Mother's Day: frontline heroes in UAE say biggest fear was infecting their families

Two mothers reflect on the challenges of balancing professional commitments with family responsibilities

Two frontline heroes spoke of the challenges they faced trying to care for Covid-19 patients alongside their family responsibilities as mothers.

They said it was very difficult for them to stay away from their families at the peak of the pandemic as they spent long hours at work.

Mothers educated children over the phone and read bedtime stories remotely as they worked round the clock to help curb the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pain of separation was always there but they knew it was necessary to protect them.

Mother's Day is celebrated on March 21 in many countries.

I was anxious and stressed. I was scared of getting infected and carrying it to my family

Zainab Fahim, 53, has worked as a nurse in the Emirates since 1991 but the Covid-19 pandemic threw new challenges at her.

Her son Mohammed Attia, 25, daughter Maryam Attia, 22, and husband Yasser Attia, encouraged her through the pandemic when she felt exhausted.

"They told me 'You are strong! You can do it'," said Ms Fahim, who is from Cairo.

"It was difficult at the beginning of the pandemic. I had to work continuously through the week.

"It was a challenge but my husband was supportive and encouraged me. My family shared the responsibility of cleaning up, doing laundry and washing dishes."
"The thing I was most afraid of was bringing the infection home," she said.

Zainab Fahim a nurse in the UAE. Courtesy: Zainab Fahim

At home Ms Fahim used separate rooms to protect her family.

The satisfaction of helping patients motivated Ms Fahim, who worked as an infectious diseases nurse at the Preventive Medicine centre in Umm Al Quwain.

"I wanted to help others because that made me feel very happy," she said. "When someone appreciated my work and prayed for me, it was an amazing feeling."

She said she was looking forward to surprises from her children on Mother's Day, because they shower her with gifts each year on this occasion.

Another nurse in the UAE, Ramya Radhakrishnan, 36, said she had to live away from her children for close to a month.

Ms Radhakrishnan works in the critical isolation unit at the Kuwaiti Hospital in Sharjah.

Her son Adhvaith, 8, and daughter Ridhika, 4, were sad when their mother had to stay at a hotel during the height of he pandemic.

"I was anxious and stressed," Ms Radhakrishnan said. "I was scared of getting infected and carrying it to my family.

"This was the first time I had been away from them for such a long time. I only saw them through video calls every day."

Mrs Fahim and Ms Radhakrishnan are just two of the frontline workers recognised and supported by the Frontline Heroes Office for making personal sacrifices in the nation's battle against the pandemic.

The office was set up in July 2020 and about 100,000 roles deemed essential to the fight against Covid-19 have been identified for the nationwide initiative.

When she was not at the hospital, Ms Radhakrishnan read bedtime stories to her children, by phone and video calls.

She also helped her little ones to study – both were engaged in online classes.

She would tell them about her experiences, which they listened to keenly.

"It was really hard for me to manage work, home, and family," she said.

Her husband, Abhilash Nambillipurath, took time off work to help their children. She said her children usually made cards for her on Mother’s Day but she was waiting to see what they had planned this year.