Letters From Lockdown – Our New Normal

lockdown new normal

Now I’m all talked out about the impact. The oh my gosh of the last first few weeks. Weeks four and five of lockdown have seen us emerge out of survival mode and well into what is probably something like acceptance, i.e our ‘new normal’.

The kind of normal where toilet roll, bread flour and pavement chalk are the new commodities and we no longer take our supply chain for granted. When standing 2 metres apart and being wary of any human encroaching is an unsurprising feeling and waiting for the government daily press conference is in line with anticipating a new episode of a tv show in the 90’s. You know the days where live tv was the only option? Imagine that! 

Yet here we have it in stereo. Not only the live announcements but all the updates from every news outlet, social media channels and even Brenda* on facebook who now may aswell work for the government, the NHS or department of education. Heck the way she is talking she has experience of all of the above! 

*name can be changed for any Tom Dick or Harry appropriate. In the absence of any doubt, I don’t know a Brenda! 

At the moment we expect our electric bills to be sky high. Not only due to the home school, home working and overused printer life but the constant stream of tea and coffee! There are three people in the house who now make hot drinks (life skills for the 9 year old right?) I swear that kettle is boiled more than the toilets are flushed and that is saying something.

We expect our inboxes to be flooded with emails stating the ‘unprecedented’ situation about closures, changes, new plans and all of the ways companies are trying to keep the economy afloat happily alongside saving lives. Where the most social interaction we get is standing on our doorstep at 8pm on a Thursday evening to clap for the NHS and keyworkers who help take care of us all.

NHS clap for carers

We live in a life of make do.  Whether that is meals, supplies or entertainment. Our meal plans are made with what’s available more than what we all fancy. We’re finally getting to play and use all the toys and kits we gratefully receive as gifts yet seem to pile up for ‘tomorrow’ and daily woodland walks have become the welcome highlight to all of our days.

new daily walks

Anyone else discovered new routes in an area you know so well yet didn’t even know existed? New views and (for us) an amazing tree that has been struck by lightening yet still lives on charred completely on the inside. Maybe it’s time to cancel the National Trust Membership and big days out for neighbourhood ramblings? Looking for rainbows and chalk driveways to make even street walking much more positive?

Who am I kidding, by the time this is over I will be quite happy never to see those woods again won’t I? At least not for a little while! 

tree stuck by lightening

How cool is this?

tree struck by lightning

We now seem to exist in a sort of eerily silent world where the birds seem so much louder than before, trees sway and a plane overhead suddenly becomes something to question when it would for sure have paled into merely the noises of life previously. It is kind of almost a peaceful opposite to the world situation actual going on outside.

It’s mostly a life where I can sometimes be found looking up and thinking gosh how have I let lunchtime/dinner time pass and damn it now I need some super speedy food. Whilst also seemingly like every minute lasts a year (especially when trying to encourage home schooled maths!) Days seem to roll into weeks, into months, I mean how is it May already?

It’s weird because realistically my life is probably not all that much different than before. Yes there are way more people around these days, but I spent most of my time at home before so I kind of feel more encroached than anything. Like little (and not so little) invaders in my territory!

The upside of that I guess means I have not had to adjust as much as some people who are used to seeing and doing much much more in their day to day lives. Maybe I have even had an easier adjustment than the children, although of course children are generally more amenable anyway.

We make it work. We play board games, spend so much time in the garden our skin has a glow like after a week away, wake the girls up at 10pm to stargaze on a clear night just because and make videos for teachers to keep in touch. We’ve celebrated a lockdown Easter with garden egg hunts as usual, continue to write post its on our ‘until tomorrow’ board to let all the ‘I wish I could do’s’ out and camping in the garden overnight with Eddy. The nearest to adventures they are going to get for a while.

lockdown stargazing

lockdown video for teachers

Eddy and I now talk about things other than logistics which is new! Without his daily commute meaning a 5.30 start we sometimes even have the energy of an evening to have a laugh and not just sit next to each other doing various things like zombies until we go to sleep to start another day. We’ve lit the fire in the garden and star gazed just us with a glass of wine..and a big coat for me!

lockdown new normal nights in garden

Downside? I probably sometimes don’t immediately appreciate that it is much harder for those people.

