Our family are now commencing our third week of ‘Lock Down,’ we live in a bungalow in a rural area and our boys are 7 and 1 years old. Many of us expected the country to go into lock down at some point so had taken some time to mentally prepare for what it may entail. For me, and like many of my friends and colleagues experienced initially my expectations were way too high!
In reality, week one of home schooling a very reluctant 7 year old, while entertaining a 1 year old who has just learned to walk, trying to establish a new routine and cope with all of us being in the home all of the time was so new to us as a family and quite a challenge!
Quite honestly the first week was really hard. Our youngest was unwell and although is was nothing serious it was certainly a worrying 72 hours in our house. During this time social media was bursting with families showcasing their wonderful experiences in craft, baking and family time!
On week two, I decided to start practicing the principles I have worked hard to imbed into my professional life at Little Owls over the last 14 years more into my home life. This was a real turning point for all of us so here’s how we did it:
Our principles for good wellbeing include: Connect; Keep Learning; Be Active; Take Notice and Give Back. So as a family we started to build these into our day.
Connect: We are lucky to have a nice garden so we have spent lots and lots of time outside together. This is one of the few activities that engages both children and even my 7 year old has enjoyed sand and water play again! My oldest son and I have talked about and set some fitness goals we want to achieve, I have talked and read to my boys so much more than we would have time to normally.
Focusing on process over outcome has really aided this principle. There is an underlying pressure to produce and post social media worthy family images of perfectly baked cupcakes or art work. The most enriching days have been those that I have put my phone in the drawer all day and just been with my children. It reminded my very much of the fun I used to have with my grandparents in the school holidays, because more than anything they had time for us.
Be Active: Getting the baby seat for my husband bike was a real game changer! We are blessed with lovely countryside and getting out for a long walk or bike ride daily is essential for the whole families wellbeing. Alongside this we have been doing HIIT routines on Youtube and enjoying bodyweight exercise and yoga in the garden. Even the baby joins in with this too.
Take Notice: Is it just me or does everything feel much quieter, greener and more tranquil? Taking notice is about being mindful, and on our family walks and bike rides we have had many opportunities to make observations and take notice of the world around us.
Building in a bit of ‘me time’ is also important alongside this principle. Whether it’s a taking a bath, painting my toenails, or having a glass of wine in the garden adds a little treat and luxury into this ‘lock down’ experience.
Give Back: My family live in London so this week we have been drawing pictures and writing letters to family members. The boys have really enjoyed getting parcels and letters in reply, as much as our relatives have enjoyed receiving their letters. My husband family live locally so we left baskets of chocolate eggs doorsteps at Easter as a little treat. We have also been giving back to each other by doing something kind for someone in our family each day.
Keep Learning: This doesn’t mean returning to work speaking a second language or becoming a professional oil painter in 3 weeks! Our keep learning principle has been supported by the home school itinerary provided by my sons school. Using the ideas and topics in this, presented opportunities for us all to learn. I am excited to share my new knowledge of snakes with our Barn Owl children when we are back and my oldest son was fascinated in our active learning about the Roman Empire.
The lock down has taught me many lessons as well as inspired me to continue with some of our new behaviours when life returns to normal.
Things I have learned include:
- 1. Being active is essential, it kills time too and engages both of the children and helps justify that extra glass of wine in the evening.
- 2. No matter how much time I have I am never going to be a craft or messy play queen. Luckily the oldest child shows no interest at all in such things so to build this in to our day for our 1 year old we have been using the garden and patio to get messy and crafty. It’s a far cry from the wonderful experiences he has at nursery but I know my limitations!
- 3. We can not live by the clock, however using a tried and tested method of creating a pattern of behaviours that follow each other and work for our family has really helped us establish a routine.
- 4. I need a to do list! By writing down my goals for the day I have focus and direction and the days are relatively full. Our family need to emulate the busy nature of our normal lives in some way so it is helpful to still try to be productive.
- 5. Neither of us are capable of being stay at home parents! Despite all the positives that can be found throughout this experience, we both love our jobs and can not wait for life to return to normal!
COVID 19 and the subsequent lock down has taken so much from us. Some have lost loved ones, most of us have lost income, none of us can see and spend time with our friends and families or engage in the social activities we are all used to. But it has given many of us the gift of time, the ability not to live every hour of every day by the clock to ensure that everyone gets to work, school, nursery, swimming, football, rugby classes and birthday parties on time each week. It has taken the need to have busy expensive activity filled weekends with the children to ease the guilt of being a working parent. It has also given me a great deal of perspective about what is essential and helped us be much less wasteful as a family.
So, as we commence potentially another three weeks in lock down, let’s remember that we are all in this together! Be kind to ourselves, knowing that soon this will be a distant memory in our journey in parenthood.