Life in Lockdown, Silver Linings and Feeling Grateful
It’s been around two months since lockdown was announced in the UK following the Corona Virus (COVID-19) outbreak, and I’ve probably written and re-written this post half a dozen times. How can one possibly start to unbox and talk about being in a global pandemic when you often don’t know what day it is and certainly – for me, anyway – can’t remember what life was like before lockdown!
Over the past two and a bit months I’ve felt an array of emotions, from panic on the day Sharon was asked to work from home, to anxiety the day we took T out of school, to today where – surprisingly – I’m feeling pretty content and less anxious.
So many people have written about their experience through lock down; from Tim, who’s been writing more regular updates, Kirsty & Clara who have written about what their day-to-day life looks like, to Laura who’s not only documented the silver linings throughout all of this, but encouraged me to do so. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading all of them as it’s given me some perspective that we’re not alone, and that everyone is experiencing something different.
Now it’s our turn…
February / March
Towards the end of February/beginning of March, it was agreed that Sharon would work from home. This was mainly due to health reasons (Sharon suffers with asthma) and that fact that she could due to her line of work. Shortly after, around March time, T’s school officially closed and between us we were “home-schooling” him, which is really nothing like home-schooling, as home-school children have access to parks, libraries, and museums, not to mention other children!
To say the early days were stressful is an understatement.
On top of our own worries about catching the virus and concerns for our friends and family, balancing work and “school” was only the beginning. Later on, Sharon’s hours were reduced resulting in a reduction in pay. My hours also changed, however because I work in the public sector this didn’t affect my pay, however it certainly made balancing any education difficult!
Prior to the schools closing, we managed to get some prep work done, and for us it meant building some sort of timetable / schedule, as well as prepare some resources for our imminent change to teacher-parents. We also wanted to try and make the transition from “real school” (as T puts it) to “home-school” a little nicer, by taking some of the things he has at school and placing them at home. Things like their days of the week chart, their timetable bunting, and their emotions chart. For us, this is what made us feel somewhat in control, although I know this way isn’t for everyone, but it worked for us at the beginning. That being said, we were open to variations and change.
Whatever worked for us.
In the early days, the hours came easy. We were occupied with the new and the different. We were testing the waters and seeing what felt comfortable. For him, having both his mummy and mama at home was a real treat, so he lapped up any activity we set for him. In the morning we would flit between doing some academic work together such as phonics and maths, or reading and writing. He would also help with any chores around the house such as washing and putting his clothes away (his particular favourite at the moment is pairing socks – which ticks the box of patterns in my eyes!). We’d then move onto something more active like garden time, PE with Joe Wicks, playing on the Wii fit which we managed to dig out of the loft.
After lunch, we then tried some more learning, but via his tablet or something creative like Lego, before heading outside for our hour of exercise. This is where we’d take him on his bike, go on scavenger hunts or a litter pick, or simply go for a walk to collect “stuff”! Before finishing our day we then picked a random activity depending on mood. This ranged from arts & crafts, Cosmic Yoga, story time or reading, or board games and puzzles.
As time went on our days varied depending on how engaged T was, and this really did vary! Some days he got himself involved, others days not so much. On days where he was engaged we would still pace ourselves, but activities would last a bit longer. On days where engagement was low, I would prioritise less on academics (although still give it a go!) and more on “fun” stuff.
Although the thought of T falling behind worried / worries me immensely – especially as by the time the schools shut he would have only been in school for a mere six months – there was really no point in forcing him to do something. It just resulted in unnecessary stresses on both sides and, right now, the important thing was keeping everyone calm.
April / May
Fast forward two months and things have changed somewhat.
We still follow some sort of routine; we have breakfast together as a family (with T helping make breakfast and feed the animals). T still helps with chores in the morning, and we hit the books first thing once we’re dressed, but it’s a lot more fluid. If T suddenly diverts his attention to something else or is clearly not feeling it then we pause and move onto the next activity or ask what he fancies doing. We then return to a bit of learning later on in the day. Although we still don’t push it, because at the end of the day we’re not teachers and we’re in uncharted territory, we do try and do a little bit of learning each day – although how it’s delivered now varies.
Using resources found online we now have a number of ways we can teach a topic, which certainly eases the stress. Sometimes we don’t even have a structured lesson! Instead, we work our way through some books, creating rhyming or missing letter games a long the way. Anything that get’s his brain working. We’ve even thought of new ways to communicate with his best buddy, ranging from delivering ‘Top Secret’ messages to each other to walkie talkies!
