I thought long and hard about which direction I was going to take this blog. Should I play it safe and focus on the good, the memories, the quality time? Or should I home in on the never-ending list of what feels like an abundance of parenting fails, guilt and fear? Because despite what Instagram leads you to believe, being a lockdown parent is not all buttercups and banana loaf! So, in the end, I decided on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth . . . brace yourself.
To Set The Scene . . .
I am a mother of 2 boys. My eldest, aka “the wild one” is 6 years old. From the minute he wakes up, to the minute he goes to bed he has one mode - turbo, but he is also kind, confident, hilarious, and I adore his zest for life. My youngest turned 3 in lockdown. He has the sweetest soul, is a pleasure to be around and is the calmer of the two . . . or so I thought. Therefore, I am writing this from a burnt-out parent point of view as I’m sure a lot can resonate with!
Disclaimer - I love my children VERY much, possibly more since lockdown, but it's ok to admit it has its challenges too. So no matter how many children you have, and what age they are, I hope this blog provides some light relief to show that we’re in this together and no two days are the same!
This Time Last year
If you’d have told me this time last year that I would be juggling motherhood, work and homeschooling, I’d have probably run for the hills! But seeing as we weren’t given a heads up that a global pandemic was looming, I think we’ve all done pretty well at adapting to this new normal. With no time to prepare, organise, or get to grips with how life would be, we were thrown straight in at the deep end. So what exactly is life like as a parent in lockdown?
How Did We Get Here?
You know those days in between Christmas and New Year where everyone wears onesies, eats too many quality streets and becomes half sofa, half-human? Well, that’s kind of where we’re at now, except we can’t sit down and relax on the sofa because we have children, silly! No need to worry about getting your steps in when you’re running around after kids all day, jeez, Joe Wicks has nothing on me!
But somewhere between day 1 and day infinity, as it sometimes feels, things definitely changed. In the beginning, it felt like a lot of pressure (largely placed on ourselves) to get everything right and keep firing on all cylinders, but guess what, you can’t! It’s not humanly possible to homeschool, work, run a house and keep your sanity, something has to give! So at the risk of it being the latter, thankfully the world started to slow down. Yes, it was forced upon us under lockdown restrictions but gradually those feelings eased, supermarket queues died down and we accepted what was happening.
Here Comes The Sun . . . And The Feral Ones
As lockdown kicked in, the sun began to shine and I have never been more thankful for having some outdoor space, though I’m not sure our neighbours would agree. Over the fence, I could hear little girls tinkering with tea sets, but not on our side, oh no. Instead, our garden became a zombie apocalypse, there were countless nerf wars, my youngest (the calm one) took great pleasure in hoying his shoes over next door's fence, not to mention the dog from number 32 going crazy every time my little gifts from god bounced on the trampoline shouting “woof woof woof”. That coupled with yours truly pleading with them not to shout so loud, lick the mud or call each other a poo head, I swear as we stepped into the garden, the neighbours stepped out!
And so, as the days went on, the more feral they became. No shoes (because they are all now over the fence), socks or even proper clothes for some days! They literally played in what they woke up in...dodon’t judge, you weren’t there. I used to feel guilty for the number of pyjama days we had (and still have, ahem) but from speaking to others, turns out I’m not alone - hoorah! And I’m sure when normality resumes, we'll wish we were back in our comfies, so for now, it is what it is.
I always make sure I check in with the boys on an emotional level too, to see if they are happy, feeling ok and as long as it’s a yes from them, it’s a yes from me!
Learn A New Skill
Don’t. Make. Me. Laugh. Take up a hobby they said, learn a language they said, use this time productively they said! Well, I don't know about you, but my new skill is learning how to keep my ducks in a row while keeping my two mini-humans safe and well. But just for fun, here are some of the new skills I have learned:
- How to negotiate with a toddler who wanted his blue cup, not orange.
- How to dodge nerf bullets.
- How to find the bottom of my wash basket.
- How many dinosaurs walked the earth, including every fact known to mankind.
- How to dodge zoom quizzes.
- How to put on 12lbs in 3 months - damn you banana loaf!
Social Media, Whatsapp and Mum Groups
Ahh, the sigh of relief as you realise you’ve escaped the playground mafia for the next few months. But don’t get too excited, as next thing you know, you’re 85 messages deep in a new “School Mums” WhatsApp group, nooooo! Now for some this is great, but for others, it's yet another thing to keep up with and another way for people to brag about how amazing their children have been learning, playing, building, creating etc. You could mute it, but then you’d be thought of as rude, you could read it and not contribute, but then you’d be known as the silent snooper, so in a bid to keep yourself on the right side of the mafia, emojis are your new best friend, just the odd thumbs up should do it.
