The big pause - lessons learned from lockdown
Lockdown – that thunderbolt from the blue – forcing us overnight to radically change the way we live our lives, as workers, parents, and families. Learning to work from home, home-school our kids, and having our social interactions confined to the pixels of a computer screen.
But now that restrictions are easing in the UK, and we come out of our homes blinking and eager for renewed social contact, maybe now is the time to reflect on the lessons learnt from our time in hibernation. Here’s what families are saying the ‘Big Pause’ has taught them.
A simpler life
Having had our lives stripped back to basics, it seems our greatest lesson might be about how to live more simply and let go of all the unnecessary ‘stuff’ that fills our lives. To slow down a bit and remove the need to be constantly doing – indeed the popular adage of ‘just be, not do’ feels more poignant than ever.
Sophie, mum to Caden, and Ethan embraced this period saying “it’s been so nice not to have time pressures. I always used to think we needed to get out every day, but I’ve been proved 100 percent wrong.”
And Kate, mum to two young daughters, one of whom she gave birth to during lockdown, commented “it’s made us slow down and actually consider what's important and what we need and what we don't need. And that's been really quite refreshing.”
We are family
For some parents and children spending extra time in such close proximity has really strengthened family units. Nina, yoga instructor and mum to Finn who preferred to call the period ‘slowdown’ said “as a family, it’s been a real time of refocusing and getting to spend time and connect with each other.”
Other families have also appreciated this extra time to bond. Lizzie, who was in her third trimester of pregnancy when lockdown started felt privileged that she and her family enjoyed “a precious 100 days together in the garden” before their new arrival came.
And for many working parents who would normally miss out on day-to-day activities with their kids, having that increased family time was seen as a gift. Mike, husband to Kate, who was furloughed and later made redundant during lockdown realised “just how much interaction with kids you lose when commuting and at work – breakfasts, bath time and all the other stuff in-between.”
Back to nature
Enjoying the simplicity and restorative quality of nature has also seen many parents through this difficult time. With playgrounds shut, kids have rediscovered the thrill of creating woodland dens and climbing trees. Mike and his two-year-old daughter have enjoyed daily mini adventures. “Having outdoor spaces has been a necessity. In fact, our trips to the park and going mountain biking and hiking have been so inspiring I’ve started a podcast.” Lizzie also loved having the opportunity to explore the outdoor areas on her doorstep which she’d never really done before.
But having such restrictions imposed on our freedom has meant we’ve had to learn how to let go of control – forcing us to live more for the moment in our often highly structured lives.
Seana, mum of two who was made redundant during the crisis comments, ‘I’m normally the one with the five-year plan, so facing such uncertainty has been tough. But even though it’s been a rollercoaster, I think something pretty wonderful can come out of all this. Not really being able to plan from one week to the next, is actually kind of exhilarating’.
The big home-schooling lesson
Perhaps the most challenging thing this crisis has thrust upon parents, has been the responsibility of continuing our kids’ education at home. And it seems it’s been a steep learning curve. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that only half of parents were confident in their abilities to home-school their children. So, what did we learn from this almighty curveball we were thrown?
Lynda, who home-schooled sons Ben and Thomas during lockdown recognises that teaching is no easy feat. “It’s hard work and it’s a pretty thankless task. But I realised by the end that actually kids like their parents to spend time with them, whatever that may look like.”
And other parents have recognised the unique learning this time has provided for their children. Nina, who had to grapple with the huge decision about whether to send her Reception-aged child back to school in June, was reminded that “they're still so young, they're still children, and actually playing and being with their family is one of the biggest lessons and biggest classrooms they can have.”
Home-schooling is one thing, but having to balance that with work adds an extra degree of complexity. The ONS survey found that nearly a third of parents felt home-schooling was negatively affecting their job. Mary, a Risk Advisor, and mum to two boys found it incredibly stressful trying to juggle all the competing demands. Finally, she decided the only way to manage was to be “much kinder to myself and others” and allowed herself the time and space to come to terms with the situation and focus on what she could do and let go of “the big list of things I thought I should do.”
And though it’s been hard to live life with much less social intimacy and fewer hugs, people have found that community bonds have strengthened like never before. With neighbours helping the vulnerable with supplies, streets creating WhatsApp support groups, the weekly ‘Clap for Carers’, sunflowers blooming in gardens and rainbows adorning windows in solidarity the length and breadth of the country; it seems we’ve found ways to connect, show we care and not feel so alone through all of this.
Nina, who has been involved in several community charity projects during this time and whose own street started a WhatsApp support group says “What I’ve really taken from this is that even though we might not have all been able to meet up and hug and do whatever else, that that sense of community is there and it doesn't go away just because there's a bump or a hurdle. The heartstrings are stronger than that.”
So, despite living through the toughest restrictions we’ve known in peacetime as well as balancing new demands at home and missing loved ones, there have been silver linings. Since lockdown, Kate and her family have started a ‘Positivity Jar’. “Every day we write on a bit of paper something really positive that's happened that day and pop it in the jar. And seeing that fill up, having to push them back down to make room for the next one, yeah, that's been a really good thing for us to do.”