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Mothers’ plight

A new study has shown that mothers of chronically ill children in Barbados are living low quality lives.

Research Assistant in the Institute For Gender & Development Studies at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, Dr. Carmen Hutchinson-Miller, came to this conclusion based on research findings she released recently.

Hutchinson-Miller’s study was titled Gender and Livelihoods: The Socio-Economic Impact on Women Who are Caregivers of Chronically Ill Children.

She said that the small research project, which covered 35 women between ages 35 and 54, revealed that the majority of women with chronically sick children, were either single or divorced (55 per cent), while 44 per cent were married or in a common law relationship. The study also found that most of the mothers were in full-time employment

(79 per cent), and that 60 per cent of the mothers questioned, had asked for time off from work to care for their sick children.

“Twenty per cent of the women did not inform their employees that they are caring for chronically ill children,” reported the producer of the study, who is also a historian.

She reasoned that the financial constraints being experienced by these women had pushed their quality of life at a lower level. Findings of the economic impact also showed that 24 per cent of them had resigned in the past in order to take care of their sick children, 27 per cent had applied for vacation leave to attend for the same purpose and 20 per cent perceived they are overlooked for promotion. “Because I am self employed, my only challenge was I have to close my business because I am the sole proprietor and I am the one who runs the business. So when my son gets sick, business has to close for the day. Everything has to be pushed back,” a focus group participant reported during the research.

Another participant told Hutchinson-Miller when examining the social impact/ education system: “My son was going to three doctors at the time… He had to get a drain in his ear. He was in class 1 and I went for him and the teacher had him far to the back of the class by himself. [The teacher asked: ‘He has something contagious? His eyes are always yellow’.

“His eyes are yellow because he is always jaundiced!” (his mother exclaimed). The historian concluded that the study demonstrated that fixed notions

about women’s role, especially as mothers within the Barbadian society, were still prevalent. She is suggesting that a national socio- economic study be conducted to determine the impact on the quality of life on mothers with chronically ill children in Barbados.

The researcher noted that the objective of her study, done in collaboration with the Hope Foundation, was to provide policy makers and health care workers with vital information on the socio-economic challenges experienced by women who are primary caregivers of children suffering from chronic diseases. (EJ)


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