Marion lives with her 6 year old daughter Grace.
Images from Marion and Grace’s discussion.
Have you talked about coronavirus with your child? What does she understand about it?
I have, in little bits. She’s heard a lot of what I’ve said, but I’ve tried not to be talking about this big thing just for the sake of it. I’ve been responding to her questions: Why can’t I see grandma? Why can’t I go roller-skating? But I’ve not talked about it a lot in case it planted seeds or made it a bigger thing. So, I’ve told her there’s a virus that is quite easy to spread, it affects other people mainly, but we have to be careful because we don’t want to spread it to other people’s grandmas, that’s why we have to wash our hands a lot. It makes it more difficult in terms of where we can go and who we can see. I call it ‘the virus’. I didn’t go into the science of it too much. At 6 she understands what’s happening, because we were at home for 6 months, which isn’t usual. She calls it ‘the stupid virus’. She gets frustrated that we can’t do stuff, can’t go and see grandma, see friends, go to soft play. She gets annoyed about having to do the hands all the time, and wearing the masks.
What happened in those first few weeks of lockdown?
That was hard, really hard. It was quite a shock. I was a bit in denial about how far things would go, from seeing swine flu. I was a bit sceptical and thought it might be a lot of hype, until they closed schools. It was bad, the general atmosphere being quite high alert. I found that quite a shock. More of a shock to me because I lost all of my work in the space of two weeks. I remember that felt a little bit Armageddon-esque.
Obviously we spent a lot more time together, we were home schooling, we weren’t able to see friends and family – and for me that had been childcare. There was zero childcare all of a sudden. Usually, she’d go into school, or I had friends that could pop in for a couple of hours while I did work or went to a class. I had no headspace at all.
What was the experience of lockdown like for you?
For me, well, to start there was the working from home which was hard. I was working next door, doing Zoom calls, and I would be wondering, is she going to pull a load of books down on her? You know she’s probably not, but it’s so hard to focus when your brain is split. If it wasn’t just me there might have been another person here, or even a sibling could help, to watch her. I felt quite stretched not having any peer support either.
Pretty soon though work stopped, being self-employed I wasn’t eligible for furlough and everything just stopped for the first three or four months. Some aspects of what I do I could have started a bit sooner, but I didn’t have the headspace for it. Come May June I started to do a bit on line. I lost all of my work and had to sign on to Universal Credit. I went from earning all of my own money to Universal Credit and I’ve been able to top that up with a few bits of work but, I couldn’t live on what I’m earning right now.
There’s so much uncertainty about the future of people that are now unemployed. Everyone was piping in, ‘oh you should just go out and get a job.’ I didn’t have any childcare. I haven’t got a problem in going to work in Tesco if I could, but I have no childcare. I’m also a single parent and I need to stay well. The Government were scaremongering a wee bit, saying a 35-year-old died from it. I couldn’t assess the risk properly and I didn’t want to put myself and her at risk. Who’s going to look after her? Mainly, it was the childcare though.
At the beginning of lockdown it felt quite intense. It was awful not being able to see family and friends, for the peer support, the childcare. You can chat to people on the phone, so that was hard, probably more for me than her. A lot of people became quite withdrawn, so I probably had less contact in lots of ways.
People are saying everyone’s in the same boat. They are and they’re not. For me I had my whole career and money taken away from us. Time, headspace, all the things I was building up, disappeared. Her starting school was a massive thing for me. I couldn’t be properly creative until she was in school, in that regular routine. Her time away at school was taken and I was just back to that mothering role, it started bringing back feelings for the post-natal responsibility. It is so hard to do anything creative when you are looking after somebody full time.
But you know, me slowing down was good for me. We started doing a lot more walks in nature and taking photos and drawing. That’s something that developed. I have been doing ballet classes online, while she’s in the room. It is difficult to go out to a class at the same time every week as a single parent.
