Mothers in lockdown: Clare

Name: Clare

Children’s ages: 
28, 12 and 10

Stretford, Manchester

What were your initial thoughts about how lockdown would affect you? 
I knew we would miss seeing friends, but thought we’d be ok for a few weeks and as we home educate our 12 yr old (and my younger one had just returned to school having only done Reception year) for 3 weeks before lockdown. So the schools closing wouldn’t affect our routine, childcare or work, I really didn’t think it would impact us that much aside from a bit of moaning about not having sleepovers. 

What was the reality of those first few weeks of lockdown for you? 
The first few weeks of lockdown were actually quite fun for us and with both me and my partner working things didn’t feel too odd. We decided to treat it like a holiday; we had movie nights (every night at first!), had most of our meals together and we relaxed about TV time. We did a load of craft things that had been sat in the cupboard from birthdays and xmas. Our youngest crept into our bed most nights (which she did occasionally anyway) and we revelled in having each other and a home we loved. I felt very lucky to have all that and the guarantee of full pay from my employers. I also knew that as the kids don’t go to school we are used to being with them day to day. They lost all their activities (and they do a lot!) but I did feel when I lost it, I told myself, “this is when you would normally lose it Clare, this isn’t due to lockdown!”.

My partner and I share their care so I wasn’t with them any more than I would usually be, and then I was furloughed (after 5 weeks) so the days I worked that my partner would usually have had them we all had together instead, which made things a lot easier as we were able to do different stuff with each of the kids.

Has lockdown changed over time for you as the restrictions have been eased? The major thing has been that the kids can see friends in the park, and then garden too. This has made everyone more relaxed and meant we can have time alone or without each other – I’m typing this now as they’ve cycled out to meet friends. Me and my partner spent all afternoon together without the kids for the 1st time in months the other day, we’ve had very little time without them.

I’m also not being asked from the moment I open my eyes, ‘What are we doing today?’. As they are able to make plans for themselves I’m not asked that as much – there were so many days where I had no answer and felt I was failing them.

Have there been easy/positive aspects of lockdown? Yes, loads!

I’ve made things, sewn, had 7 weeks off work (mostly sunny), gardened a lot! My eldest daughter (through her need for time alone) has started to get up at 6am and do yoga. She’s been cooking for us and baking, painting, working out and teaching herself sign language.

She also learned to ride a bike – this was massive as she had some coordination problems and just couldn’t do it when she was little, then she became self conscious and I really thought we wouldn’t see her do it, but as soon as lockdown happened she said she wanted to try and it’s offered her so much more freedom and independence. For the first time I saw her being really self-directed and I realised they have never really been bored. You know everyone says ‘let them get bored, then they’ll get creative etc’. I realised that our usual days/weeks don’t allow for that level of boredom. They have small pockets of it, but then bam it is TV time, or ‘we’re going out’, etc. These few months, they really have had time to get bored. The slow pace, where there is no rush to get from here to there or do this by a certain day or answer a gazillion messages organising stuff has done us all good I think.

Have there been difficult/negative aspects of lockdown? 
Yes, Loads!

At first there were the kids’ anxieties about ‘The Virus’ – they were scared they were going to get it and die. I tried explaining that it was more about everyone not being sick at the same time so that if we all got Chicken Pox at the same time no one would be able to work in the food shops etc, rather than it being deadly. We had a news blackout.

I think the worst thing for me as a mother is seeing my kids experience something that I can’t even imagine anything similar from my childhood. I worry that they may grow up in a world where this keeps happening, that they don’t experience a childhood without pandemics, and a future where lockdown comes and goes.

It’s been hard not to be able to answer questions; all the usual, when will this end? Will I be in lockdown for my birthday? (yes actually in the end and it was still lovely and special) Dealing with meltdowns; meltdowns late at night, and just before bed. We seem to have a meltdown cycle but I’m not with it enough to track it!

Finding your child quietly crying in their room because they just want it to stop, that was horrible as usually if anyone is crying we all know about it!! Feeling a failure as the kids are not doing xy and z or Joe Wicks and I’m not doing yoga everyday.

My eldest (who is 27) has lived in and out for Manchester for the last few years had recently moved back so not seeing and hugging him was really hard, especially for my youngest. Then we brought him into our bubble and even though he lives with others we decided we had to do that, so cuddles with Big Bro are back on!

Has your work been affected? 
Yes. I work part-time, but almost immediately our sales were affected so we all halved our days for the first few weeks. I was furloughed as sales dropped, but things started to pick up and now I’m back in 2 days instead of 3. My employers are lovely and I’ve been paid in full but there have been points where just when we thought lockdown might be easing, it went on, then it happened again and I did think, ‘shit, what would I do if this just goes on and on?’

What has helped you get through lockdown? 
Not having to worry about being paid, having a home I like being in, having a partner who doesn’t get bored (I realised we’re pretty easy to please!), finding art projects to do (I’ve actually done 2 pieces of string art that I’ve been wanting to do for ages!). Keeping in touch with friends, having good female friends and being able to meet up in the sun. Gardening, just tending a few plants each day, watching some peas grow has been really meditative. 

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 slow down, I don’t want to be rushing here and there. I always considered myself to be living at a fairly slow pace, but it wasn’t slow enough! I will miss the quiet from there being so few cars around. As I work from home and we live near the city, we are often trying to get out to the countryside on our days off. But accessing that nearer to home, even if it’s not as wild, gives us that hit and means we can spend more time at home, not driving out.

I will miss that feeling of the world having stopped turning. That has only happened to me when I had each of my babies; the world shrinks down and you have a big responsibility, but it’s just one. Things are simpler, less noisy. I loved that feeling when I gave birth, I didn’t want it to fade then and there is a part of me that feels that now.

This post was written in July 2020. In catching up with Clare recently, she says, ‘The post lockdown, lockdown continues to present fresh challenges. And in some ways is proving harder for us, and for me to try and meet everyone’s needs, as we deal with changing rules, back to school, not many home-ed activities, oh and the out of school again due to a positive case in my daughter’s bubble.’

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