You are probably sick of reading advice and good words from everyone during this current crazy lockdown. As a working mum of two kids who is trying to hold it together here’s what I have concluded as we enter week three:
It’s OK to cry or shout – most of the time, like many people out there, I am being super strong for everyone. I’m juggling work, childcare, cleaning and the curved ball of homeschooling but then out of nowhere I will feel a bit sad. Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond on the radio was the latest thing to turn me into a mascara running mess. I know friends who are having a cry every morning, some twice a day, some every hour. The important thing is to embrace the release of emotion. Let it out – get a hug from someone/a pet/cuddly toy and then carry on. Don’t hide the fact you’re sad, sacred, frustrated, especially from the kids. We need our kids to grow up knowing that it’s OK to feel a whole range of emotions. They don’t need us to be superheroes – they need us to be human! The same goes for losing our tempers and shouting now and again. As long as everyone is friends by the end of the day it’s OK to have, and share, our emotions!
Homeschooling – I come from a family stuffed full of teachers but the gene has somehow passed me by. I just don’t have the patience or skills to pass knowledge onto anyone else, especially one of my own children who delight in telling me “that’s not how we do it” every time I try to help them. So the prospect of weeks of homeschooling filled me with dread. Some parents seem to have taken to it like a duck to water with coloured timetables, organised break times and PE lessons with Joe Wicks (of course) kicking off the day. I admit I am jealous of these amazing teacher-parents but we have to accept that however little or much we are doing, everything we do will help develop their minds and bodies. Whether it’s a bit of colouring, kicking a football, helping in the kitchen, doing household chores, watching TV or playing an online game they are using their brains, their bodies and being engaged. Your job is to parent – which means keeping them safe, warm, fed and watered. No one would expect you to start a new job with 48 hours notice and no training so why are we putting the pressure on ourselves to be equal to a fully qualified teacher? Encourage and talk to your children. If they love the structure of schoolwork then let them crack on. If not, then just carry on being what you are – a parent!
Working from home – sat at the kitchen table, balancing your laptop on a pile of kids’ books and jigsaws, trying to do a conference call while splitting up a sibling row – working from home at the moment is challenging to say the least. I recently did a conference call while the kids did ‘silent’ baking infront of me! Needless to say I struggled to concentrate while they turned the kitchen/my workspace into a cloud of flour, butter and icing sugar! I have been asked to build Lego, do a treasure hunt, play PieFace and paint models all while I am logged onto my laptop – this is multi-tasking at its finest! Then there’s the call of the washing up, washing machine, kettle and a million other things when you are trying to get on! Again, for most of us this is totally new territory and even those of you who often work from home aren’t used to having such young (and disruptive) work colleagues wanting our attention every five minutes! I hope bosses out there are giving everyone a bit of slack (as long as the job gets done does anything else matter?) but I know that’s not always the case. It’s my hope that when this is all over we will have finally proved that as parents we can work flexibly and get the job done! If we can perform brilliantly in these challenging circumstances imagine what we could do normally? In the meantime my only advice is not to turn your camera on when in a conference call and to mute yourself unless you have something to say! That way no-one will ever know the chaos around you!
Daily exercise – while we can, we all need to get out for some fresh air but it’s not without its issues. My kids are anything but outdoorsy so being locked down suits them perfectly. They’re not lazy but they would rather dance, swim or play sport than walk or cycle in the great outdoors. They are letting off steam on the trampoline, playing netball and football but I am still dragging them out for a walk every day. If nothing else it fills some time! If you have kids who love the great outdoors it must be tough to restrict their movements – I do sympathise. Watching Ray Mears recounting his greatest adventures must be torture if all you want to do is go camping in the wild (especially if you don’t have a back garden)! As adults we also have a vast array of online exercise options to navigate. It seems that every gym, dance school and celebrity has their own suggestions about how to keep us fit (and away from the biscuit tin)! My advice – do what you want, do what you can or do nothing! It really doesn’t matter. All we can do is follow the government’s rules in the hope that this will be over quickly and we can return to usual our outdoor/indoor exercise schedules as soon as possible!
Social media – my kids have been on screens a lot in the last two weeks and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. But now is not the time to feel guilty. They are having online playdates, playing board games and hide and seek with their mates via WhatsApp, choreographing dance routines and just chatting as friends should. Yes, in between they are playing online games but it makes them happy and gives them some escapism from this crazy world we are in! I am more concerned about the impact of screen times on us parents in a world of 24 hour news. We all need to know what is going on and as a former journalist I am passionate about the news, but there is such a thing as too much information, especially when it’s all doom and gloom. Then there’s the ever present curse of social media – we have to remember that for every perfect parent with their colour coded timetable and organised craft activities there is another wine swigging mum hanging on to her sanity by her fingernails. People don’t share the bad stuff (unless it’s really bad and bordering on hilarious). The mundane is just that – really boring – so let’s not beat ourselves up for not having Instagram perfect lives! If your kids don’t want to paint a rainbow then that’s fine. If you can’t be bothered to host a virtual dinner party (and are barely making a pot noddle for tea) that’s fine. If the idea of a virtual pub quiz turns you cold don’t do it! If you can’t shrug it off then turn off the apps – at least for a few hours each day and enjoy the imperfect perfection of your own life.
So there is it is – my thoughts on this crazy time we are living in. I don’t have the answers but all I would say is stay home, stay safe and if everyone is breathing at the end of the day (even if they are unwashed, still in yesterday’s PJs and full of sweets) then you are doing a great job! #wewillgetthroughthis