I know I’m not supposed to say this, but I quite enjoyed the 2020 lockdown. It came at a time when I was totally overwhelmed, going out too much, spending too much money and not making time for myself and my goals.
Coping with lockdown in 2020 meant practising daily yoga, taking time to meditate and focusing on personal and professional growth (whilst also trying not to become one of those smug annoying personal growth people). Hence, I left 2020 as a pretty fulfilled person clear on the direction I was going in. I didn’t need another lockdown. Probably none of us did. If you, like me, did manage to get something out of the first one then you’re probably done too, right? Firstly, 2021 lockdown had the audacity to start in January. The worst, longest and most depressing month of the year. Many people said last time that it was the ‘unknowing’ that made it so hard but I don’t always think that’s true. Yes, the unknowing can be disarming because we’re not in control. However, if we’re totally honest, it also made it a bit exciting, didn’t it? There was a buzz around it all, something to talk about - ‘how long do you think it will last?’ ‘Is bulk buying sensible or selfish?’ ‘Will people will try to drive less to help the planet after all this is over?’
Now we know the answers - Forever. Selfish. No. The abnormality of the pandemic kept us busy adjusting, reviewing, discussing, speculating. As soon as it became the 'new normal' then coping with lockdown became monotonous.
In addition, having been through it before we cant fool ourselves into thinking that homeschooling is going to be a special time to bond more with our kids. Or an opportunity to play a leading role in their learning. Now we know that’s bullshit.
My daughter is an avid learner so I approached homeschooling in 2020 thinking how lovely it would be to see her enjoy schooling myself. Have you finished rolling around on the floor laughing now? Yeah, I know. Home-educating doesn’t work that way. She hates learning from me and I’ve discovered I’m a terrible teacher, especially when it comes to maths. Why anyone would choose to homeschool is beyond me!
Coping with lockdown in 2021 feels very different and I’ve found the strategies I used to get through the first time are no longer working. Which has made me realise there’s no magic method to dealing with this shit. Since the way we’re all feeling seems to be changing, it stands to reason that our ways of coping should too. Here’s how my ways of coping with lockdown 3.0 have changed from the first time around, and how I’m doing it (again) as a single, self-employed mum and staying sane (ish).
Traded in Yoga For Kickboxing
I was a daily practitioner of yoga not only during lockdown 1.0 but before too. This winter though I’ve found it so tough to get back to the mat. This was a real source of frustration for me because it felt like I wasn’t taking care of myself. So I asked myself, what did yoga do for me in 2020? Apart from being great exercise and ‘me time’, it primarily calmed me and quietened anxiety when it reared its ugly head. So maybe, I thought, I wasn't wanting to practise yoga because it wasn't what I needed. I'm not feeling anxious this time around.
However, I'm pissed off. I’m frustrated and I’m bored and I don’t need some way to find my energy I need somewhere to put my energy. Although I am entirely committed to us all doing whatever is necessary to limit the spread of this virus and reduce fatalities, that resolve doesn’t prevent it from being highly frustrating.
So, 2021’s workout for coping with lockdown life has been kickboxing/boxercise. Oh my god, it feels so good to get all that energy out! To truly exhaust my body. This lockdown I don’t need a daily exercise routine to find myself in, I need one to lose myself in. Kickboxing has been the solution. I’ve swapped quiet (which is getting a bit tiresome now), for noise. I’ve swapped stretching for punching out and I’ve swapped flow for rhythm. Yoga will always be a part of my life and I’m still doing a bit if I wake up achy and for 10 minutes at night to relax my muscles before bed. A daily boxercise or kickboxing session however, is what’s blowing out the cobwebs of this third lockdown and I’d highly recommend it.
Traded Countryside Rambles For Evening Urban Strolls
Walking was a great new-found love of mine in 2020. This New Year The National Trust themselves tweeted that even they were getting fed up of walks!
I’m sure that countryside walking and I will resume our romance in the spring but, for now, it’s too muddy to walk in the countryside near me. I’ve fallen over in mud too many times and can no longer gaze at the horses in the stables beside me and pretend to myself that it’s just mud I’m likely sitting in. Plus it gets dark so early.
Hence I’ve taken to socially distanced urban walks with my neighbour. It’s quite nice walking the streets at night. I’ve been brought up to never walk at night alone unless absolutely necessary (running out of wine for instance), so my neighbour and I take a walk around the quiet streets for a while to stretch our legs. As someone whose working day is now disrupted with homeschooling, I’m finding I often need to return to my laptop in the evenings to finish my work. Walking for just half an hour in the early evening creates a necessary break between the day and evening and gives me that much-needed last bit of energy.
