I don’t know about you but lockdown seems to be relentless. Having done a (straw poll) survey of friends and family I think it’s safe to say that no-one’s enjoying the best mental health right now and not one parent, locked down with their children can honestly say they have the full complement of patience, tolerance and everything else you need to be a successful, engaged parent.
Here are some of the ways we’re surviving lockdown:
Our house looks like some sort of a hostel at the moment. Not with all the random guests but everyone seems to be in a different room all the time. It’s hard, we live in a small house and there are more of us than there are, rooms. Everyone gets sick of each other at different points in the never-ending groundhog day that lockdown is and sometimes we all just need some space. Luckily due to the logistics of a blended family and more children than bedrooms, we have pull out beds in various rooms and it means we’ve all managed to swap rooms at times during lockdown. The space has been much needed and even then, no-one seems to be in their own (re-allocated) bed come bedtime.
Try not to do things that stress you out
Last week I did the food shop, returned home and full on ranted at my partner until he apologised for not having done anything wrong, thanked me for being me and brought me a cup of tea and some apple crumble. Only when I’d calmed down I realised this happened last time I came back from food shopping, except there was no apple crumble the first time. It made me realise how stressed out I feel whenever I go shopping, not just the hour long queue to get into the supermarket; the lack of social distancing, the threat of a killer virus being on the people, the packaging, in the air we’re breathing. Lots of stuff being sold out week on week and by the time I get to the till it turns out I’ve got all the prices muddled and it comes to a zillion times more than I thought. I think, for the sake of all our sanity, it’s time to hand shopping duties back to my partner regardless as to how much I insist it must be me who goes because I need to see things for myself (is that even a thing?!)
Do things that make people (and you) happy
May the 4th (be with you 🙄) is a big deal in our house. My partner is a massive Star Wars fan, our daughter is named after a Star Wars character and this May 4th was going to be interesting as so much fun stuff had to be shelved with being 5 weeks into lockdown. My partner and youngest son decided to do the food shop dressed as a Jedi and a Clone Trooper. Whilst it wasn’t what the staff and customers at Asda were expecting at 11am on a Monday, it brought a lot of smiles and comments and you know what? If you can do something small to make people happy, lockdown is a good time to do it.
Homeschooling looks different in each household
In the first week I had a rota of what subjects the kids would be learning, when they’d be eating and what our days would be like. Then I actually spent a week with my children and the rota went out the window. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, teachers should be paid a million pounds a year minimum.
What I’ve learned is that homeschooling looks different in each household and with each child. My ten year old will log on to the school website, download the work he wants to do and flat out refuse to do the stuff he doesn’t want to do. My six year old flat out refuses to do any of it and prefers more holistic learning; building dens with my partner on the riverside lands, making lunch and dinner from scratch and conducting many science experiments involving household products. They’re both learning, just not the stuff the DfE had necessarily planned for them.
Get dressed (no matter how comfy your pjs are)
This is a big one for me. If I had the choice I would live in pjs. The problem here is I’m a mum so they’re not exactly glamorous or anything I want anyone other than the kids to see me in. For the first few weeks of lockdown I would homeschool the kids in the morning, entertaining the baby whilst my partner barricaded himself in a room and did his work, we then swapped roles after lunch. It meant I was in my pjs until after lunch and I spent the first few weeks feeling rubbish. Getting showered and dressed early on each day makes a massive difference to how I feel about the day, and how serious the kids think I’m going to be about making them do work. The upshot is that now I have the mornings to work (and get dressed), it makes me more productive and I feel better for being clean, dressed and presentable before lunch.
Logistics, logistics, logistics
Trying to work out the logistics for anything involving leaving the house feels like such a big deal these days. First of all my car battery died. We jump started the car and off my partner went. It promptly broke down a mile away. Luckily, back in the days of me being organised I had bought breakdown cover and it was quickly remedied. Even with the easing of the lockdown restrictions the mixed messages across Social Media means leaving the house has become one of the most stressful activities of recent weeks. Someone not as stressed about how to handle the logistics is my Nana’s carer. She organised to take her out for a drive, drove her to the car park near the river where we live then messaged me to see if I could pop over and see her. I led the kids, blinking into the daylight and off we went. My Nana stayed in the passenger seat of the car, her carer a few meters away and we stood close to the driver’s side of the door and bellowed (Nana thinks she hears better without hearing aids) at her for a few minutes. It took quite a few logistics to organise seeing her but it was totally worth it and made her day.
