I know it’s 2020 but I’ve lost track of what day, week, month or season it is. I don’t know if this is a mutual feeling for other Melburnians, but it feels like we’ve been in lockdown for more or less the whole year. And some days it’s really tough.
I will preface all of this by saying I’m really lucky and incredibly grateful. My partner and I are fortunate enough to still be working full time and not have added financial pressures on top of everything else going on right now. But sometimes it’s still really tough.
I actually used to work from home even before lockdown. I can’t tell you how productive I am working from home and the wonderful family-friendly flexibility that it gives me to pick up my kids from school, be more physically present as a parent and just manage my time in general.
Did you know that the average office worker gets interrupted every 11 minutes, and that it then takes around 25 minutes to return to the original task they were distracted from?
Less distractions in a quiet and peaceful home mean that some days I would feel more productive in one day than I would in an office all week. That feeling of high productivity quickly went out the window however when Melbourne’s first lockdown hit. I was now still working from home full time while having two primary school aged children at home – bye bye productivity.
My partner, who I soon renamed “The Lucky One”, was still able to leave home for work, which left me with the juggle of full-time work, kids at home 24/7 and helping them navigate this new, strange world of remote learning. By the afternoon of day one of remote learning, we were all in tears. We read Dr Seuss’s Wacky Wednesday that night before bed – it had never felt more relatable.
We eventually got into a bit of a groove, but I constantly felt like I was failing at everything.
Failing at being a good parent, constantly distracted or busy, or telling my kids to go away and stop pulling faces in the background of my online meetings (they’ve since discovered I’m most likely to saying ‘yes’ when I’m in meetings, so it’s a great time to ask me if they can watch TV, eat lollies at 9am, and anything that I’d generally say no to – well done kids).
Failing as a “teacher”, especially when I made one of my children cry after telling her that she’d sorted her nouns, adjectives and verbs incorrectly (I had to look them up to remind myself what they were).
Failing at getting as much done as I expected myself to for work – despite my ever wonderful and understanding boss telling me numerous times to go easy on myself and not expect to get as much done as I normally would.
On top of this, I found myself anxiously checking the number of COVID cases day in and day out, drilling down to see what was going on in my local neighbourhood to help determine if I should be even more anxious than I already was.
I can remember scrolling through social media during that first lockdown and seeing all these posts from people about the silver linings of the pandemic, namely the opportunity to slow down. Which left me wondering, was I ALSO failing at lockdown?
What was this slowing down that people were speaking of?
How did people find time to do so much baking?
What even is sourdough starter?
As restrictions started to ease and the kids went back to school (hallelujah!), things started to settle back to a tiny speck of the normality we had before. This wasn’t very long-lasting and before we knew it, we were back to lockdown and remote learning.
The second time in lockdown felt even heavier.
This is when fewer people were posting about their sourdough and baking successes, and more were expressing frustration, anger and fear about what the future would look like.
When we thought it was already bad, it then got a whole lot worse overnight – hundreds of cases, curfew, so many more jobs lost, work permits, travelling only within a 5km radius for groceries, medical and caring needs, a limit of 1 hour of exercise per day. It felt like a giant kick in the guts. We’d been trying so hard and for so long to do the right things and it wasn’t working.
I told myself that this time, I’d need to do things differently.
I tried to take a more relaxed approach to remote learning. My children are in Grade 1 and I figured, if they miss a worksheet or activity here or there, it’s not going to be that big of a deal.
We made sure to get out for our hour of exercise every day – it’s amazing how much of a drive it can be to make the most of that hour when you have such severe restrictions on what you can do.
Most importantly, I focused on what I can do for others during this time. Supporting others gets me out of my own head and unstuck from my own worries.
Rather than focusing on things that I can’t control, supporting others has and always will give me purpose and perspective.
The impacts of COVID19 have many of us feeling unsettled, uncertain and lonely, including me. And sometimes it definitely doesn’t feel like we’re all in this together. But we really are. We can be there for each other, locally and virtually. Let’s focus on what we can control and that is caring for each other.
Renee is a proud Melburnian, a Mum and Victorian State Training Manager for global suicide first aid training organisation, LivingWorks. LivingWorks has recently partnered with free online community platform Crisis Heroes on a pilot project for Victorians to help each other stay safe.
If you, or someone you know, is in need of urgent support, please call Lifeline Australia 13 11 14.