Mothers in lockdown: Alison

Name: Alison

Children’s ages:
4 and turned 7 during lockdown

Heald Green

What were your initial thoughts about how lockdown would affect you?

Honestly? I was delighted.  I felt like it was what I had been preparing for my entire life.  I’m a children’s Librarian and I love reading apocalypse fiction.  I thought I was well prepared, I thought I would know what to do; the cupboards were well-stocked and we had a store of non-perishables in the garage (thanks Brexit). I thought it would be a fun chance to spend time with my family and complete all of those projects I always meant to. I thought it would last a few weeks and I’d be back at work after Easter.  I was so naïve.  

What was the reality of those first few weeks of lockdown for you? That this was no post-apocalyptic adventure story, this was real life and it was hard.  

My husband had been working from home for a couple of months prior to lockdown because his office had been flooded.  He immediately set up in the spare bedroom and I got busy making a timetable for us both, and another for the children.  

As I work in a school my first reaction was to attempt to replicate that behaviour at the kitchen table.  My suggestion that the children might want to call me ‘Mrs Bond’ was met with utter bafflement and my attempts to engage them in learning went not much better and nobody would raise their hand when they wanted to speak!  By the end of the first week we had all cried and I had declared that there was a reason I was a working Mum!

Fairly quickly we moved to a routine of me working 7-9AM whilst my husband sorted breakfast and getting dressed.  I would come downstairs in time for Joe Wicks and work out whilst being climbed on.  Some negotiation was required to get them both to the table but we managed some literacy done or maths or on the good days even both. At 11 we would have a break and watch Let’s Go Live – Maddie Moate has been an indespensible TA.  We made lunch together and Rich would come down to join us at about 12.30.  In the afternoons we would potter, do crafts, bake, garden, play with lego or play doh, read or watch a movie.  By 3pm the children were popped in front of the telly so I could work until 5 when it was usually time to get tea on.

Has lockdown changed over time for you as the restrictions have been eased? I think this has been something that has caused some friction between my husband and myself.  He is more risk averse than I am; even before lockdown he was the more measured and sensible one whilst I am more reckless and gung-ho.  However when it comes to something this serious I feel it is more important to respect his concerns than to exert my desire to go out and play with my friends (or enable the children to play with theirs).  As a result of this it doesn’t really feel like the easing of restrictions have changed things for us.  We didn’t really meet with any friends for a long time and have only really emerged this last fortnight. Almost everything else has remained the same.  Throughout lockdown, the children and I would walk round to see my parents once a week, until very recently sitting on their garden wall as they sat in their porch.  Similarly my husband took them to see his mum in the same way and because of these visits we didn’t really see other people. This has extended somewhat lately, just in time for the rest of the region to go back into a mini-lockdown!

We both find it quite stressful to go to the shops if people aren’t distancing properly so we are still doing our one weekly shop and both of our workplaces are still allowing remote working so really not much has changed.

When things will change for us will be in September when I return to work in my school and the children go back to school in theirs and somehow we have to get them there and back without the support of Grandparents which previously we relied on.

Have there been easy/positive aspects of lockdown? I have rather enjoyed the restriction of a single weekly shop.  I’ve always wanted to be an efficient meal-planning sort of person and lockdown has enabled that.

I have discovered paths and green spaces around our home which we never previously appreciated and living at the end of the runway I have loved the abundance of birdsong.  Lockdown has really brought home to me how we are so lucky and so privileged; we have a garden and a home with enough space, we have food and WiFi and resiliance, we are educated and resourceful, we have family nearby and disposable income.  Watching the children learn to play together has been a joy; for the first few weeks they were each others best and only friend and seeing them collaborate in play and scheme together in mischief has been my greatest delight.  Best of all, Richard and I still fundamentally like each other which is more rare than I ever realised. It could be so different.

Have there been difficult/negative aspects of lockdown? 
Of course. I feel guilty for not making better use of this time.  I have not learned a new language or completed Couch to 5k.  The children have watched far too much TV and I have retreated into a book or a bottle of wine depending on the time of day.  I regret not maintaining my exercise routine, I have tried to work out but it has been sporadic and ineffective and I know I have lost some hard-won strength.  As lockdown has dragged on it has become harder to maintain even our very loose routine and I have felt utter despair as to why neither of them are willing nor able to listen to me and do as I ask.  Both children have experienced fluctuating emotions, as have I.  I have grieved a friend and railed against the reduction of my life and that has led to some angry words and shouting from all of us at one time or another.  We are learning to loosen the pressure before it blows and if we manage only that we will have learnt something valuable for the rest of our lives.

Has your work been affected?
I have been very lucky that my workplace has been incredibly supportive and not ask for more than any member of staff is able to give.  I had been in a new job for less than a month when lockdown was announced and I have been impressed by how incredibly kind the messages coming from the Management Team have been. The most important thing my new Head of School said was ‘We trust you’ and I will remember that long after lockdown has finished. Like everyone else I have learned new ways of working remotely, I have written newsletters and compiled collections of resources to support pupils learning from home, read professional literature and completed online training and I’m ready to get back to school now and flex my professional muscles. 

What has helped you get through lockdown? 
My husband taking one day a week off as annual leave has been invaluable for both of us.  If things were financially different I think we would both be happier if I were the main wage-earner and he was the primary carer, and doing this has meant that I have been able to maintain my work and he has spent extra time with the children.  

The children have, on the whole, coped very well.  We have kept them shielded from news reports and made sure they are able to talk about their worries and feelings and I have learnt so much about taking care of their and my own mental health.  We started a journal each evening with my eldest and that has helped her see how even the toughest days have something good in them.  

As the main household cook I have enjoyed getting a weekly takeaway which has been made possible due to so many other expenses being cancelled.  I’ll be quite disappointed when that comes to an end as some weeks that has felt like the only thing I could look forward to.

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 have not spent this much time with my children since Maternity Leave and I am surprised at how much I have enjoyed it.  I am a better parent than I ever realised and a far worse teacher.  We have had some real highlights – the day we ditched school and threw a party for no reason, going geocaching, baking bread, my youngest learning to ride a bike.  I will miss checking the progress of our strawberries and lazy afternoons all cuddled up under a blanket.  I have seen my children emerge as kind, smart, funny people and been comforted by them in my own grief and frustration and I am proud of their resiliance and compassion.

If nothing else, I got my bike fixed which is somehing I have been meaning to do for 7 years.  I have long cherished a fantasy about being a Librarian on a bike with a basket full of books.  Lockdown has finally made that fantasy come true and when I go back into school it will be on my bike.

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