Looking back over the last year's blog posts, you would think that that self-isolation, social distancing and government imposed lockdown are a cake walk for the Ubiety team- we are the masters of zen, after all.
Wrong, wrong, wrong (well for me anyway, I'll interrogate my colleagues later).
Having been on maternity leave within the last twelve months, I'm all too familiar with the stress and anxiety that can arise when structure and routine is removed. The days can morph together only punctuated by mealtimes and the occasional 'first'. First smile, first laugh, first word, you know it's meant to be a blissful time but it's still a challenge.
Maternity leave is a choice but mothers know (new and experienced), that when struggling with parental anxiety, sleep deprivation and a lower income that it can be immensely stressful.
Lockdown feels like this a thousand-fold- except perhaps not even one adult is allowed the respite of going to work and both incomes are at risk.
Still, research does fortunately tell us, that the principles for staying sane, whether on maternity leave, on an oil rig, or stranded on a desert island remain the same.
Since I'm on furlough for the foreseeable future and I could do with helping myself to a dose of sanity, here is a summary of some things I intend to do to keep going through these difficult times.
1. I'm going to own my space- if I am stuck in it, I need to make it work. I'm dividing it up so there are spaces to be together and importantly, spaces to be apart.
I'm trying to make my environment feel as spacious as possible. I've been putting stuff away and moving the furniture about to see if I can make it work better.
I'm moving my houseplants so I can see them and get a sense of 'outside' where ever I am- if you don't have them, next time you get a food shop pick up some cheap ones if you can. Plants create more oxygen in the home, keeping the atmosphere fresh.
I'm keeping a window open and putting on an extra jumper! Fresh air is good for your health and stops you stagnating. I did get a little bit enthusiastic about fresh air and have chilblains again, so I encourage you to wear proper socks and slippers.
I'm going to keep lighting a candle or some incense every day to commemorate getting closer to better times and also to get rid of the smell of children's farts. It is starting to smell like school here!.
2. Home schooling-aaargh.
I've made a rough timetable- this means that I know what's coming and so do the kids. It's pretty simple, Maths, English, Science and topic work on different mornings and afternoons with lots of play in between. We'll get what we can done, then move on to the next thing.
This is what they do in school! Having volunteered in classrooms, I'm lucky enough to know that it's a lot more chilled than you might think and do many pieces of work, over several sessions. If you think it's hard with one or two, imagine 15 kids each (a TA helping maybe, if not, then 30). Do the math and then lower your expectations of what's possible in one day accordingly.
I'm going to try and create a dedicated space for it. Setting it up so that it feels formal and setting expectations for 'school time' without visible distractions.
I'm trying to give the kids breaks at their usual times and make them go outside- if you don't have a garden, throw about a bit and help them get rid of their 'crazy.'
YouTube Just Dance videos are a great way to get everyone moving around, (as well as Joe Wicks of course). I used to do these by myself as my aerobic exercise, I feel that I should climb back on that horse as I've caught myself doing bored eating.
I'm packing it all away at 3.20pm. If your kid isn't too happy about the home schooling situation (my son thought he was going to get to play Fortnite for several months), they'll be happy to have it out of sight for a few hours and then see it as a 'fresh challenge' the next day.
I'm not going to get stressed if the lesson plans I've been given aren't working for me and the kids. I am not a teacher. If it's all too much, I'll stick on a documentary about something relevant (ish) and give myself a break.
When doing the daily walk outside, I'm going to challenge the whole family to ask questions about what they see around them. I'm going to order 'My Family and Other Animals' and make the kids read it, so they self-educate using the natural world (cough).
3. I'm going to maintain my sense of self
I'm making a timetable so I get dedicated time to be on my own. Believe it or not, the thirty hours I do a week at work, are respite for my brain. Now I'm not working, I need to fill that gap with writing and reading and maybe even some exercise.
If you are on your own, try to buddy up with a friend or family member, to make sure you get time to chat and be sociable- luckily not such an issue for me, as a hardened introvert and homebody, however, I use my walk to the food shop as an opportunity to call my mum and make sure she is okay.
I'm going to get up and get dressed every day and make the children do the same. I've never been a pyjama person and I'm not going to become one now.
I'm using my wardrobe as an opportunity to be creative at home. This also increases the likelihood of me leaving the house to get food. I love the idea of people having video parties and getting dressed up- I won't go that far but putting on makeup and nice things is part of my self-care, so I won't stop now.
I'm going to catch up on my reading and when I can, do it sitting in a patch of sun.
I'm going to take long luxurious baths.
I'm giving myself a food weekend where I don't make something from scratch and order a takeaway if budget allows....
I'm going to provide my family with delicious home cooked meals that tick all the nutritional boxes and which they will eat without complaint. I'm going to make the children eat their crusts.
I'm going to grow a pair of wings and a halo and my improved lifestyle will take off ten years from my age.
...I just realised how much I've annoyed myself by sounding like I know what I'm doing. I really don't!
Perhaps the rest of this will be things I won't be doing....
5. Developing defined abdominal muscles.
6. Not drinking
7. Talking in a calm voice at all times.
8. Taking up yoga
9. Baking bread
10. Refraining from cutting my fringe badly.
This article is an excellent and professional guide to coping with new home life, I recommend you read this and then just be kind to yourself.