There was a lot of change, very fast and we had to adapt. Even the little changes that came about in June – you could go out a lot more and meet somebody outside – that made a massive difference. Even if it’s just meeting a friend for a walk in the park lightens the load a little bit.
It has made my relationship with my partner stronger. I thought it was so reckless for the Government to tell people to move in with partners. That could be very dangerous as a single parent and for their children.
How was learning at home?
My child goes to a Gaelic speaking school, but I don’t speak the language and so I’ve been learning a lot. That’s one thing that has changed: I’ve been learning a lot of Gaelic. It was really hard. Having the mental capacity to sit down and home school and the guilt that comes from the days you don’t do it. That was quite a lot of stress. The school were really good. They offered us Gaelic buddies to help. Certainly for children her age, they said just do what you can. I told them I can’t continue teaching Gaelic and she was sensing I didn’t know what I was talking about – rightly so – so I said I was going to teach her to read in English. And they said that was totally fine. They sent us lots of resources.
Practically, we had my laptop but because my laptop is quite an expensive one that I use for work, and I don’t really like her touching it because it’s very fragile, I did feel like I had to supervise. She does have a little Kindle, but that wasn’t ideal, and we have my phone.
I don’t think she liked home schooling, seeing me going from mummy to teacher and seeing me so stressed. She’s quite a warm, bubbly, loving child, so if she sees my friends, she would be happy to play with them. She was so used to interacting with me, who loves her unconditionally. For so long she didn’t have to fit in socially any more, because she hadn’t been part of a collective. She’s only had 3-4 years of developing those skills and she reverted back to being a toddler.
When she went back to school, it was like her mind just lit up and her imagination was sparking. She had turned into a bit of a zombie, just wanting to watch TV all the time and I would have to wrestle the remote from her. She came back from school and she ask to different things, or she would sit on the step and draw a bird, and it was all coming from her
How do you think lockdown affected your daughter?
We did do a lot, dance routines, baking, little projects. I think she enjoyed that. She liked me being home more. It gave her some security, having that constant. But we don’t have a garden, and the parks were shut for the first while but we could play in a field. The police were patrolling anyone who stopped to play, and there was a lot of anxiety about the police talking to people. Friends of mine got stopped by them for playing football with their five year old, and for sitting on a picnic blanket. Also going out in a public space was quite stressful. Especially where we live, it’s so densely populated. People were getting quite angry with children in public.
But I’d say that she adapted to it quite well, as six year olds do. It wasn’t until we started coming out of lockdown and were seeing friends that I realised the impact that lockdown had had on her. Her social skills suffered more than I realised. Because we were here all the time, it wasn’t until we were back out in the community that I realised how much her social skills had been suffering. Her confidence and just the way she was interacting with people was different.
If you’d asked me, before she went back to school how she was, I would have said she was fine. But, when she went back to school, there was a massive change in her. Since she got back to school, she’s been really good.
What was the hardest thing for you about parenting during those months we were in lockdown?
Keeping up the morale and energy. I felt like getting up and watching box sets or going for a run on my own. Some days I don’t want to play Hungry Hippos. The guilt that came from that. And then some days, it would be telly on all day and I just felt terrible about that. That felt awful. I can’t even be bothered to play Hungry Hippos with my child during lockdown.
We did do a lot of interesting stuff and learning, but she didn’t have anyone else to burn that energy off with. Some weekends we would be really busy with people doing things all day and she would come home and watch the telly, and I don’t mind that.
The uncertainty about everything. The uncertainty about work, about not being able to see my partner. It felt like everybody was not sure-footed. I felt the rocks in my life all felt a bit wobbly. It reminded me a lot of bereavement. I had a lot of bereavements in a short time when I was 18 and everyone was grieving, and I couldn’t confide in my gran or mum because they were so full of grief. It was a bit like that.
I suppose it was a lot about a lack of stimulation for my child, lack of headspace, lack of childcare. Suddenly having to be the sole carer again, brought back all of those feelings you get with post-natal anxiety and claustrophobic feeling. I can’t go to the toilet, I can’t play my piano in peace… If they close schools again, I’ll have to come up with another plan. Schools being closed was a massive blow.
