When Coronavirus/Covid-19 hit us in March 2020 – I felt like I had been in training for it as I’d been in a mini lockdown of my own for the last few years. However my children had a different experience.
They stopped going to school.
School was where they learned, they made things, they interacted with others and they played. It was sudden. The news had mentioned the possibility of schools shutting. But when the Government announced it – we had little time to plan and prepare for it.
One moment our children were happy in their normal world but the next moment things had changed. They were at home all day and homeschooling began. We started homeschool with lots of enthusiasm. Like school, we had a routine – Yoga/PE, schoolwork, lunch, afternoon project work, etc. And lots of snacks in between. Thank goodness we had a number of devices at home (including a printer) to help.
We were all pretty exhausted and frustrated with each other at the end of day.
Trying to maintain a routine/structure without going to a different environment is hard. Trying to maintain that routine and meet my self-set expectations quickly took its toll. Even though I was spending less physical energy – the mental and emotional energy spend exhausted me. Eventually we gave up on homeschooling – mainly because of my ME/CFS. We had tried. I had so wanted to make it work but I crashed.
I wonder whether I would have given up quite so quickly if I wasn’t ill – the answer is sadly no. I probably would have kept going (even if it exhausted me) and to the detriment of all of our mental health. However thankfully my ME/CFS journey enabled me to let go a bit earlier than I would have before. I still need to let go more – but it’s a start. I have so much respect for those who are able to recognise the need to change their expectations for the sake of their mental health – if only I was so sage.
In September – my children returned to school. What happened when they returned to “normal”?
Well the kids settled quickly back into the school routine. They were excited. They adapted – albeit they were tired and very emotional. As others say – children are resilient.
It made me wonder what would happen if my illness went away and I could return to an old “normal”.
Would I be commuting again, going from meetings to meetings whilst juggling people management, facilitating workshops, managing stakeholders, doing book bag admin when I got home, doing the online shop on the commute?
I’m starting to accept that there’s no returning to my old “normal” – and maybe it’s a cloud with a silver lining. But I still do need to recognise and accept that I need to change some of my ways as I continue to adapt to my new normal.
If you look at what I did with home schooling – an initial spur of energetic enthusiasm, setting a routine which was unrealistic for my personal energy resources, beating myself up for my self-imposed expectations, organising regular Zoom calls for my children and their friends – and then crashing. A typical Boom and Bust pattern!
So it seems I still need to learn about myself and how to manage my illness to stop the Boom and Bust.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself with those self-set high expectations – lower them!
- Check those expectations to realise what you may not be consciously aware of – talk with someone to check in
- Go slow – whatever you’ve planned – cut it by half
- A new process or routine which you’ve planned and decided will be a good way forwards will not solve everything – it may cover all the bases you can think of but you will not have fully considered your personal resources sensibly
- Yes – processes and systems do not solve everything (!)
- We are resilient and adapt
- Lowering expectations isn’t giving up or admitting you’re not good enough – it’s adapting to circumstances
- Re-read this as your brain will automatically dismiss this as soft mambo jumbo even though you’ve got a case study above to refer to
- Keep working on Boom and Bust!
And what have I learned from my children during lockdown
- It’s nice to get out of the house and be in a different environment interacting with different people
- I need to learn
- I need to produce things
- I need to interact with others
- I need to play
Just like my kids do.
Even if there’s an illness out there that hinders me.