‘Since coming out of lockdown I’ve been a mess, and I miss my children’

Covid-19: Cork woman Emma Power on the challenges of adapting to life returning to ‘normal’

Emma Power with her three children during the lockdown in New Zealand.

Emma Power with her three children during the lockdown in New Zealand.

 

After 52 days of lockdown with my three children and husband, we were told that New Zealand was winning the battle against coronavirus. In the Bay of Plenty, where we have lived for more than seven years, there have been zero cases of Covid-19 reported. The government announced cafes and restaurants would reopen, and our children could go back to school. I thought I would be ecstatic but instead I felt very uneasy. People back home in Ireland were texting me in different WhatsApp groups telling me how envious they were about life getting back to normal when they were still stuck inside day in and day out.

When the coronavirus crisis hit, I mentally prepared myself and my family. Once in lockdown we took it one day at a time. Soon we had a good routine going. Our morning began with homeschooling for an hour to an hour and a half – depending on everyone's mood. My children are aged 11, eight and five, so the eldest was pretty self sufficient but the girls needed a lot of assistance. When homeschooling was finished we baked scones for morning tea followed by PE with Joe (Wicks) online.Then there was an hour of free choice followed by lunch, and then a little bit more school work before heading out for a walk or a game of football at the park around the corner.

I do love a consistent routine and as we settled into a new normal just like everyone else there were highs, lows, laughs, lots of fighting, lots of cooking, lots of drinking and lots of time together.

Irish Abroad: How are you finding life after lockdown?

Now that I'm out of it, I’m a bit of a mess. I was not expecting to feel this way. I feel flat and sad, and I miss my children – the ones I fought with daily about homeschooling, the ones whose constant fighting made my head hurt and whose hugs made my heart hurt in a good way.

All three compiled time capsules in which they wrote a letter to their future selves about all the things they loved and hated about lockdown. I tried to soak up every sentence, every picture and enjoy who they are at this point in time. Even though lockdown seemed endless, children grow up fast and for them lockdown will be nothing more than a fleeting memory of a prolonged school holiday isolated from their friends.

It’s such a bizarre thing to crave time by yourself and then when it finally happens your mind instantly goes to those days during lockdown when everything ran smoothly and it felt lovely being in a bubble with the people you love more than anything in the world. I'm typing now in a quiet house for the first time in weeks. My computer during lockdown was taken over by an eight year old who seemed to have never ending Zoom classes with school or gym or drama. The screen is covered in handprints with crumbs littered between the letters on the keyboard and it looks like it’s been through a war. I found it impossible to write when everyone was at home. I was so tuned into my children I could sense a fight brewing 10 minutes before it actually happened. It was as if during lockdown we all became even closer, like pieces of metal that have been melted and fused together to be made even stronger than before.

Yesterday they went back to school. I'm usually an outgoing person but every fibre of my being didn’t want to be outside near crowds of people. The thought of making small talk with anyone made me shudder, as did going into coffee or clothes shops – all the activities I thought I would be so excited to do again instead filled me with a social anxiety and dread I have never had before. We're back on the treadmill of life, or should I call it a rollercoaster? Yes, lockdown posed its own mental health challenges but lets be honest, our world of stressful working hours, panicked driving to after school activities and buckling under the pressures that societal living brings wasn’t all that great for our mental health either ... was it?

We have to ease ourselves back into the world with compassion for ourselves, compassion for our children who also have to get used to the new normal in these strange times. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and if lockdown has taught us anything it’s that we need to be kinder to ourselves and how we live. We need to take things at a much slower pace, if possible, so that we can keep on enjoying those moments when everything flows and everything is as it should be. We are here, we are healthy, we are grateful,  and being busy every hour of every day is not necessarily something to be proud of.

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