Don’t get me wrong, this is far from “perfect”, some days T just doesn’t want to listen or learn, and rather than pushing him we simply write the day off, let him lead the day, and start again tomorrow. What else can you do? For us, days like this often looks like a variation of tablet time, films, Lego and other construction, Puzzles and games, or simply eating us out of house and home! Of course we worry when he hasn’t done much academic work, but we’ve realised very quickly his own mental health is more important.
Although living through a pandemic has been stressful, the silver linings have certainly outweighed the negatives – in our household anyway! The change in working patterns has meant Sharon has T on Mondays and Tuesdays, and I have him Thursdays and Fridays. We then overlap on the Wednesday. This has resulted in a lot more family meals together, and when T goes to bed Sharon and I have actual quality alone time together.
Housework is being shared, whereas prior it would naturally fall to me (which I had no issue with! I just had more available time in the mornings). We’re no longer passing ships when it comes to childcare, making decisions in person rather than 50% in person and 50% via WhatsApp! We’re supporting each other, working better as a team, and being more present. Most importantly, we’re communicating with each other a lot better.
I am confident that this is simply because we have more available time.
In the mornings we can discuss our day and what we have planned – reinforcing what needs to be done around the house, sharing jobs, and talking about T’s day and what we think will work and what won’t. We’re less snippy with each other (because who has time for niceties sometimes when you’re both occupied with your own to-do lists whilst playing a game of who-works-harder) and we’re prioritising what’s truly important. In the evenings we’re having more family meals and games nights, and once T is in bed we’re watching films, catching up on TV series, or playing more games!
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“Have we become closer this lockdown?” . “No”, I said, “because we’ve always been close, we just didn’t have the time to celebrate that before all of *this*”. Sounds harsh, but it’s sadly true. Life gets in the way of a lot of things. . Has anyone else changed the way they’ve been with their partners? I sure have! With a change in working patterns we’ve seen more of each other. Not only that, despite “schooling” T at home we’ve been able to share the household chores and tasks (as well as get T involved in a few!). Normally, we’d be passing ships in the wind, and because I’d ordinarily be working lates a lot of the house work like cooking and washing fell to me in the mornings (which I’m totally fine with, BTW! That’s just the way it worked). But now it’s all changed, it’s removed a load of pressure off of the both of us to get “stuff” done. We’re less snippy, and we’re even cooking together more often. On top of this, we have more than double the evenings to ourselves and we’re having more meals together as a family. Honestly, it’s like we’re on holiday – just with extra washing! I’ve never felt less stressed whilst still being at home and going to work (that’s not to say I’m stress-free, just less, which is a huge blessing) and I can honestly say it’s purely because I’ve been given the rare opportunity (and luxury) of TIME. . . .
For me, personally, my silver linings include finding more time for myself. I’ve been able to watch TV series during my break at work, I do Bullet Journalling when T is occupied with craft or Lego, and I’ve even started listening to more Podcasts! This, in turn, has affected my mental health. Of course I still have bursts of anxiety – which usually coincides with a particularly “bad” day with T – but overall I feel less stressed, even when going to work!
I feel like I have more room to relax. To think!
I’m not going to go as far and say that we’d want this to be our new norm, far from it! We miss brunch and trips to book shops, we miss paddling in the sea and kicking leaves in distant woods, and we miss our friends and family, but at the same time this has opened my eyes to what’s important and what we value the most. With a change in income we’ve even had to cut back on certain luxuries – including things like haircuts – saving some money in the long run.
So there we are – an insight into our life whilst in lockdown. It’s been hard, and some days it’s still hard, but it’s getting easier. That being said, this is now the longest period in which T has been outside of some form of education and I think it’s hitting him. This Summer would have seen his first school holiday (which is six weeks here in the UK) and we’ve already surpassed that. T started nursery when he was a year old and from then on he’s been in some form of structured learning. He’s also been in the company of friends and peers. This is now no longer the case.
Of course we’re worried, especially on days where he’s particularly emotional, but we’re probably in a better place to where we were 2-3 weeks ago. I’m also not ignorant to the fact that we’re in a more privileged position in comparison to others in the world. Right now, we’re more settled, we’re more prepared, and we’re stronger as a unit. I’m still nervous about what the future looks like, this evening it was announced in England that schools could partially open in June (!), but right now I’m taking every day – sometimes every hour – as it comes.
How about you? What does lockdown look like for you?
If you’d like to see what we get up to during lockdown, don’t forget to give us a follow over on our Instagram.