Lack of work and Lockdown parenting

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

We've had a quiet couple of weeks of ups (watching a Spitfire fly over the local hospital on VE Day from an idyllic picnic spot) and periodically, seemingly more downs. Having children at home indefinitely, has felt like an arduous hamster wheel of motivational challenge. There have been quietly increasing levels of stress, due to the lack of income and having no self-employed part-time work to structure our days around. There have been brief periods of creative projects to distract ourselves from this. We've sculpted from clay from the garden and used the mountains of hoarded stuff around the house to create with, and we've been pottering in the garden.

The new 'guidance' has been overwhelmingly confusing for all. Work from home, go to work. Prepare to open your classrooms and school. Is it safe to do so? Wait for the science. Don't engage with planning. Plan to asses the risk of delivering the curriculum to your 'best endeavours' and on and on and round and round, like Mr Happy walking down his staircase... a conundrum familiar to many we presume. Consequently there have been lots of online meetings, risk assessments, pondering and wonderings and we are not decisively any closer or further along the way to a new reality it seems.

There was a week or so where it was tricky to stay positive and engaged and enthusiastic as a parent also. We've changed our mindset and recognised the sleeping till 3pm is a flipping bonus for the teenagers. We watched a programme (when they emerged) about the Royal Free hospital during lockdown. It provided a sobering glimpse of our friend's father, who recovered with the support of a fantastic team and absorbed a sobering and moving speech, after a Covid recovery, by a wonderful nurse. And so if sleeping in is the part the kids are playing in trying to stop the spread of a truly menacing virus, then bring it on. Therefore we have slunk into a rhythm of sofa based living together, like a 'bunch of lazers' as Mr Gum would say.

My single parent hero friend Vic said the other day; how blessed and grateful she is for the time spent with her growing boy. He's set to potentially leave home a year or so from now, as is our eldest child. Since lockdown the teenagers have been unable to be at school or go out and be with their peers. This is what, in the olden days, they mainly spent their time doing. It has been a pleasure and a treat as a parent, to spend such amounts of time with our offspring. They usually breeze in, feed and drift out again, in a cycle of work, friends, study, sleep, friends, screens, friends. As parents this is a rare and special opportunity to connect and shoot the indoor breeze with them at length, in a way that none of us had ever imagined. It is a precious time. All too quickly a small child is 18 and potentially leaving home.

Although we have stressed that they haven't quite yet worked out how to hoover or use the washing machine independently, they've actually had the time to show how bloody brilliant they really are. The time and boredom factor has been theirs to own. As many parents of teenagers will attest, there's no easy way to motivate and enforce structured routines during lock down. What have they really got to get up for? So we've left the parental guilt in the corner and let them get on with it.

We had a laugh with the 15 year old this week. She spends over 4 hours a day online studying and had come a cropper on the questions about the waste products produced when hydrocarbons are combusted. "Why do I need to know this?" she exclaimed. "It is much more valuable to know how to clean out a jar of mouldy jam and recycle it". Now's your chance lovely one...we say as we see her replace the said mouldy jar of jam back on the shelf! At least she's acknowledged the benefit and value of such life skills.

During a late night Zoom birthday party this week, a snack of a home cooked pancake was produced for us. The smallest girl child has taken to midnight baking after we have sloped off to bed. We usually rise to find a huge pile of ALL of the bowls and cooking implements in the house. They are always neatly stacked by the sink. She's not yet moved on to washing them herself, but a we have a feeling of joy that she can cook and work a kitchen independently. So although the academic book learning has been all but discarded, she's learning a more important and valuable skill set. a) how to use boredom and work out what you really wanna be doing with your time. b) how to cook and feed yourself. c) how to live in a space with others and take responsibility for the shared space. It feels like a minor parenting success.

She's also been a winner, by being an independent DIY woman. Her room is her cave into which she has retreated. But obviously, being within those four wall for such a prolonged amount of time has led her to think it's not quite as she would want it. Not wanting any assistance, the child has rifled through the drawers and cupboards of tools and found the drill, screwdrivers and hammer. She put a door on her wardrobe, used a drill to take down some shelves and has decoupaged loads of her furniture. She's twelve and a half.

The soon to be leaving boy child, has got his job back. The local pub where he has spent his every weekend working this past year, has started doing takeaways again. So he's gloved and masked up, delivering menus door to door and also back in the pub kitchen doing all the jobs that they give to the youths. It's great to see him busy and back to having some purpose. Boredom has led him to build a computer, watch the 'Lord Of The Rings' trilogy and he's learned how to do a bit of fencing (The keeping in animals kind, not the poky sport kind). He's attended many an 18th Zoom birthday party and is quietly hoping his will be able to be a real life affair in August. Who knows? At least he's back out there earning some money again, rather than getting over familiar with the Hobbity fantasy worlds.

We've all had a few remote birthday's and quizzes. It seems weird to think about how familiar the digital social format has become. There's many a technical question to ask, which has worked wonders to stop a conversation flowing abruptly for those of us who are still learning. It's made us laugh; making lip-sync videos and having virtual campfire moments in the darkness. But it's kept up connections and has led to some silly home based challenges with friends and colleagues.

Meanwhile, today, we give ourselves permission to sit on the sofa, under a duvet and rewatch 'The Wrong Man's' series in one sitting, whilst wittering and checking our individual small screens. It's the weekend after all and the lack of work stress can wait till Monday. Bring on wallowing in the opportunity to binge watch with the kids in a way that we never thought would happen in our imaginary 'perfect parenting moments' dreams.