We are trying to keep to this new normal in our routine for the children. We get up early (as early as usual I mean when you have children, not before 7am in this house!) dressed and ready for the day by 8.30 lest we have a major shock when this is over and we are used to the lie in life. 

Nevertheless right now I am in the camp of relative freedom. To let the children be and let me be. Take pressure off and just laugh. Mostly anyway, you know just in case my husband is reading this after I ask under my breath if it’s bedtime yet and why do they have to be so exhausting as they NEVER. STOP. TALKING. 

There is the wonderful unusual, rare, feeling that we don’t have to make the most of every second because (for now at least) it’s there all the time. There is something weirdly freeing about that. Satisfying even.

I am in the camp to let them express themselves. “Wear what you want” is not something I admit to having said a lot before. I mean we are not exactly going anywhere are we? Daily exercise in your PJs? Sure go ahead. Wellies and shorts? Knock yourself out! It’s freeing and I really like it.

I find myself wondering if it was ever worth worrying about in the first place. You want to wear stripe on stripe with socks and sandals and a cap? Why the heck not. Maybe I am learning more about myself in this lockdown that I ever thought possible. 

new normal lockdown

I wake up in the morning mostly just grateful to be able to take it slow and not have to ask anyone to do anything specific with any kind of timeline. It still all gets done don’t get me wrong but in everyones sweet time. It feels kinda good. 

Yet, and here is a big caveat. I definitely feel like I am purely the facilitator of everyone else lives. The weird juxtaposition of feeling invisible whilst being the only one in constant need. The mind literally boggles.

I have to now be everything. Mum, teacher, sports coach, friend, motivator, disciplinarian.. everything. There is no room for anything else.

Then again, I GET to be everything.

Once, before society befoed us, I WAS everything. Those baby days that I have wished to have back more with every passing year where it was me and only me all day every day and where we were (mostly) just fine. I have totally got this. Home school is a maybe most days because mental health (for me aswell as them) is at the top of the priority list. 

Ok so sometimes I contemplate changing my name because I just can’t hear Mum one more time and as soon as I leave sight it seems a task gets abandoned or suddenly they are incapable of staying focused. 

They talk over me like I don’t matter. Finish my sentences because I take a little longer than their brains care to wait (in part due to the sheer amount of things going on in mine) and at times I feel like a pot about to boil over. I have never understood sensory overload more than right at that second as I try (and often fail) to stop from screaming for everyone to just SHUT UP. Mum of the year right? 

Still, talking to other Mums I know that’s totally ok. I am putting it out there because if this is you too? Cut yourself some slack it’s totally fine. Accept and move on is my new motto. Goodness knows I have enough guilt going on in general. Who knew 9 year olds could be so brutal?

They call me from another room sometimes (like often) in a tone of total and utter urgency or imminent danger; to look at this amazing cute snail they have found in the garden a mere 45 seconds after leaving my side and I want to be enthused and excited, I go out there and am present. But the first instinct is an eye roll and a ‘what now’?

Not all of the time of course and my hope is that this is just how I feel at not what they see, but some of the time it reminds me of the days of singing the same nursery rhyme 4000 times over as babies. I mean what is the rush the snail isn’t going anywhere!

See, Mum of the year. Anyway I digress. 

Personally, I am either making an effort, wearing jeans when everyone is in elastic waistbands and feeling good or picking the same jogging bottoms off the chair from yesterday because again, as my go to phrase right now. Why not? There is literally no in-between.

We have the opportunity right now to say we’ll do it later, the opportunity to say sorry but Mummy is going to do a workout. I have been looking after myself since I have been better more than ever. Dance workouts with the girls, Refit Revolution or Oti Mabuse on YouTube blasted right up in the living room. Yoga and ballet in the garden in the morning sunshine with just the birds and some classical music on Spotify. I could get used to this.

Oh the sunshine! 

Sunshine just makes everything better doesn’t it? I have been SO glad of it lately.

