We’re in lockdown. Again. I don’t want to really write about the specifics of what’s going on in the UK right now but I whole-heartedly acknowledge we’re not in a great place. I understand the rationale behind the lockdown, the need for it. I also know that everything I am about to write about fully falls into the ‘first world problems’ category. But write about my woes I shall because, honestly, life is testing right now.
When we locked-down in March 2020, it was a real shock but it was such an unprecedented situation that I think the ‘novelty’ of it meant that the mental impact took some time to take hold. As the weeks passed and I started to struggle with juggling the different demands, the weather improved so we could get outside and that very appearance of the sunshine started to improve the situation within the population too. Then the November 2020 lockdown was unexpected but it was time-boxed and the schools and nurseries stayed open so it was minimal change for our household aside from a delay to my haircut.
Not so with this latest stay-at-home order. Christmas was wonderfully relaxing, it being my first holiday in 12 months without the burden of lockdown or the stress of my job being under consultation. In the days leading-up to the return to school, the message was still clear that they would open. Little H had an inset day on the Monday of the week school re-started and we were getting her geared up for the classroom. Then the email arrived telling us the school had insufficient staff and would remove to remote schooling. She was upset and it broke my heart, even though we understood why. The school announcement was later followed by the announcement of a national lockdown; although Early Years were permitted to remain open so at least Little Z was able to continue at nursery.
That night I was fine, but on Tuesday morning it all hit me. The demands of Little H’s school work were far greater than March – July 2020. Year 1 has far more work than Reception and the school are better prepared for remote learning now. We were issued with a timetable and a daily workload of tasks that must be done that day. Aside from one live class each morning, the rest is all managed at home and she’s 5 so that means an adult reading through the content, explaining it and checking her progress. Sam and I were suddenly having to play teacher again. Teacher whilst also being parent, employee and adult looking after a home. Hmmmm.
This need to keep my daughter’s education moving whilst also working and looking after my own health has hit me mentally very hard. January is a tough month anyway and it feels like we are caged in a lot of the time, always clambering over one another even though our house isn’t small. And on the days where I don’t work, where I previously spent time with Little Z playing and exploring, we are now tied to the table trying to teach Little H; and an impatient teacher and a stroppy classmate are not what the poor girl signed-up for either! Chores slip into the weekends and evenings, extra meals need preparing and cooking every day to feed Little H. Once I have exercised and eaten, the evenings feel very short before getting much needed rest in bed.
The honest truth is though that the situation is what it is. Grumbling and moping won’t change and there is no magical fix. But at the same time, the mental fatigue is real and needs to be kept in check. I find myself having to really focus on the here-and-now to get through the day whilst allowing myself to hope that at some point in the coming months things will get a little easier; a little more ‘normal’. Whilst so many people would say to prioritise the most important tasks and let the rest slide whilst under pressure, for Sam and I that is very much the worse thing we could do. We’re very much knuckling down on the little-and-often approach to maintaining our home. Resets happen multiple times a day. Meal planning of every meal continues. The cleaning schedule is stuck to without exception. Getting air at least once a day is a must. But… but…
Alongside all of that, we are cutting ourselves some slack if we let the girls watch a little more TV than normal. We are taking pleasure in enjoying the odd food treat. We aren’t beating ourselves too much if, try as we might, our productivity is not where we want it to during a working day. Also, for me, I am reminding myself that I need to find time for me, to do things that I want to do. It’s in my nature to look after the girls and Sam first. But I am reminding myself that it’s fine to tell them “No” and stay sat down whilst I drink my cup of tea. Or to take 10 minutes to sit and read whilst getting dressed, upstairs, in the quiet, on my own.
Then, through all of this I think about the medical staff and key workers who are working so hard right now. I think about the families who are struggling with financial insecurity or the families with loved ones who are unwell. It makes me feel grateful that, whilst life is hard work and stressful right now, I am so fortunate to be with my family in our comfortable home. Times are tough right now but hopefully we will start to see glimmers of sun on the horizon…