How are things now, as we emerge from lockdown and the school has re-opened?
So much better – back to school, being able to see my partner more easily, being able to see family, even though they live down south, being able to go to shops and not being so stressful, being able to go out a little bit more, being able to meet somebody for coffee is massive, the parks being open, because she can burn off all this energy.
I was a bit nervous about her going back to school but I had done a lot of reading around the risk to children and transmission. She was ready and excited and I was really pleased about her going back. I feel really sad about physical distancing. This is one of the only times in their lives where they can be really loving and physical and I was a bit sad they were being told not to hold hands and to hug their friends. But she doesn’t seem that distressed about it. The kids are so young, they just get used to things like masks quickly.
Financially though it has been bad. The school didn’t do anything to help. The schools could have helped with school things and uniforms. I was a bit sad about the guidance that said ‘Drop off in a mask and go. Don’t talk to anyone at the school gates.’ Especially when you are a single parent, those interactions mean a lot. It’s a community.
The school sent a video out from the head for children, and lots of information for parents about what would happen. But they didn’t do a meet the teacher online. They have done a video, but usually you would meet the teacher, but I’m dropping her off to somebody I don’t know.
Do you have any concerns looking ahead?
I’m concerned about work, the lack of it and how that’s going to look. I’m concerned about the schools closing. I’m concerned about the long term impact on health, children’s immunity. She’s not had a cold for 8 months for example. I’m worried about how her life might look if this goes on for a long time. Will we be able to take her on holiday, to see family and friends, that kind of thing.
What would help you as a parent/carer in the coming months?
Keeping things like dance classes, school and parks open. More help for artists would be great, because we’re really struggling. A little bit more clarity and logic would help. You can’t have a group of people together singing, but you can have people on a plane flying three times a day to wherever?
We need to make sure that children can still socialise, see friends, and see family. If they do a local lockdown my daughter won’t be ablet to see grandma anymore. One year is a long time in the life of a 6 year old so it does affect relationships. Me being anxious about the future is going to have an impact, and she needs me to be in a stable position to support her.
I am 6 and I like to play games on the Kindle, like PJ Masks. I like being Catboy in PJ masks. I have heard that lots of people are getting sick. We don’t want to spread our germs to other people and we don’t want other people to spread germs to us. We need to stay apart from some friends for the moment. At school, the teacher said lots of people aren’t in class because of it.
My mummy works at home now and we were together a lot when I wasn’t at school. We weren’t able to go to people’s houses and we didn’t see family for a long time. I’m feeling happy now, but not really when grandma was here because the Coronavirus was here and I couldn’t really cuddle her as normal and I couldn’t sleep with her as normal. I had to sleep with mummy until she went. That made me not really happy. I really hope it doesn’t stay, so we can keep seeing our friends.
I went back to school in August. It’s been good to see all of my friends and my best friend. I do miss another friend and we were best friends, but she doesn’t go to my school now, so I don’t see her much. I didn’t see my best friend before I want back to school, but I didn’t see her on Facetime. We have to wash our hands a lot and get dropped off in a different place.
Sometimes I want to go home and I just want to spend some time alone. Sometimes it’s a bit hard to be happy because things are changing a lot as we go back to school.
When I wasn’t at school we would be talking to a man and he was teaching us Gaelic because we weren’t able to go to school, and that happened for a really long time. He was teaching us on the computer and sometimes on the phone. He told us different things like numbers. He was our Gaelic buddy and I made a card for him.
We made this room into a school, but we don’t really need it now because we’ve got school back. We get wee letters about how we are doing, and some things are changing so we get letters about that. We got some messages from the teacher from my old class. We’re not supposed to play with people from our old class, we’re playing apart. We can’t play with people who aren’t in our class. We can wave at them but not play with them. That makes me sad being apart from my friends.