What. A. Year. (And a bit). This year has taken me on quite a journey as a parent. I’ve gone from working full time in an office with my children in childcare to working from home whilst trying to be both a teacher and a childminder at the same time. From two kids, to two kids whilst pregnant, to three kids. From a busy social life surrounded and supported by my family and friends to the odd phone call, the frantic text and the odd word over a garden gate. Honestly, if you’d asked me to come up with a parenting challenge that would push me to the limits of what I could cope with, I would never have pulled ‘Global Pandemic’ out of the hat. And yet here we are, over a year into things. Now, as things start to return to a more normal state, I can start to appreciate just how tough it’s been, and exactly what’s been important for me in order to survive. So when Boots UK got in touch and asked me to share our experience and tips around what’s supported us parents during lockdown as part of their Parent Your Way campaign, it seemed like it was meant to be…
Keeping In Touch With Friends & Family
The text from a friend, the photo from another parent drowning in homeschooling, the phone call from my mum whilst cooking dinner. Pre-kids I was great at phoning people for a long catch up of an evening, whereas now, there are never enough hours. I’m that person who reads a text, gets distracted and remembers again at 3am before forgetting to reply the next morning. I guess you could say that I never truly appreciated how much I needed the support of others to get me through the day when I was getting it naturally from face to face interactions. So it’s only natural that when this disappeared, the snippets of contact we did get became a priority for me and something I actively tried to increase.
One of my big resolutions to take forward from this entire debacle is to make more of an effort to keep in touch with those that make me smile and to do so in a way that fits with our busy lifestyle – chatting away via headphones whilst I tidy or cook dinner instead – the kids think I’ve lost the plot and am talking to myself but what’s new there?! One of the other lovely things we embraced was a bit of snail mail, sending letters (and hugs!) from the children and them receiving parcels and post in return. It was fun for them and helped us feel connected with others in a tangible way. An added benefit was that it got the biggest one practicing his writing without really realising it – another thing we’ll definitely be carrying on. I’d forgotten how exciting post is when it isn’t bills!
Relying On Brands I Trust
With two rapidly growing children and a baby on the way, I’d usually make a trip to the shops every few months to top up on clothes and other bits that they need. But without the ability to browse a store and see product quality in person, it meant relying on brands that I know I can trust, especially when it came to buying items for the new baby nursery and other essentials. In past years, I’d have spent hours wandering around shops such as Mothercare with my mum so was pleased to be able to find the Mothercare essentials range available online with Boots. From child and baby clothing through to a baby car seat or two, they literally have all the essentials in one place, and all with the high quality yet affordable price point that we’ve come to know and love! Thanks to this being our third baby, we had most of what we needed but that didn’t stop me from having a top up – just don’t tell Dave that I’ve managed to add to our selection of baby pushchairs (seriously though, there’s a pushchair for every eventuality in our garage!). Shopping the brands I trust from the comfort of my own home, at a time that suits me (usually mid-night feed now!), means this time-strapped parent won’t have to battle with taking three children to the high street… hurrah!
From FaceTime with family to Google Hangouts with colleagues, Zoom calls with teachers and HouseParty nights with friends, this last year has been all about embracing technology in order to bring us closer together when we couldn’t be physically. As someone who would actively avoid a phone call and cringe at the thought of sitting through a video chat, you could say we’ve done an entire 180 in this house; some days we’d have multiple video calls on the go at once! Whilst I’m hugely relieved that we’re no longer relying on a computer screen to see people, the last twelve months have taken the fear away and made all of us confident enough to chat away virtually to one another. We’re carrying it on in a small way with friends and family that live overseas as well as things like PTFA meetings are remaining online – got to say, I’m a convert to doing a meeting in my pjs (well, from the waist down!).
From another technological point of view, the online world really came into its own as a support mechanism. A quick search online allowed me to find answers to any concerns we may have, YouTube helped teach my four year old phonics and online communities became a lifeline of human contact with other parents. Social media made me feel like I wasn’t alone in, well, feeling alone and for that I’m incredibly grateful. It may seem strange that someone who shares elements of their family life online isn’t 100% keen on social media but before this last year I had my doubts about how good it was. Now, having spent hours chatting to friends online who would otherwise be strangers, I realise just how important it is to have those people in my phone… a little reminder that used in the right way, social media can undoubtably be a supportive force for good.
Escaping Into The Great Outdoors
Nothing made me appreciate being able to get outside more than a national lockdown and being stuck at home. 2020 was the year I became profoundly grateful for having a garden and for living minutes away from the woods. Fresh air helps everything. It blows out cobwebs, clears out grumps and helps burn energy. It’s relaxing and invigorating at the same time. It grounds you. When everything just felt like it was overwhelming, a stomp around the woods helped me to forget about the pressures of work and school. When the kids were literally bouncing off of the sofas (bring back soft play, all is forgiven), running around the park burnt off their energy. When we wanted a change of scenery, taking a picnic to the beach felt like a holiday. Leaving the house and getting a good dose of fresh air was one the biggest supports to my mental health during this last year. In fact, to all of ours. What’s the saying ‘when the kids are going crazy, put them outside or in water’? Well, they’re entirely right. My biggest piece of advice for any parent? Escape into the great outdoors as much as possible; it doesn’t have to be fancy or cost you money, just get those shoes on and get out for a good stomp. You’ll feel better for it every. single. time – and so will your little ones!
Taking Advantage Of Support
Being a parent is demanding and non-stop, it takes over all aspects of your life before you know it, especially when you’re in it 24/7, as we all have been for the last year. That’s why it’s hugely important to remember to take time out for yourself and grab those little moments. Whether it’s your partner or your friend, having the support of another in order to give you a break is a necessity; there’s a reason why ‘support bubbles’ were brought in… to help support those who don’t have someone within their home to help. As a person, asking for help and then taking advantage of it when offered, is something that I really struggle with and yet this last year has shown me that without it, I wouldn’t have made it through. Support can mean someone taking on some of the day to day tasks, looking after the children to give you time alone or just being there to talk to. For me, it looks like Dave taking the kids so that I can sit and watch my favourite show in peace whilst laid on the bed – it’s not glamorous but it works! I also know that I need to be a better supporter of myself; giving myself permission to sit down and ignore the various jobs in order to have some time to relax and just breathe. What could be more important than using support to rejuvenate yourself? After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup!
This post is in conjunction with Boots UK but all thoughts are my own.