Liana Shaw speaks to parents about their working from home/home-schooling struggles during lockdown
They say it takes a village to raise a child. I think we have all discovered that during this topsy-turvy year so far, there have been real examples of us banding together as a community to give some sense of normality amongst the chaos.
Speaking of chaos; how was your lockdown? How was your experience of working at home (if you did) with children around? Every family is different and at the end of the day, as I said to many of the families I work with, it was a ‘please do what’s best for you’ situation.
Unless you are Obama, who called this pandemic back in 2014 (seriously, check out the video on this that’s floating around the internet, who knew he could see the future?), no one was expecting 2020 to be turned on its head so drastically. Especially not children.
It was so interesting to hear the different experiences of others, especially when it came to how they taught and looked after their children. As I work with children, I know that this has had a huge impact on them, and I have nothing but admiration for their resilience – and that extends to their families too!
As humans, we are naturally very adaptable. We’ve had to be. Personally, there were times I missed the children I work with. Their laughter, their hugs. Their wonderful ideas and energy. It’s hard trying to communicate with young minds through a screen. Whilst I’m very thankful for the technology (education wouldn’t have been the same without it), there is always a little something lost in the transmission of yourself. But it made me appreciate how much I relish being in a classroom, how much I relish the laughter and the connectivity. Like a little hive of bees. It is not to be taken for granted.
“The first week of lockdown was truly hellish.”
Thank you to those who got in touch to share your thoughts. It can be hard to talk and share, especially in times of struggle. Though it wasn’t all bad, your stories of strength and determination and that ‘let’s get on with it’ attitude, have been enlightening. Here are some of your stories*.
I chose not to do too much with my children during lockdown. Home-schooling was proving stressful and even though we managed to get through a lot of the basics, by the afternoon the kids just wanted to play. I think being at home makes a difference. Going to school, wearing their school uniform and being in that school environment also sets them up for a different mindset. I understood because I felt the same when I was working from home. It is more difficult to concentrate in your familiar home surroundings. I can easily get distracted by household jobs and life admin, while trying to keep up with emails, take conference calls and make lunches for two constantly hungry children. They wanted to eat more than they normally would on a regular school day! But I suppose a lot of us found that, that we would snack and nibble constantly throughout the day. It’s just the lack of structure.
My biggest challenge was to draw those boundaries. When did school end? When did I stop working and switch off? None of us did that and it was difficult. I think we felt like we were switched on constantly. On the plus side, I really enjoyed getting to adapt my evenings with the children again. I think for some families this has been a very good thing because we have had the chance to spend more time together. I couldn’t go to my normal workout class so I did the PE with Joe Wicks with the kids and we would do more arty things together and some baking. I’ll take those things forward if I can because they really enjoyed that and so did I. I also think it helped that my husband was still working away from home. It would have been even more difficult and crowded if we were all in the house together every day, trying to work and help the children.
I really loved teaching during lockdown. I tried not to worry too much about getting everything done. My daughter’s school was amazing though and everyone was very understanding. I think the teachers were trying to get the balance right and it felt like we were all just trying to get through schooling together. My daughter loved doing work at home and luckily is old enough to work quite independently.
“The first week of lockdown was truly hellish.” I’ll paraphrase Emma’s experience; it sounds like she had so much on her plate, and I was full of admiration for her as she opened up to me about her challenges. From IT issues and constantly checking emails for schoolwork, having to work until late into the night trying to do her own job effectively and also looking after parents (whilst cleaning, cooking and shopping), I could completely see where these extra stresses came from for Emma and her family.
“It got to the point where we could count a good day as being one when my son and I didn’t argue about schoolwork” Emma explains. “But I contacted my son’s school and they were great, very supportive and he got regular phone calls to support and reassure him.”
Working from 9am – 10pm herself, life was certainly full-on. Like many others, Emma had to be extra vigilant because of vulnerable parents. Even the mail was being wiped down and there were strict sanitising procedures in place. With her father not being able to go out to the shops or pharmacy, and a particularly vulnerable mother to care for, this is something she took into her own hands, and not only did her job, schooling and her own home management but looked after her parents, doing tasks that might ordinarily be spread out.
It was very humbling hearing about Emma’s life these last months. This was her reality. The impact on her son was visible, and at times he would get very upset. He certainly was not alone. Many of the parents and students I have spoken to have found this experience to have had some effect on their wellbeing, with a lot of tears and worry. It’s unprecedented stress, and I honestly applaud every pupil, parent and person who had to deal with the difficulties they faced. I hope they take happiness in knowing that they have come out the other side. Emma, if you’re reading this, I’m sure there are many reading your experience nodding along in solidarity.
Carrie sent me a little snippet of one of her ‘fun’ experiences of working whilst on lockdown, which she kindly agreed I could share. Carrie has a 2-year-old, who, one morning, she decided to leave ‘for ten minutes’ to add herself onto a quick Zoom meeting. Plonking her offspring in front of Peppa Pig with a handful of carrot sticks seemed a simple and foolproof plan. However, just as she was greeting her colleagues and they were going through the important tasks of the day, her little angel came over, pants on her head and promptly explained to all and sundry that she had had a little accident on the carpet. “I was mortified” explains Carrie “but to be honest everyone found it hilarious and I think they all just understood that it’s just one of those things’. Promptly excusing herself to now spend a chunk of her morning cleaning a carpet, Carrie explains that she just realised that in situations like lockdown, where life is just life, anything can happen. And it often does.
At the end of the day, I think many will agree that as an island, we have done a pretty good job. Personal struggles have been part of many of our journeys this half of the year, and we’ve had to adapt to life in a whole new way. But it can also help make us stronger as people and as a community too.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.