Children’s ages: 9 and 5
Location: Urmston, Manchester
What were your initial thoughts about how lockdown would affect you?When it first became obvious that we were going to be facing school closures and a lockdown situation, I have to say I was absolutely devastated. Not least because I knew the majority of the childcare would fall to me, that my business would yet again face a massive challenge (two kids has meant building up after maternity leave from scratch twice), but mainly because it brought back that sick isolated post-natal feeling where you feel completely alone with little people to take care of.
It was like the summer holidays looming feeling, but this time for potentially 6 months rather than 6 weeks. It’s not like I don’t absolutely love my kids, but every school holiday I have to stop work for the duration. And now I was expected to teach them both aswell?
What was the reality of those first few weeks of lockdown for you? The first week was torture – the kids were all over the place emotionally, as was I, and my ‘classroom’ didn’t past muster, never mind even actually get used. After three days of trying to parent and teach two children we started the Easter holidays early and let them do whatever they wanted for two weeks whilst I got my head together.
Turns out ‘whatever they want’ is to be on their iPads for as many hours as possible during the day, and when they aren’t, it’s watching idiots on YouTube playing the games they’ve just been told to come off. This has been an ongoing theme throughout lockdown, with me simultaneously being grateful for technology and hating it at the same time.
Has lockdown changed over time for you as the restrictions have been eased? Not really. A clerical error meant my husband received a ‘you should be shielding’ letter four weeks into lockdown so he stopped going to the supermarket and doing the big shop. We only found out after 11 weeks that he never needed to but we pretty much wouldn’t have changed anything about our behaviour anyway.
We had managed to get online slots and I preferred being in charge of shopping as Matt was always underestimating how many snacks two children can eat in one week (turns out A LOT).
We’ve still not really changed how we are living, although we did go and see the grandparents before Cass went to school. We still maintained social distancing and didn’t go near them or in their houses, which felt really hard as we hadn’t been anywhere and neither had they – however, on the slightest chance we had picked something up on the online shopping or a delivery we didn’t risk it.
We are definitely still on the cautious side of everything, but as Cass is back at school two days a week (an absolute blessing) we have accepted that this is the chink in our armour. We didn’t decide till the friday before he was due to go back about whether he was going to go too, but its been brilliant for all of us… more time for me to spend time with Joe doing schoolwork, and Cass really needs that routine and interaction with children his own age.
Have there been easy/positive aspects of lockdown? This is a tricky question as I have found it really hard being the main caregiver. I am sure I will look back on this time with rose tinted glasses (will I? I’m not sure!) but the main positives have been the significant reduction in my mental load with regards school runs, school admin and the general everyday running list of things to do that inhabit my brain. I don’t have to be the only one thinking about tea, because I no longer shop on a day to day basis – if we haven’t got it, we can’t have it. Some days its been like ready, steady cook with whats left in the fridge.
I have been receiving the same amount of emails from school, but nothing I have to remember or action, like sponsorship, or own clothes, or fancy dress, or going in for the afternoon, or sports day, or lunch money, or milk money. Theres also been no shouting of GET DRESSED in the morning, followed by ‘put your shoes on’ forty two times – something I have not missed. Nor the moaning on the school pick up, or having to cut your day short mid-flow as it’s 3pm – mainly because I’m not doing any work!
I’ve not really spent much quality time with the boys due to homeschooling, and iPads – and their distinct lack of interest in hanging out with me, but Joe has been staying up a bit later and enjoying some middle-aged telly with my like The Repair Shop and Springwatch, and its been a really nice time together. It’s also been a great time to have time to talk about anti-racism and do some work with the kids on that, much more than they would have done had they been in school every day as usual.
We’ve also been on more family bike rides – ones where I go too… I guess i’m more keen because I just want to the kids to get out of the house, but it has been fun discovering some new parts of the area we live in. And the boys have started perfecting their jumps too, so that’s a bonus – although Cass face plant 3 weeks into lockdown didn’t seem like the best move.
Have there been difficult/negative aspects of lockdown? One word: homeschooling. I’ve tried bribery, charts, taking stuff away, letting them do less than is set, creating a timetable, recreating another timetable, crying, shouting, and giving up.
Early doors I gave up on teaching the 5 year old, because the work being set was too easy for him and he was getting frustrated. I figured he is learning just doing things in life, so I’ve tried to add in some maths and reading into every day conversations. Turns out he’s an amazing story reader and will ring the grandparents at bedtime and read them whole books with beautiful intonation.
The 9 year old is a different matter, he’s a clever boy but won’t apply himself at all, something his teacher is surprised at so it’s obviously for my benefit (‘MUM, you are my MUM not my TEACHER’). Some days we do loads, and others nothing, but whichever it is I feel guilty. Guilty he’s not learning, or guilty I am making him learn in the middle of a pandemic.
My days are basically spent asking children to do schoolwork and them not doing it, and when I’m not doing that I’m fetching snacks, trying to clean, making lunch, doing online shops etc. Or recently just sitting staring into my phone hoping to see something that makes me feel less bored. The format might be slightly different but I’m basically a 1950s housewife without the good hair.
I absolutely love my job and I had managed to carve out a good balance of being there for the kids and working, so being at home with them isn’t really bonus time for me. I see them all the time, I can’t remember when I didn’t make their tea or put them to bed and I miss having the house to myself and making a coffee and starting the day at my desk. I’ve also really missed the social aspect of the school run, which is my equivalent of the water cooler – no zoom calls with colleagues for me!!
Has your work been affected? I’m a self employed graphic designer and my work has been massively effected. Firstly one of my major clients is a large theatre in Manchester and obviously that’s not going to need my services for a while and my other part of my business is small business branding.
I have a couple of really nice jobs to do but no-one is making enquiries for new work at the moment – I guess spending money on design is not at the forefront of peoples minds right now. My husband’s work has been busier than ever so he’s commandeered my office and works there throughout the day. It’s hard for me to work when he is, because I am the ‘default parent’ and he has lots of conference calls. I think the catalyst to him moving up to his office from his temporary desk space he had made downstairs (in the room you have to go through to get to the garden) was when the kids thought it would be a good idea to strip off from their wet trunks and launch them at his head, mid zoom call.
What has helped you get through lockdown? Every morning at 9.30am I have a zoom call with my gym friends and we do an online class, sometimes hiit, sometimes pilates, barre, tabata – we’ve tried them all. I think it’s the only thing that’s kept me relatively sane during all this. It’s a positive way to start the day and I don’t know how I would have got through this without the pre- and post-workout banter. Also, I have a really bad custard cream habit now.
Have you learnt anything, during lockdown, that you will want carry forward as it is eased? Are there things that you might even miss? I already knew I was lucky to have a job which is flexible round the kids, so I haven’t had any Eureka moments where I’ve suddenly realised I work too hard, or that I have missed family time.
I’ve learnt that I can cope (in the main) in the most difficult of circumstances and hold it together (bar a few wobbles) when things seem to be falling apart.
I’ve learnt that my kids are more resilient than I have previously given them credit for, but also that they are definitely not ’self-starters’ when it comes to schoolwork – they do much better in a school setting.
I’ve learnt how to wallpaper which I am pretty pleased with myself about and I’ll probably miss the weather when things get back to normal!