister of Moods” and more.
Kloof doctor and first-time author, Paula Diab, has written and self-published a humorous book entitled Confessions of a Pandemic Mother for these fellow moms.
After qualifying in 2000, she completed her internship in the small Zululand town of Eshowe and remained there for ten years where she completed her master’s degree with a special interest in HIV and diabetes management. She also met her husband, married and started their family in Eshowe. The family moved to Durban when the children started school, and it was then that she completed her PhD and set up a practice specialising in diabetes management – which she now runs from The Atrium Lifestyle Centre in Gillitts.
Having self-published photobooks and, after chatting to a friend who authors children’s books, Paula decided to share her experiences.
“I had no moms to talk to on the side of the sports field, no moms to catch up with over coffee or bump into the car park while our teenagers were dawdling and we were rushing back to work. So, I started talking to my laptop. Gradually, over the year, as I was writing these stories, different themes began to emerge.
“I realised I was writing about what so many of my friends were feeling and experiencing. Because people were not seeing each other, they all thought they were the only ones struggling. With extra time to reflect, I suddenly realised there were many lessons we could learn from this,” she says.
Diab sees motherhood as both a calling and a gift, but wryly notes that there’s no training manual. “This time, however, our children were also floundering. Doubt, despair and hopelessness crept in. The book is about the challenges faced by working mums which were highlighted and exacerbated during lockdown,” she explains.
For this doctor, laughter was definitely the best medicine and she provides a delightful peek into the world of her family as the chief protagonists – Paula, her husband Guy Bigalke, their 13-year-old son Brunton and 11-year-old daughter Lauren – negotiated a world turned upside down by Covid-19 protocols.
“I think more people need to know that what they were doing was and is fine and, if you make mistakes, it’s okay,” she says over a cup of tea on the shady veranda overlooking her lush green garden – which was the scene of many a home lesson during lockdown. She points out the dust bowl that was part of the family bike track to which she refers in the book.
Paula recalls how her son, who was missing his much-loved school sports, began struggling and how she grappled with allowing her daughter her own cell phone only to have to deal with a dubious video that was received when she did.
Paula is also totally honest about rules and regulations that simply didn’t make sense – curfews for outside exercise, spelling tests completed using tablets with an auto-correct function and more.
“You are trying to teach kids at a very impressionable age to be curious, and then you tell them not to ask questions because you just don’t know the answers,” she explains.
The book, which can be ordered via www.burble.co.za or downloaded from Amazon, has received a very positive response. One UK mom reported that the experiences were slightly different but the feelings much the same regardless of the children’s ages.
At this point, Paula admits that she feels that she still has many shortcomings as a mother, but what she has learnt through Covid is to savour the moment. “My greatest lesson has been to slow down. I’m a person who likes to get things done – but you couldn’t make any plans. You didn’t and still don’t know what’s really happening. That taught me to just celebrate today,” she says.
- Children require a balance of freedom and responsibility – it’s a constant juggling act to maintain this. Restrictions in some aspects of life can create freedom in others.
- As a parent, you may be called to help find things for children – sometimes it is a lost shoe, other times, it may be courage, the confidence of even just a smile.
- Delegate some tasks and seek support from others – parenting is not a solo performance.
- Common sense should always prevail – if it doesn’t feel right or look right, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts!
- A critical mind is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children. A sound mind with such qualities will allow each personality to develop a strong character and to make the correct decisions for crafting a successful life.
- Equip your children with independence and resilience – you cannot always prepare the road for them, but you can prepare them for the road ahead.
- Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it’s necessary! You can’t pour from an empty cup – find people, places and activities that fulfil you and cater for your own needs as an individual.
- Make mistakes – and forgive yourself!
Tags: Author, confessions of a pandemic mother, doctor, kloof doctor, Paula Diab, The Crest magazine