Lockdown living: ‘We’ve moved into a cabin so the kids can have the house’

It’s hard to work and keep children amused in a lockdown but what happens when adult children have to work from home too?

Roisin Graham and her husband Mark, who are living in the garden shed while their children Maeve, Brendan and Emma Graham stay in the house. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

These certainly are strange times. With the country in near lockdown and countless people either out of work or working from home, houses are fuller and busier than ever.

But although there has been a lot of advice on how to keep children amused and up-to- speed with the curriculum while trying to hold a conference call in your living room or do the company accounts from the kitchen, not a lot has been said about the households which are full to the brim with an entire family of adults all trying to live and work in the same space.

This is what Roisin Graham, her husband Mark and their three grown up children – Brendan (30), Maeve (26) and Emma (23) - who all live at home - are trying to achieve.

The complementary therapist says she and her family – Mark, a technical buyer, Brendan, a customer complaints specialist, Maeve, an ecommerce associate and Emma, who works in IT recruitment – have adapted well to the new conditions by trying to spread out as much as possible.


“Each of us has had our struggles over the course of the past few weeks,” she admits. “Having to adapt so quickly and change our routines has been the most challenging as has the uncertainty and the plans postponed without any idea of when they can be rearranged.

“I work as a complementary therapist promoting health and wellness by combining Kinesiology, Sound Healing and Reiki on a one-to-one basis with clients and also in group and corporate settings. Usually, I work from a lovely wooden cabin in the garden but in recent weeks, myself and Mark have had to convert it into both a living quarters and workspace so that we can self-isolate for however long it takes.

“So we have space to work and live in the cabin while allowing our three adult children and the dog to have the run of the house. They can work remotely from the house and continue to do their bit in terms of social distancing as well.”

We are trying to keep ourselves living pretty independently of each other.

Roisin’s cabin consists of large therapy room with a sofa bed and desk. She has taken out her work equipment and the space now functions as a bedsit with a desk for Mark and table for Roisin which they also use to eat at.

“We borrowed a two-ring electric cooker and also have an electric kettle, a toaster and a fridge,” says the mother of three. “Most importantly, we have hot water and a small bathroom. We don’t have a TV but as we are not big TV people, we are managing without it.

“We are trying to keep ourselves living pretty independently of each other, but sometimes it is not easy as myself and Mark still have to use the shower facilities in the house - but this is something we are managing well on a daily basis.”

The three adult children, who have the Meath house to themselves, all have their own desks and laptops and try to stay apart from each other as much as possible, both from a social distancing perspective and also to preserve their sanity.

“This is one of the biggest challenges I have ever had to adapt to,” admits Brendan. “But it’s all about taking one day at a time.”

The rest of the family agree and say they would much rather be going out to work each day.

“I would rather be in the office, but I am managing and love not having to commute every morning and evening, so I am making the most of this spare time.”

“I don’t miss sitting in traffic either,” adds Maeve. “And while I am finding things a bit difficult due to problems with Wifi, I’m adjusting well otherwise.”

“Of course, we are very happy to be able to work from home, but it’s not as enjoyable as going out to work and I wouldn’t like to be doing it full time,” adds Mark.

Sometimes we have a coffee break at the same time and meet up in the garden.

Roisin says the whole family is respecting each other’s space, but they try to interact at some point each day.

“Everyone is working on a laptop and within the house things are working out well,” she says. “Each of the kids has set up a desk and chair space for themselves so that they all have somewhere reasonably comfortable to work and a certain amount of quiet as they all have meetings and calls online as part of their individual roles.

“Sometimes we have a coffee break at the same time and meet up in the garden.”

“We are trying to stick to our usual routine as much as possible. Small things like getting up early in the morning and being at our desks at the usual time ready to start work are important. We had to set boundaries at the outset as we needed to do everything possible to ensure this would work properly for as long as it will be necessary.”

Although Roisin feels a bit ‘displaced’ as the house and her workspace have been taken over, she is adapting and making the most of it. But they have made a few changes.

“We ordered a new modem for the cabin and while waiting for this to arrive we are using the personal hotspots on our phones for internet access,” says Roisin.

“Then at the weekend, Maeve suggested we build a fire pit in the garden and luckily we had some old bricks piled up against a wall - so she built a great big fire and we all met there for dinner. We had music on, cooked some nice food on the BBQ and enjoyed each other’s company whilst still adhering to the guidelines we have all become familiar with in recent weeks.

“It was a lovely thing that we may not have done if we were going about our busy lives. I think it is important to do something a bit different at the weekends so as to try and differentiate between the working day and downtime at the weekend.”

While Roisin and her family have adapted to the current crisis within their own home, she is having to reconfigure her role in order to try and deal with clients over the phone and online. And although she isn’t sure how much pressure this will put on the current situation, she does realise that they are very lucky to have the space for five people to get on with their careers.

“I’m not really able to work at the moment as most of what I do is one-to-one so I am using the time to study and to learn how to set my self up online and in the current climate, how best to maximise my online profile,” she says.

“I hope to soon be in a position where I will be able to offer online Sound Therapy and also to help one-to-one clients with stress, anxiety and fear during this difficult period in our lives. I haven’t quite figured out what I am going to do with Mark when I start all this online work as I don’t think he will appreciate a sound bath going on at the same time as he is discussing a tender proposal – but we will have to work around that one.

“However, I know that we are very lucky to have the space to spread out and we really are grateful for that. Over the years, we’ve had the odd visitor stay in the cabin but never thought that we would be living in it ourselves. We are now so thankful that we have it and that everything is working out well for us so far. We are all doing our best to work together to get through this with everyone’s sanity, space and safety in mind.”