I am the first to admit that I am never fully content, I am always striving for perfection, the next challenge, the next big project, that might just make me feel complete. For many people lockdown has presented itself as period of productivity, completing CPD courses, listening to podcasts, refining schemes of work and creating amazing resources. For me it has been the antithesis of this.
When lockdown was announced 4 weeks ago, I was devastated. Work gives me a huge sense of self-worth, I thrive off being in the classroom, I love the interaction with my students and the satisfaction I get from helping others to be successful. From a purely selfish perspective, how was I going to survive looking after my OWN children? I had struggled during my second bout of maternity leave. At points, I felt completely overwhelmed, as if I had lost all sense of myself. I had a newborn baby and an 18 month old, both entirely dependent on me for survival. The thought of lockdown left me genuinely frightened for my own mental health.
Lockdown has presented me with many challenges. Sometimes I feel overcome with inertia, because my children need me, and maybe because I am my own worst enemy. I am unable to be as productive as I would like. My tiny humans need constant supplies of snacks (I’m talking every hour!), nappy changes, entertaining and refereeing. I feel suffocated at not being able to be with my parents, to go on play dates, to just get on with simple tasks- like putting washing in the machine (I’m not even joking!). The house is in chaos, I am drinking too much, my screen time is out of control and if I hear ‘Alexa play the poo poo song’ one more time…I might just explode!
But has it really been that bad? Lockdown for all of its lows has also given me the opportunity to be more reflective. The slower pace has given me time to address what’s really important to me. I’ve learnt things about myself. Some days I feel like superwoman…in fact I am superwomen, other days I just don’t want to get out of bed, but I have no choice. For all of us it’s about survival on some level. It’s so important not to compare our experiences to others. Comparison really is the thief of joy, and there is a lot of joy to be had, despite these difficult circumstances. We must not forget that what people choose to post on social media is merely a highlight of their day. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to heavily filtered snap shots of a single moment in time, we should not use it these images to measure our own value. We should not allow these snapshots to make us feel inadequate.
Here are few survival strategies that have kept me relatively sane:
- Exercising has helped to keep me on an even keel. Exhilarating runs around my local park, early in the morning, have got my endorphins going and allowed me to escape it all, even if just for half an hour. I never really realised the beauty all around me, until now, and thank goodness for this unseasonably great weather.
- Smiling knowingly at strangers. A real feeling that ‘We’re all in this together’ (I hate High School Musical, but it just seemed apt). Conversations with neighbours, I have barely spoken to before. A prevailing sense of community spirit and cohesion.
- Having time with my children. Watching them play together (and occasionally strangle each other) has brought me so much happiness. My youngest is finally starting to talk. It’s made my heart burst to see them grow closer everyday.
- Reaching out to friends, being honest about my highs and lows and not being judged. Family quizzes, books, films and box sets (check out Unorthodox on Netflix- it’s phenomenal),
- Watching other people thrive (EduTwitter and the History teaching community are just smashing it- I salute you!) and if you are not smashing your curriculum planning, does it really matter?
- Listening to music I loved as a teenager, a feeling of reliving my lost youth. Skunk Anansie, Idlewild, Stereophonics, Ash, Symposium, Alanis Morissette (feminist icon). It’s been liberating. Evoking those feelings of teenage angst and the joy of a sweaty mosh pit, has proven a great distraction.
- Accepting that I can only do what I can do. That I am enough. Trying to appreciate the now, being in the moment and being thankful for all of the things that are both wonderful and challenging in my life.
We are all trying our best to navigate our way through these difficult times. Let’s try and support each other, ‘A rising tide lifts all the boats.’ Reach out if you feel like you are drowning, I’ve been there.