Seven Women On the High Highs and Low Lows of Parenting in Lockdown

Homeschooling, juggling and a lot of 'mum guilt'.

Working mum and child.

by Rhiannon Evans |
Updated on

It's hard not to play lockdown Top Trumps, but when it comes to parents trying to hold down full-time jobs and homeschool or provide daycare they'd usually pay thousands of pounds a month for... it's easy to see why many feel they hold the winning card.

It's not just the 'double job', it's the fact that freedoms have been taken away, too - some are having to survive in one room as a family, with no outdoor space and closed parks. The grandparent safety net, which was responsible for keeping millions of mothers at work, has been ripped away. Importantly, we've also lost the ability to vent with out friends over a glass (or bottle) of wine when it all gets too much.

And, of course, there are mothers who've given birth in lockdown and are now caring for a newborn without their usual support network.

With all that in mind, we asked seven mothers how they were handling lockdown.

Lucie: ‘I had coronavirus and am being told to rest, but I have a clingy 18-month-old and a business to run!’

We have an 18-month-old and live in a pretty small flat. I started showing symptoms of the virus just after lockdown began and got progressively worse, and then better and worse and it’s just gone on and on. The exhaustion is unbelievable and I’m constantly being told to rest more. But I think I’m resting as much as I can with a clingy 18-month-old who can find me WHEREVER I AM and a business to run!

I had such lockdown FOMO for ages, seeing all these people improving themselves and baking and being meaningful whereas I just feel like a winner for making it to the end of each day.

Now I care less about others and am just enjoying what I can. It’s lovely to see more of my baby and my husband. And there are lots of moments of joy. But it’s bloody hard. And I don’t think people acknowledge the depth of how hard it is enough.

Nadine: ‘Walt Disney really is the man keeping this family afloat right now.’

I am in a constant state of guilt because I know as much as my four-year-old loves being with me and my husband and having us around all the time, neither of us can give him the attention we want to.

The amount of times he’s said to me, ‘Get off your phone’, ‘Stop working’. It’s like he senses when work is playing on my mind and I’m not engaging fully with ‘Mummy, this is my pet fly’.

My husband and I both have big meetings first thing too, which means he can be stuck on a screen for two hours or more and I know this will only mean a major screen withdrawal kick-off once we have to stop it. Thank God for Disney+ is all I can say, Walt really is the man keeping this family afloat right now.

Some days are easier than others, but on the bad days I won’t deny I’ve wished my company would just furlough me, so I can concentrate on my son, which makes me feel so terrible knowing other colleagues are in that boat.

We have had some really special moments too and there is a simplicity that comes from the lack of options that I know I’ll miss when we’re all running around again.

Rachel: ‘I’m actually really enjoying having more time with them.’

I struggled at first, with feeling like I wasn’t doing either my job or childcare properly; I was so distracted from both.

But, now, I’m trying to go easier on myself and focus fully on the thing that I’m doing. So, if I have 20 minutes to do a bit of maths with the five-year-old, or if I’m doing a walk around the block with the three-year-old, then I pay full attention to that and don’t look at my phone – emails can wait 20 minutes. And, when I’m working, I don’t feel guilty about ignoring the kids because, after all, they’re getting a lot more of me at the moment.

Now that I’ve decided to do that, I’m actually really enjoying having more time with them. And I’m loving eating every meal together as a family. We’re actually having proper conversations. I feel like I’m seeing the side of my son that his teacher and friends get to see, rather than the knackered version pre-8.30am and post-6.30pm, which is obviously all I get during the week when working in the office.

Jessica: ‘The homeschooling is impossible while I’m working from home.’

I thought I would want to kill my kids, or myself, within four days of lockdown, but have actually really enjoyed the extra time we have together and the enforced slower pace of life.

My daughter is 13 and she’s in her room cracking on with school work without my input. At least that’s what she claims she’s doing… But what I’m not enjoying is trying to get my younger one, who’s nine, to do school work. It’s impossible while I’m WFH. He can’t do any task for more than five minutes without needing help. My paid work has to come first so I’m just making sure he does the most basic maths and English and forgetting the rest. I do get a twinge of anxiety every time I log on to Google classroom and hear from the teacher talking about the ‘amazing’ project work being uploaded and think about all the stay-at-home and furloughed mums who have time to invest in their child’s education. But I consider it a good day if mine hasn’t spent 12 hours solid playing Fortnite!

Susanne: ‘I worry I’m not a good mum.’

Being on lockdown with my toddler has played havoc with my insecurities about whether I’m a good enough mum. I’m not even doing the childcare, as my husband has been furloughed. But you’re up in the morning before work, then after work it’s bath and bed… if he sleeps! I’m eyeing all those Netflix recommendations and ‘bedside book stacks’ everyone is putting on Instagram jealously, then trying to check myself – I know I’m so lucky in so many ways.

He often comes into where I work and says, ‘What you doing?’ and I feel really guilty. But the real guilt comes from still enjoying my work and worrying about what I’d do with him all day if I got furloughed. He’s a lovely, intelligent child, and is just into everything, so occupying him without access to a softplay centre, or other kids, is challenging.

I miss him like mad in my normal life, and often cry when I miss bathtime and I am glad I’ve been around at this age – he’s learning so much every day and I know I’d been gutted to missing out on all of this if I was only seeing him a rushed hour before work, getting us all out of the house.

But sometimes – especially when I can’t sleep, probably because he’s woken me up at 2am – I worry that the way I’m feeling and acting means I’m not a good mum.

Aimee: 'We've developed an even tighter bond.'

I am loving being a mother in lockdown. I thought it would be much worse than it is. It does have its moments and it’s hard trying to keep both my child and work happy at the same time, but I love hanging out with him and feel we have developed an even tighter bond. He makes me laugh a lot and is a constant reminder of why we work so hard. I am actually quite nervous about the time when this is over and I will go back to seeing so much less of him.

Zoe: 'Having a newborn at the best of times is hard, but not having my mum around is heartbreaking.'

I must say I’m really feeling the strain now. My husband is working and busier than ever, and having a devilish two-year-old and a 12-week-old baby is tough. Having a newborn is hard at the best of times, but not having my mum around at this special time is heartbreaking... not only for her, but for the children. We had to make the hard decision that she wouldn’t come and live with us during this time, due to her still seeing my nan, who is 94 and bedridden with dementia. Luckily we have a good team of carers who look after her during the day, but she still needs her washing done, food cooked and the house looked after.

It’s such a shame that she will never get this time back again with her newborn grandson and we have missed out on the baby classes that my daughter enjoyed. Trying to entertain a toddler daily is tricky, then you have mum guilt when you stick Peppa Pig on.

I know we’ve got our health and we need to be utterly grateful of that, but in a tough situation all I want to do is hug my mum.

READ MORE: LOL, Remember When You Thought You Wanted More Time With Your Kids?

READ MORE: How The Coronavirus Schools Shutdown Is Adversely Affecting Working Mums - And What You Can Do About It

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