In “normal” life, my husband works long hours and I manage my self-employed role around my 3-year-old daughter, Harper. In September 2019 she began attending our local preschool and was absolutely thriving there. Life was feeling a bit more under control and this seemed like the perfect time to conceive our second baby, and when I fell pregnant quickly in early February we were delighted. I struggled with morning sickness with Harper, and I also have an autoimmune disease that adds challenges to life and pregnancy, so having 4 days a week of childcare felt like the perfect balance to manage these things and my 20 hours a week of work.
Like many others, I couldn’t believe it when the coronavirus began to rapidly spread around the world and we were put on lockdown on March 23RD. Having struggled with anxiety in the past, receiving a letter from my consultant saying I needed to “shield” during this time due my health condition was something that I thought would have pushed me over the edge, but I have been so surprised by how I have coped with everything that is going on. Our family has created a new normal, one that we hope is only temporary, but we have adapted our days around work and caring for Harper. My first trimester was a challenge, I was once again extremely sick with this pregnancy and my autoimmune disease flared. My husband has been able to work from home, and working from home is the norm for me anyway, so we have juggled the child entertaining between us. But both of us working and needing to manage an energetic pre-schooler has definitely had its challenges. For me personally, I do like my own space, and having had two other people constantly in the house for the last 10 weeks has definitely been something I have had to adapt to.
We have adapted a new routine that (for now) works for us, although everything does feel like a massive juggle. My husband will have Harper for an hour or two first thing and this allows me to check my emails and tick a task or two off my to-do list, I usually do this from bed to allow me a gentler “get-up” which helps with the nausea. I will then have Harper for the morning and try to do something structured with her, like a tuff tray activity (Pinterest has been my saviour!). My husband then makes lunch and has her for an hour or two, this is usually TV time as he tries to work around her, and I then have her for the afternoon and we usually go for a walk. The weekends are reversed, and my husband has her for the bulk of the day whilst I scramble to catch up on work; family time has been practically non-existent since this began. Saying that though, my husband did say a few days ago that he feels he has really bonded more with Harper over this time, and ahead of me being preoccupied with a new-born this is a definite positive to have come out of lockdown.
My top advice for parents at the moment is to go with the flow as much as possible and not be hard on yourself. Remember, this too shall pass. I think it is really important to lower our standards; we are living through a pandemic and that is no easy feat. Living in a world immersed in social media can be tough at times, and now seeing Karen (sorry if your name really IS Karen) with her immaculate house and 3 children, fully dressed, all participating eagerly in her all-singing all-dancing Montessori-inspired activity she set up at 5am before they woke can make us fall into the comparison trap. I think it’s important to remember that people only show what they want to on social media; Karen may have been sat in the only tidy room in the house and this may have been a half an hour activity followed by a day of television (no judgement!). My house is wrecked, Harper watches a lot more screen time than normal, and some days she has not even gotten dressed. But we also go for idyllic walks, do fun educational activities, and try our hand at baking a few new things. I try to share a balanced insight on my social media, but some people do not feel comfortable doing that. It is also important to remember that everyone’s current circumstances are different; some families are all on furlough whilst others are juggling full-time demanding jobs, some have physical or mental health conditions that will be impacting their day, even factors like personality type will make a big difference on how this time is perceived and processed. Everyone will be responding to this pandemic differently, even though it is a shared experience.
This won’t be forever, those of us finding it a challenge need to just hang in there and remember that in the long run this will only be a fraction of our lives. Hang in there mamas, you got this.