Self-isolation and lockdown….two things that unite virtually the entire world. Almost every single human being is either in one of them, recently released from one of them or dreading one of them.
For many, lockdown is a long expanse of free time. I use the term free loosely, in full acknowledgement that many are grappling with energy-filled children and grumpy other halves.
For others, there is little change. Take me for example. I work from home every day and have done for years, my husband is also always at home and my son is 17 and therefore pretty much invisible except for mealtimes. No adjustment there.
Assuming you are someone with the unknown expanse of empty days ahead of you, how do you feel about that? Do you feel occupied, maybe even overwhelmed by the full time care of children that should be in school? Do you feel under pressure to be something that feels impossible?
Over the last couple of weeks since the schools closed here in the UK, I’ve seen so many posts with homeschooling schedules and idealised images and stories of perfect parenthood on social media. I’ve seen families striving to keep up with the invisible expectation that education can be maintained in these strange circumstances. And perhaps for some it can be….but what about for you?
There are hundreds of posts and media articles about ways to spend your time, things you should be doing to improve yourself, activities you should do to broaden your mind. But not everyone wants to get up, do two hours of yoga, followed by a spot of water colour painting, some crocheting and then cooking a gourmet meal from scratch. Do you?
Every person who goes into lockdown goes into it in their own unique way. They carry with them their own mental suitcase of stuff, their own expectations, their own limitations.
Lockdown is an experience that is shared by us all and yet is entirely personal, all at the same time.
If you don’t want to learn to meditate – then don’t. If knitting isn’t your thing, don’t feel you have to pick up the needles and yarn. If an hour by hour home-education schedule feels overwhelming and stressful, don’t set one.
What we are experiencing here is unusual. It’s scary. The nearest event that it can be compared to in terms of national impact is a world war.
Adults are scared, children are scared. Let’s not create more pressure for ourselves as adults by believing that there is a right or wrong way to feel. And let’s not put ourselves under so much pressure that we unsettle our children more than they are already.
So turn away from the media pressure to be the perfect teacher-Mum or teacher-Dad. Make an effort to ignore the steady stream of suggestions of things you should be doing. Make a promise to yourself now that you will honour your own needs above the expectations of others.
Do your best for your children – a routine will help them, and there is a ton of free resources online that you can draw on to support their learning. But draw the line the moment you start to feel it’s too much for you.
Fill your days with things that interest you and pick up anything that you feel a genuine interest in. But draw the line the moment you start to feel obligated rather than motivated.
A time for reflection
This can be a time for peaceful reflection. There is no harm in all of us having a few weeks to just be still and recharge. There is as much value in doing nothing as there is in being busy. We all need time to think. We all need time to rest. Your kids will benefit from some time to just be themselves, quietly (or not) playing and under no pressure to be anything other than children.
Everything we know and understand about life has shifted – albeit temporarily. Nothing is as we expect it to be. By now, you will probably have accepted that school is closed. You are probably ready to accept queuing to enter the supermarket.
Now is the moment to accept that it’s okay for you to ease your expectations of yourself too.
Stay at home, stay safe, stay true to yourself.