Mothers in Lockdown: Thackray Museum of Medicine Leeds hosts free webinar with journalist Anna Whitehouse

A virtual exhibition hosted by a Leeds museum aims to give a voice to mums and to capture their experiences of living through the pandemic.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 11:45 am

Mothers in Lockdown focuses on 12 working mums and their experiences juggling various responsibilities including, working from home, childcare and home schooling, assuming

these roles during an exceptionally emotional period.

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Head of sixth form Shabnam, who has four children at home, works at the kitchen table in front of a bookcase and wall art. Picture: Fran Monks

It features portraits taken remotely by photographer Fran Monks last May and June that capture the way so many of us have stayed connected through video calls and caught a glimpse of life inside other family's homes during lockdown.

Now available to view on the website of the Thackray Museum of Medicine, they form part of a research project by the Huddersfield Centre for Research in Education and Society at the University of Huddersfield.

On being asked to capture the images, Fran said: "I thought that was a great idea as, by that time, I was a home with three children of my own and I understand quite a lot of the challenges that were being faced by women who were trying to juggle work and childcare and household management all at the same time.

"We wanted to capture them both in their role as home-schooling mothers and also as an individual so sometimes the portraits were of the women working in makeshift workspaces or of them trying to catch a moment of relaxation."

Simmi, a consultant psychiatrist with two children, sits in her favourite armchair with a table, bookshelf and books in arms reach. Picture: Fran Monks

Lead researcher Jim Reid each of the women had worked to develop a career or business in her own terms, but lockdown quickly ended or constrained this independence.

He said: "In particular, while some mothers experienced and negotiated with their partners an equal share of effort in the home, the majority of mothers in the study did more education and

emotional work with the children during lockdown. Consequently, where work was shared the type of work was not."

The research report notes that "no one in authority sought the advice of mothers and while they were asked by loved one’s ‘how they were doing’, no one asked what they needed. A consequence of the response to the pandemic was to silence mothers as both care givers and in terms of their own care needs."

Bianca, who had been furloughed from her job, sitting at the kitchen table with her middle daughter in the sunlight. Picture: Fran Monks

It is this silencing of women that the exhibition hopes to address by allowing the women featured to each share their experiences in their own words.

To celebrate the launch of the exhibition, Anna Whitehouse - a mum, journalist, campaigner, and presenter - will join the museum on Wednesday March 10 to host a free webinar at 4pm.

The event will focus on the research findings, creative processes and experiences of the women who participated, with the webinar panel including Jim Reid, Fran Monks and two of the mums involved in the project.

In a video produced for the exhibition, Fran added: "I do wonder to myself how are those women doing now. I'm sure that those women will be able to face the challenges and succeed.

"It's great that we've got the pictures of them doing that, for history."

The online exhibition is available at www.thackrayhealthheroes.co.uk/mothers-in-lockdown and can be viewed until August. Visit thackraymuseum.co.uk/event/free-webinar-with-anna-whitehouse/ to register for the webinar.

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