Last Monday, I sat in my co-working space, enjoying the quiet. While there hadn’t been announced a lockdown by this point, the stats were horrific, and we knew it was coming.
That morning, we’d called our family support network and said we didn’t think it was safe for them to look after our children while schools were still open. We don’t think it's safe for our children to see grandparents, even in a childcare bubble.
Which leaves us homeschooling two primary school children, and working full time. From a small house with no spare office space.
This lockdown is different
Last lockdown, I went into what I call ‘school holiday mode’. Getting up early and working before the kids get up and finishing off when they’re in bed. Being brutally honest, aside from the school's avalanche of work, nothing was that much different for us in the first lockdown.
My husband works away a lot of the time. And being self-employed means I’m not beholden to working ‘normal’ hours.
We cracked on and got it done.
And then my husband was furloughed, and I’ve never had it as easy.
This lockdown, he’s not furloughed. I’m still working full time, and we live in a much smaller home. But going in our favour: we were prepared.
Get a schedule
We learned early on that the only way to get work done and not stick the kids on the screen all day, every day is to get a schedule.
Mine’s pretty grim. I’m not going to sugar-coat it.
Tuesday to Friday I get up at start work at 6 am. By 8.30 am, my husband needs to clock in for work. I take over the kids’ stuff. I set up each child in turn with something to do from their mile-long list of school tasks.
In an ideal world, they’d crack on, and I’d get to do some work that doesn’t require deep thought. This is not the ideal world.
By the time I’ve got the second child set up on a bit of work, the first one needs me again. And I ping-pong between them until lunchtime.
I’ve held meetings in my bedroom. I’ve barricaded myself against a door to stop the kids trying to get in while I’m having a serious conversation. I even went for a socially-distanced run with one client to sort out the plan for the week.
It’s been unconventional.
I cannot recommend enough the importance of getting outside in the fresh air. We’ve covered every park and woods within walking distance from our house. I’ve made the kids cycle in -2º weather. I’ve sandwiched playground time in with calling clients.
“Sorry, I’m not at my desk right now, but I’ll get on it this evening,” has been the phrase of the week.
But that outdoor time after lunch has been amazing. The cold has woken me up after the pints of coffee from the morning has worn off. And the kids have run off some of their cabin fever.
TV and Switch are lockdown lifesavers
I’d love to spend all this extra time with my kids, taking notice of their school work, drawing and playing. Heck, I even decided to sort out the Lego and try put the sets back together.
My living room is now a floor of doom. Lego everywhere and no sorting done.
But there are bills to pay. And to do that, I need to work. I need to keep the clients happy, AND I still have to market my business to future proof it against whatever the hell is coming this year.
So YouTube, Pokemon, Minecraft, Fifa and all the rest are ON.
The screen limit is out of the window. Watch that rubbish animated film. Fill your boots.
Sleep is the goal
And when exhausted at 8.30 pm, the kids are having a bit of a read in bed; I’m downstairs logging back on and finishing the days work. Writing out my to-do list because there’s no way I’m going to have the headspace for thinking at 6 am.
I’m ready for my bed by 10 pm, but that’s not happening. There’s still work to be done so I’m not behind on it.
If I’m shut-eye by midnight, that’s good.
I wasn’t built for early mornings, and I certainly wasn’t built to survive on anything less than 8 hours sleep. And when all you do is work and look after kids, there is no time for all that self-care stuff we’re meant to be doing.
Self-care right now is clean teeth, a daily shower and if I’m lucky, clean hair.
Oh, and I’m working on weekends.
Put the plans on hold
There’s a bunch of stuff I wanted to do this year. It’s all on hold. Not big stuff like go on holiday. Little things like writing more. Or do some sewing. And read a book or two.
Accepting that this isn’t going to get done balances out the whole lack of self-care stuff. Because feeling frustrated as well as tired and stressed isn’t going to help a thing. It’s not going to make this all go faster.
The UK government reckons schools might be back after half term. But since they can’t organise even the basic stuff, I’m going to guess that the vaccination programme isn’t going to be as swift as they tell us. We got the vaccination first, but Israel is out-immunising us. Doesn’t fill me with hope.
So I’m counting down the days to the end of March instead. That way, if this whole thing ends earlier, I’ll be pleasantly surprised rather than bitterly disappointed.
And in all of this, I’m hugely grateful. I’m aware that this could be so much worse for my family and me. If this had happened 10 years ago, I’m certain we’d be back living with a parent, unable to pay rent.
But we have a home, we both have work. Our family is healthy, and we have access to all the stuff that keeps us going. We’re doing okay.
So how am I getting through this lockdown? With bundles of gratitude, patience and positivity. I’m counting down the days and getting through it a week at a time.