And don’t get me started on photos. One perfect post from recycling Rita or Brenda the baker can send a PJ clad Mum into a spin so I always take a step back and remember it’s not a reflection of parenting skills, just a snapshot of a moment in time and my flat fairy cakes are just as worthy!
Things Lockdown Has Taught Me
- Screen time is not the big bad wolf.
In fact, it has many plus points, especially at a time like this. My eldest’s school work has been very interactive, which I think has made it easier to maintain interest, and my youngest told me very clearly as we were waiting at a junction recently that “without Friction Mammy, we wouldn’t be able to go would we”, he’s 3 . . . my mind was blown, but I have Blaze and the Monster Machines to thank for that. Like it or loathe it technology is here to stay, and if it can help with education plus be given the gift of time to get a few things done then I’m all for it!
- Teachers are undervalued and underpaid.
The patience and skills set they own to keep children entertained for 6 hours a day is beyond belief. They are superhumans that help our children develop and grow, and I'm eternally grateful.
- It’s ok to crave some alone time.
I know it’s quality time with our children that we’ll never get again and of course, I appreciate it, but it’s also 24/7 with very little respite, especially with young children, so if you can’t wait for schools to resume, childcare to reopen or grandparents to help out again then hang on in there, because there’s light at the end of the Gin bottle. . . I mean tunnel.
- Perfect doesn’t exist.
There I said it. For many parents, spending so much time at home has resulted in messy floors, sticky fingerprints and an unprecedented amount of washing up, but you know what that's ok. As a home bird, I love nothing more than being in my own surroundings. Cleaning and washing actually make me happy, but it’s also impossible to keep up with, so as Elsa once said, let it go. Windows will clean and toys can be packed away but what really matters is that everyone is safe and happy. Although, the thought of someone just turning up at the house fills me with sheer dread, who even does that in 2020?!
- Crafts are not for everyone.
This is a classic case of expectation vs reality. The vision was to sit around the table making fuzzy felt pictures, robots from toilet rolls and cute paintings of their favourite characters, when in actual fact I have no idea how to make a robot, every painting ended up brown and I’m not even sure they make fuzzy felt anymore? Needless to say, crafts are not my forte.
- Nature is the best therapy.
I’m lucky to live so close to incredible forestry, which pre-kids, I took for granted, despite spending most of my childhood there. Post kids, it’s been a saviour in more ways than one. The boys love nothing more than putting their muddy boots on and exploring, plus it’s good for me too, as even on the most unproductive days, just getting out for a walk in the woods does wonders for the mind.
- I will never understand what a noob is.
You can imagine my dismay when the word “noob” started flying around the house, especially as it descended from my cute little 3-year-olds mouth after much giggling with his older brother. Turns out it’s Minecraft terminology, not that they play, they just watch people play, which leads me onto my next point.
- YouTubers get paid far too much money for talking very loudly.
In our house, volume 6 on the tv is a comfortable level, you can hear everything clearly, yet still hear what is going on around you, that is unless you are 6 years old where it would appear that it needs to be at least volume 15! Now, these Youtubers are an excitable bunch at the best of times, but I dread to think how many times I’ve heard the phrases “don’t forget to subscribe to my channel”, “drop me a comment below” and my personal favourite, “check out my new merch” which is almost always some hideous neon design.
- It’s ok to keep biscuits and chocolate in your bedside drawers.
One thing I have learnt during lockdown is that biscuits solve a lot of problems. To a child, having a biscuit has the same effect as grown-ups having a cup of tea. Had a fight with your brother? Have a biscuit. Need 5 minutes peace? Have a biscuit. So having a packet close by is nothing short of genius.
- Even the bathroom is no longer a safe place.
Remember when the bathroom was a place to relax? Yeah, me neither. It’s like they know, they have a sixth sense that you are about to take a bath, go to the toilet, or take 5 minutes to eat some chocolate in peace behind closed doors, yep that happens! So this, this is the time a war breaks out, they spill blackcurrant or need the toilet themselves, to which they hunt you down in a nanosecond. Until next time my lovely bar of Tony's Chocolonely.
So if you used to be an early bird or night owl but you’re now some form of permanently exhausted pigeon then congratulations, you are officially a lockdown parent! But we’re in this together, none of this is normal, so whatever you’re doing and whoever you are, whether you're a working mum, single mum, stay at home mum, or soon to be Mum, just keep going, you’re doing great!