Mothers in lockdown: Philippa

Name: Philippa

Children’s ages:
3.5

Location: 
Cheadle Hulme

What were your initial thoughts about how lockdown would affect you?
Initially I was concerned about my job security and in a bit of disbelief to be honest. Then a bit of panic set in as I thought I wouldn’t be able to manage everything; Job, pre-schooler, the dog, the house, the shopping, online yoga teaching

What was the reality of those first few weeks of lockdown for you?
It was very tough. My partner worked in logistics in pharma and from the moment the pandemic hit he was away from home from the early hours until late at night helping support the rollout out PPE to the NHS so it was all down to me at home. I work 4 days a week as a Project Manager in logistics and was also considered to be a key worker due to the industry (Food) but as a PM, could work from home.

When the nursery closed its doors, we had an option to send our little boy to a strange nursery as a key worker child but as this would have caused a lot of unsettling with him we chose not to so I was juggling the job and him on my own every day. In addition to this job I also teach yoga in the evenings so was trying to keep that up and get my work done at night as I wasn’t able to work very well during the days.

The whole responsibility of caring for our little boy and keeping the house running (shopping / cleaning etc), the dog walking all fell on my shoulders, so it was tough. I know others were worse off, but in our little bubble it was hard. It felt like when I first became a mum and my partner was back at work and it was just me to do all the “stuff”. It was easy to set high expectations and not live up to them in the early days. Especially about being a “super mum”, and trying to be a mum first before all the other things which felt relentless as a 3.5 year old is pretty demanding about your time!

Has lockdown changed over time for you as the restrictions have been eased? Lockdown changed for me after a few weeks when we got into a rhythm of the day which worked for us (my little boy and I). It remained tough, as I was working everyday with no real down time or self care, but the structure of the day helped. Accepting the reality of what has happening and trying to relax a bit more about it all. It also helped that we could be outside more and my little boy settled more.

It all changed again when my partner started to work from home more and we had to change the rhythm again to suit those days. As time has gone on though, I have become more aware of my own needs as I nearly burnt out and so I am consciously making time to fulfil these. 

The easing of restrictions hasn’t had a massive impact on us until our nursery opened up last week and now I feel on top of work more and I am getting more time for me, but we are still going through the adjustment with my little boy returning and setting into a new rhythm again.

Have there been easy/positive aspects of lockdown? The time I have had with my little boy is invaluable and we have had some amazing times during the days. Every day we were out in nature and learning about the changes in nature through seeing it every day and being more observant in the world. It has been amazing to learn about the little boy he is becoming and seeing him grow every day from a different perspective. 

I also think that it is a positive thing that we are not “doing” loads of stuff all the time (going out/ clubs / classes) and have been together as a family so much more, and learning a lot about each other. 

And for me personally, it has taken me back to places mentally and emotionally that I have still needed to heal which is a positive as it has reminded me of what is important to me.

Have there been difficult/negative aspects of lockdown? The hardest thing for me has been the lack of space; physical space, mental and emotional space. Space to process what is going on, space to be. I like my own company so having everyone around in the house all the time has been tough – just like when you first have a baby and there is no personal space any more. I still find this the hardest part even now when things have lifted somewhat as it is hard to carve out that time when things have become so manic since returning to the new normal.

It was hard to have all the responsibility sit on my shoulders overnight too, and that took its toll on my mental health for a while where I didn’t think I could do it and felt like I did when I had post natal depression / Anxiety.  Alone with no support and felling not good enough. This theme persists at times now as it is not normal anymore; masks, rules and restrictions. It helps to be aware of this and to talk to others. 

I have also struggled with how busy I have become and seeing a lot of people posting online about the amount of time they have to learn new things like exercise, watching series, etc, when I have never been so busy! This has definitely left me with a sense of frustration and I have had to take a break from social media. This is something I do regularly but have had to do more during this time. As much as it is helpful to keep in touch, there is also a very negative side for me and my mental health. 

As a mum it has been tough as I have felt a constant feeling of guilt and not enough as I have had to leave my little boy playing a lot on his own, or using screen time to keep him occupied whilst I work, which is something I have always struggled with. This has really brought to the forefront my high expectations of myself.

I also teach yoga and it has been hard not to teach face to face and I really miss the interaction with the students in a room rather than online. It’s it tough and intense to teach online, trying to guide students and create space and connection for them whilst having my own feelings to care for. 

Has your work been affected? Work have had to accept that I work when I can to get my job done and they have been very accepting with my new working ways, but it does mean they now think I am available at any time. I have had to do many calls with a 3.5 year old on my lap or having a massive meltdown in the background (whilst feeling I am failing as a mum) . Even now we are 5 months on, I still have my little one with me during times of work as we don’t have our full childcare back. They remain accepting of the situation, although now there is a increased expectation of what I need to deliver in my role as a project manager.

What has helped you get through lockdown? Being outside every day no matter what the weather has definitely helped. Fresh air and nature is a true healer and mood changer. 

My partner and I have done “date nights” at home when we have got dressed up, got some food in, a bottle of wine, made one part of the room “the pre dinner bar”, the dinning table “the restaurant”, and the kitchen breakfast bar “the after dinner bar”. We put on some music and danced! Or, we have had a movie night. Doing things to reconnect when things are uncertain has definitely helped.

I love music and the live streaming from united we stream has been fantastic, Hacienda all day live streams, etc. Not quite live music but just what was needed. 

My family live in South Africa and during this time, it has really made us make so much more of an effort on video calls, together or just 1:1 with my little boy. This has been a regular thing and has brought us closer together.

Finally, yoga, I have been able to practice on Zoom with a teacher I have always wanted to but she lives in Dublin so it has not been possible previously. It has helped keep me focussed on practicing even in the mad house with my little boy & dog running around in the background, the dog barking etc. Yoga helps me still feel like me – a sense of normality. 

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 will miss the quietness of the neighbourhood which we had, not much traffic noise, no plane noise – hearing nature around us. 

I have reinforced my knowledge around what matters in life, not stuff or doing stuff, being with those who matter most. Taking the time to just “be” with my boy and watching him. 

It has reminded me of how grateful I am to live where I do, in the home I own, where I am safe and secure. 

I learnt how to look up during the last few weeks and notice everything around me rather than looking down all time (at the road, laptop etc) 

I am a bit nervous of the easing of everything as I want to keep the “being” present rather than the “doing”.

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