29 May My lockdown
As I write this ‘lockdown’ is starting to be eased but for most of us, I’m sure that the next few weeks and months will not actually change that much. Looking back at the last two months it’s interesting to see how life has changed and the various challenges it has thrown up, but also how in other ways things haven’t changed. I’m in a family of four with two girls who were both in secondary school when this started but have experienced lockdown in different ways. So, what have we as a family learnt from this, so far?
Keep things as normal as possible and create a structure
My working day, with the exception of losing the commute to the London office, hasn’t changed that much, but daily life for the rest of us has. My wife started working from home about a week after me, my youngest started online lessons and my oldest had her GCSE exams cancelled, effectively left school and her dance school stopped teaching all in 48 hours! My wife and I decided we needed to keep everything else as normal as possible and make sure both kids had the fewest additional disruptions possible. We set up temporary desks in other parts of the house (I already had the study) and quickly bought another laptop so that all four of us could be online at the same time.
For our youngest we created a weekly timetable that included the online lessons her school are providing, but also had time for ’homework’, guitar practice and Joe Wicks’ workouts! We made sure that this was all during her normal school hours. She also added things for the ‘out of school hours’ that she wanted to make time for like reading, colouring and building a very complicated house on SIMS4.
It was hardest for our oldest as her schooling stopped abruptly. We gave her a few weeks to just have a break, but then sat down with her and created a weekly plan which includes more chores than usual (for which she gets paid) and preparation work for her A-levels. It took some discussion (!) but she did buy into the concept eventually. Again, she has plenty of free time to do whatever she wants to do, which is important, and it gives her a sense of control over at least part of her day. An added bonus for both of them is that their dance school is now hosting ‘virtual’ lessons several times a week – one more thing to add to their schedules.
The schedules for the adults mainly revolve around our respective jobs, but just fitting in more exercise and taking turns to cook family meals have helped provide some routine. Being able to work obviously helps and we are very grateful for this and feel for those who cannot.
Create day to day and week to week goals.
To try and stop the days and weeks merging into one and to minimise that ‘four walls’ feeling we’ve tried to list jobs or goals to do each week.
Just having a list of ‘to-dos’ or discussing and agreeing on some weekly or monthly goals has helped focus the mind and kept the weekends busy. Although we had various box sets on various subscription services that we wanted to watch, we didn’t want this to be our entire non-working activity. Our goals weren’t rocket science and consisted of things like prune the trees and bushes, help the oldest re-arrange her room and I’ve started cooking lessons for both kids on a Saturday. One day they might cook for us, although at the moment that would be broccoli and mushroom pasta followed by rock cakes!
For us, this one is a no brainer really given that even the limited normal exercise from commuting to work has gone along with the increased temptation of those bottles of wine in the kitchen. All four of us have increased our weekly exercise, via online classes or using the treadmill we bought a few years ago. We’ve also been out for (socially distanced) walks but the treadmill has been fantastic and probably in hindsight one of our best household purchases.
All those hard-back books that get given to us at Christmas and birthdays and then sit on a bookshelf are now being read. Even though I use a kindle for most books, as it’s much easier to commute with, I still accumulate and like to read proper books. Lockdown has been a perfect reason to actually read these … starting with the heaviest!
Catch up on those albums.
Having a ‘slight’ tendency to purchase a few too many vinyl records lockdown has given me the time to actually open, sit and listen to them.
Any parents of teenagers reading this know what these are, and lockdown has made some worse. Going out challenges have gone but plenty of shrugs and general nothingness have increased. Creating the structure and routine outlined earlier has really helped our two, along with encouraging hobbies such as learning how to cook or putting the phone down and reading a book (preferably in the fresh air when the weather permits).
Finding time to stay in touch.
Staying in touch with friends and family has also been important, even if sometimes it feels like I am more sociable in lockdown via video messaging than before. I am definitely better at quizzes!
Who knows what the future or the ‘new normal’ will be, however, what appears certain is that the next few years are going to be different and we need to get used to that idea. From my point of view, lockdown has given me more family time and it’s been great that I’ve been able to be around more for my kids. More challenges will follow but keeping in mind what we have learnt so far will hopefully keep us grounded and sane!