Have some form of routine
It’s taken trial and error and polling of friends to see what they’re doing, to find a routine which works for us. Trying to homeschool, fit in a full time job, go out food shopping as there are no delivery slots available ever, get the minimum amount of exercise and run a non-stop, 24 hour cafe has meant more than one tweak to get a routine in place. Thing is, we’re trying to fit too many things into the day/week and yet they’re not things we can drop the ball on. Either work doesn’t get done or the kids don’t get homeschooled. Now we’re managing both, homeschooling and work but running the restaurant our house seems to have turned into has become a matter of it coming close to a mealtime and my partner and I looking passive aggressively at each other whilst asking ‘what shall we have to eat?’ Whoever looks away first, looses and has to make the meal. It’s not a perfect system but we seem to be getting by and there’s always a meal at roughly the right time.
Don’t try to keep up with everyone else
As lockdown was announced a load of Facebook groups sprung up – all focused around lockdown tips and ideas for families, especially those of us having to homeschool kids. The groups had everyone showing what was going on in their households, offering advice ranging from how to homeschool, deal with work, relationships to recipes and meal ideas. Now I’m pretty resilient to stuff on the internet and don’t take things on Social Media personally so it took me a while to realise why I was feeling so bad. I’m not one for trying to keep up with others; a lack of finances and compliant children put paid to that a long time ago but these groups just made me feel like I was failing pretty much every time I logged onto Facebook. In the end, after getting fed up with not seeing any of my friends posts on Facebook, only posts from these groups, I left them and I haven’t looked back. We might not be serving the same kind of food, homeschooling to within an inch of our lives or keeping our house as tidy as others’ but we’re doing ok.
During the first couple of weeks of lockdown we were eating awesome, home cooked meals for every meal and feeling like amazing human beings. I combined homeschooling with cooking and the kids learned how to make pizza, pasta, meatballs, a range of cakes and desserts and other dishes from scratch. Then we burned out. No-one wanted to make their own pizzas when you could pick one up for £2 and cook it in 10 minutes rather than the hour it takes to make your own. This came around the same time the supermarkets started restricting what people could buy and people realised the virus didn’t include a famine and they stopped stockpiling. The kids demanded a range of ‘freezer tapas’ for various meals and my partner and I were too exhausted to cook anything else. Then we all felt lethargic, bloated and realised it was time to reintroduce home cooking. At the same time my friend, Jackie set up a Facebook group called Around the world from your kitchen, where each week the group votes which country to cook food from, Jackie puts some recipes and guides up and we cook something and share it with the group. No pressure just fun experimenting with food we wouldn’t necessarily think of cooking. The upshot is at least once a week the family can expect a proper meal, presented nicely (as I need to photograph it for Facebook) and I learn a new recipe. We all feel a lot better for giving the freezer a break too.
Don’t spend all your money at once
In the first week of lockdown Amazon literally had all my money. If I’m being totally honest, I have no regrets. I love my new Echo Show and if I could change anything it would have been adding some pink hair dye to the order. Whilst the first week was awesome with order after order coming through, it means the following 8 weeks have been kind of flat with trying to budget the food shops to circumnavigate all the money spent in the first week.
As tempting as it is to do what I did and give all your money to Amazon you know who really needs it? Small businesses. The chances are you’ll still get the awesome service they provided pre-lockdown, even if you have to wait a couple of extra days for postage and your business will make such an incredible difference to them and the big businesses won’t even notice that you’ve shopped elsewhere.
I know, it feels a cliché especially with the #bekind hashtag all over the internet. It can be hard sometimes when lockdown isn’t encouraging people to be their best selves. There are people literally screaming ‘stay the f*ck home’ across the Social Media platforms and those happily sharing photos of friends round their houses, wondering what all the fuss is about. Everyone has their own stuff going on and their own fears this virus is bringing out. People are losing family and friends and we can’t even perform the rituals of comfort that these occasions would usually bring. It’s isolating, disorientating and we are literally living in a different world to the one we knew. Some of us are able to get on with it and feel ok with that and others are terrified and not feeling ok. I know it can be awful when someone is behaving like a bit of a jerk but they’re just trying to get through this in the best way they know how, as are you.