I guess what I am saying is we are simply making time.  

Isn’t it funny how the activities that are getting us through this phase are the very things we only do IF we have time from all the other busyness in our lives. Theatre, music, art, dance, exercise, pure simple family time.

Or that the barrier is in fact not time at all. Time, it has become clear, is not the reason that I don’t; exfoliate, make my own sushi, plan that trip, use that pasta maker still in the box, sort out the garage and ALL those baby clothes in the loft. Time isn’t the road block it was before and yet those products and jobs I always think I’ll ‘get around to’ still sit dusty on the shelf! 

Although I have not worn make up in 6 weeks and my skin has never felt better so maybe that’s one thing. I might never go back. Except my desert island item of mascara that is, I can’t live without my one true love in the real world! 

It mostly feels ok when we are at home. Like you can kinda forget and just get used to this new normal in our little bubble for what it is. An extended lazy weekend or half term with no plans. I must admit to avoiding shops or anything that feels different right now wherever I can. Then if it wasn’t real enough a letter drops through the door to remind us of the situation that we are living in, which is what? To be framed or put into a memory box. Should I buy a newspaper too? Because right now it feels like a moment in time we could never forget.

I try not to think about it too much and I think that’s totally a defence mechanism for everyone. We don’t zoom call all the time we don’t let too much of the outside in because then it feels ok. Like a protection. Although how long we can keep that up I have no idea. 

Whilst I am not sure I will ever feel normal about being 2 metres apart or wary of human contact and being as quick and minimal with anything done outside of the home as possible before we retreat, I do think this new normal is starting to feel very normal now and going back will be even more of an adjustment than this has ever been.

Our new normal consists of having Eddy at home all the time working upstairs, taking breaks to help when things get tough, taking walks in the middle of the day after having lunch with us and without hours and hours of commutes and nights away he’s just here much more. 

The childrens new normal is each other, they almost always choose to play in each others company. Eat next to one another, work next to one another and abandon one task in favour of doing exactly what the other is doing. Mostly enjoying it whilst sometimes shouting to go away. It isn’t unusual as they have always got on well but it is so sweet to see their relationship take the next step. Totally independent of me. Albeit also being thankful they both have their own rooms for their sanctuary!

It’s also weird but I guess not unsurprisingly that their play now involves lockdown and coronavirus. It’s strange to think that this will just all be in their dialogue now. I marvel watching and listening to see how they interpret the world I am trying to protect them from. 

I have been open and honesty with the children all the time whilst protecting their tiny minds. Careful not to keep secrets which make them scared and unsure but plain honesty they can process and understand.

There are a lot of ‘I don’t know either’ and ‘we are in this together’ at the moment.

I also remind them a lot to look for the good. When they are struggling, questioning that in times of crisis look for the helpers, there will always be helpers. That seems to help hone in on the positive less overwhelming side for them, and for me. We try to focus on the people doing the right thing, helping others and concentrating on just being one of them. Though inevitably the rule follower in Eva just has to mutter as we pass people clearly not from the same household in the street that they shouldn’t be doing that! A reminder each time do just do you darling. 

Maybe they’ll never remember what they learnt at home in this time, what we did or what they have to ‘catch up’ on but they will remember the feeling. Hopefully feeling safe, loved, secure and that we used this strange and rare time of everyone at home all the time to enjoy it. To talk, to sit, to laugh to find the happy balance – if it exists from one moment to the other at least. 

It’s a kind of normal now that I won’t lie I genuinely think will be hard to give up. Especially when we don’t know how long it will last. I hope there is enough notice to say goodbye to this life that’s for sure.

How much of this new normal are we going to ensure we bring into our every day lives? 

Hopefully a lot.

In our busy day to day who knew that life in these four walls could be the most precious. And so much fun. Without external expectations or of doing anything (ok ok except the school emails but hey it seems that can never stop entirely) you find more joy in the little things. The ordinary, and not so ordinary any more things, and only hope to bring some of those back. To embrace them as long as this life will allow.

Here’s to the however many weeks of this new normal that lies ahead.

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