Finding My Tribe I’m rejecting all Zoom quiz offers this lockdown. There is no more effective way of making you feel as if you’re on the backfoot than being a single person Zoom quizzing with a load of couples. I’m even jealous when they argue! And I love being single but it’s as if they’re joking around together on a podium in Pointless and I got stuck in a Mastermind chair and it’s never my specialist subject.
In late 2020 though I found my tribe and that has helped enormously. As much as I love and miss my treasured group of friends, none of them are single mothers balancing homeschooling with self-employment. Many of them are struggling in different circumstances, but it’s hard to identify with one another’s’ situations and talking about mine feels like I’m moaning. Moaning should be fun and preferably, funny. Not self-pitying or point-scoring over who has things the hardest. Somehow, expressing frustration when talking to those in different realities, can turn into this and it’s not only dull but really unhelpful.
Working and networking with other women in my position has been a great relief. We laugh together and swap stories of how we’re coping (or not coping) without need for explanation or clarifications. It’s freeing, that shared experience. It’s funny instead of depressing, and it brings us together rather than separates us.
I have a good group now to vent with, where we each leave feeling lighter. So I can be there for my other friends without venting to them about a set of circumstances they can't relate to.
Surrendering to real balance
During the last lockdown, I was scrambling around worrying about being able to keep work coming in. All of my self-employed friends panicked in the first lockdown. Clients stop investing in services when the market is volatile. I homeschooled during the day, stressed about not spending time promoting myself, and I worked until late every night. Most women I know did the same and felt they were failing at both. No one failed but I know now we weren’t doing it right.
The fact is, achieving in our lives outside the home does not make up for not achieving within the home. Achieving within the home but not achieving outside can mean financial problems and dissatisfaction. Either way, we end each week feeling unfulfilled and stressed. I started this lockdown topped with homeschooling scenario the same way I began the 2020 one. I asked my seven-year-old to get on with her work whilst I did mine. Sometimes she can but usually, it would end up in her trying to get my attention and complaining about schoolwork. I’d get frustrated which meant I couldn’t help her properly. I’d get very little done during the day and by the time she was in bed I was too drained to be creative. Now I surrender. I still work alongside her but when she is struggling I shut my laptop and give her my time, however much she needs. I don’t worry about taking time out of my work. You know what? It’s usually not much time because when I’m helping her without feeling like I should be doing something else, she needs far less of my time. My patience and willingness are what gives her the confidence to finish off by herself. It’s not perfect. I still have to work in the evenings to make up for the lost time. Yet, I’m now doing it coming off the back of mostly good days where I know I’m truly doing my best for her. Then it’s time for me to work and I get it all done so much faster when the day hasn’t been full of friction. Sometimes balance means taking things one bite at a time. That’s how I’m doing it this time. If I focus on what needs to be achieved each day it’s all too much but if I break it down to what needs to be achieved in the next 10 minutes then it becomes more manageable. Being there for my clients is important, being there for my daughter is important and so is being there for myself. To be there for myself, I need to be achieving at home and out in the world. That’s what Glennon Doyle believes and, as she points out, this is not an aspiration that should belong only to women.
What concerns me
I’m reading a lot in the news and in social media about women taking time out of their careers in lockdown to care for the kids. Putting their aspirations on hold. Of course, there are times when we need to do this to care for the people we love. I love my daughter more than anything in the world but if I reject myself whilst loving her then what I am teaching her about love? Don’t get me wrong - I’m not a particularly capable person. I move like a sloth in the mornings and there are a thousand things, as I write this, that need doing in my home. Despite this, I’m also a single mother still moving forward in my career whilst homeschooling. It’s fucking tough, I won’t lie. But it’s not as tough as I’d find things if I weren’t doing both because both things make me happy.
I’m single and happy to be because I haven’t yet met someone who can be a real partner. So why are so many women who have 'partners' putting their dreams on hold right now?
If you’re in a partnership then now is the time to take advantage of that. Make sure you’re using that partnership in these tough times to keep each other’s dreams alive whilst both supporting your family. Of course, if you’re feeling overwhelmed then that’s different but sometimes there’s another way through rather than giving up a part of yourself?
This lockdown will end at some point so I’ve found the best thing I can ask myself is who and where do I want to be when it does? If you’re thinking you’ll be left wanting when this is all over then address that now. Life is short. Don’t plan for periods of unfulfillment. If you see that ahead then build paths around it.
Do what you need to right now to get through this because it’s shit. It really is. But don't lead everyone else through this challenging time only to realise you've left yourself behind.
And maybe invest in a punchbag.