I am a liar. Well, that's what my seven-year-old, Amelia, believes and her reasons for this are valid. I told her she would be returning to school on 4th January as promised by the term dates published on her school's website. On 31st December, I received a text message from her school confirming they were to return as planned, however, by 2nd January, a new text came in saying sadly that would no longer be the case. The will-they-won't-they, Hokey Cokey nature of the government's decision making when it comes to COVID-19 has been the bane of my life for the last 10 months. My eldest child, Cecilia, who's 11, has borne the brunt of it. Since joining a new school in September, Cecilia's mental health has been all over the place. Starting 'big' school was not how she imagined; the social aspect has been taken away by 'social bubbles'.
At Christmas, our plans were destroyed at the very last minute, and to be honest, it was at this point I knew to expect the worst going forward. While everyone shared their excitement for the New Year, I dreaded what was to come.
Last year was tough, we were all living in unprecedented times. Parenting, as they say, takes a village and my village was snatched from me. By the third week of the first lockdown, I burned out. Not only did I have to home school, cook and clean for everyone, but I was tasked with also working from home in a role with incredible demands. I was waking up at 7am and juggling so much. I found that lockdown added demands to my job role and I also had it in my head that not being in the office meant I had to increase my productivity, so it didn’t look as though I was home just watching TV. I wasn't closing my laptop until 9pm.
I always enjoyed the odd working from home day when there was a workman due to come and fix something in the house, or a parent’s evening I needed to attend. But the idea of working from home day in, day out was never something I fancied. I enjoyed my commute, it’s the only time I had to be alone with my thoughts.
Before the pandemic and lockdowns, my working days started at 6am, I’d shower before getting my kids ready for 8am. The older they got, the easier the routine, though that never stopped me shouting at the top of my lungs: ‘Shoes on, we’re leaving' as I frantically looked for P.E kits, musical instruments or whatever activity they had to prep for that day. I’d get to the station at 8.30 – a sweaty mess, but a happy one because I always had a good read to look forward to on my journey.
As a family, we knew what worked for us and had a good routine in place. For us, having a routine has always been the key to making things work. After experiencing burn out during the first lockdown, we made key changes that got us through most of it happily. We were not the type to start the day with a session of #PEwithJoe, but we managed to be dressed and ready to start each day at 8.30. Because I started batch cooking at the weekend, lunchtimes were a breeze.
When the kids were eating, I would use that time to go through their work and submit it to their teachers. We were sure to adhere to timings as if they were still at school, taking breaks and having lunch then ending the day at all the usual times. (I even joked that they'd start wearing their school uniforms at home, to reduce the washing). I found this helped them a lot because, by 4pm, they'd be having a snack while I got on with work. I can't tell you how much my appreciation for teachers grew after that lockdown. I admired the patience and understanding they exercised when it came to dealing with children. Please don't tell my kids, but sometimes, I found myself having to search online for the answers to some of the questions being asked.
When they finally returned to school in September, words cannot begin to describe the joy I felt. The six hours in the day that they were gone meant I could get so much done, before giving them my full and undivided attention. We defined a new normal during the first lockdown - long walks as a family, making dinner together and baking all became something we thoroughly enjoyed. It brought us closer in ways we couldn't have been if it wasn't for being locked up together, every single day with not much else to do.
In lockdown yet again, to be back to where we started has been demoralising. I noticed a big shift in Cecilia's motivation when she had to self-isolate in November due to a classmate catching the virus. It was then I knew I had to change my tactics. The carefully planned out routine was binned and we adopted an easy-going one. With home schooling on the agenda again, we now do what we can, when we can and leave the rest for another day.
This week, Cecilia's school announced they would be doing 'live' classes so we've decorated her room, ready for that. I hope this will bring back her motivation and make things easier for me.
There's something different about this third lockdown. Maybe it's the cold outside, the shorter days or the fact we're all very much over being cooped up with no space to move. I've invested in little things that will bring us joy and have relaxed my screen time rules a bit, because we all need to cut ourselves some slack.
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