What was lockdown like as a remote-working mum?

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It takes sunshine and rain to make a rainbow

When I said one of my new year’s resolutions was to write a book, little did I know what 2020 had in store for us, with lockdown and remote-working.

During the Coronavirus Crisis, we have all seen the world through a different set of filters. While I might not have realised it at the time, I’ve regained lost confidence and have become quite the optimist by seeing opportunities in every problem.

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Polka dots courtesy of The English Beagle

I have done this by not reflecting on the past or thinking about the future. I have just taken small positive steps every day as a mum – and that has helped me break free from my thinking rut.

We have shared laughter, photographs, stories, music and art during lockdown. We have also shared joy, panic and despair. Each week though we have learned from it all.

A lot of high-fives

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No matter what we were going through, by helping Cyrus develop, we learned to succeed ourselves too.

I spent a lot of time in the early days of lockdown giving everyone I spoke to positive support in whatever they were doing. Wearing polka-dots and pretending I was an electron flowing through a power line helped!

Working from home

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Feelings were magnified when we were confined to our home without childcare. H and I felt both gratitude and guilt at the same time during the onset of Coronavirus. Cyrus meanwhile adjusted quite well to quarantine.

Let’s get physical

We suddenly felt lucky to have a garden during lockdown and made a point to get out in it every day – the outside world felt like a scary place to be at that moment.

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Lockdown also forced the boys to be together all the time. It was beautiful to see them bond and become best friends. We all stopped worrying about the things we couldn’t control and focused on the things we could control.

What’s on changed

Suddenly driving in the fast lane each day reverted to feeling as if we were driving on the hard shoulder . We had to accept a whole different framework of possibilities.

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I spent 60 per cent of my time in meetings, listening carefully and trying to understand what others were saying from their point of view. I tried to smile all day, reducing it to a smirk now and again during quiz time on a Friday afternoon which was fantastic fun.

In the garden

We didn’t need all the answers during lockdown because beautiful moments came from uncertainty. We just took a deep breath and ensured we were there for Cyrus.

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We found pleasure in doing the chores together as a family – although when we tried to update the fence, we ran out of paint quite quickly which was a pain. We resorted to getting back to nature and making pizzas for the birds that day.

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Working lunch

It was easy to think about the terrible things happening in the world, but it was also easy to see what was good about it and how to improve our situation. We took pictures of flowers and other things in nature to brighten our days.

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Some days I convinced myself that everything could be done in a day. I made picnics for lunch, spent quality time painting with Cyrus before breakfast and still managed to read four bedtime stories, before curling up on the sofa to watch Netflix on TV. I slotted my working hours in between.

Everything needed to be made as simple as possible. Cyrus and I had lunch while observing an active ant colony nearby. There’s a lot you can learn from ants!

Picture perfect

The pressures could have become all-consuming, but photographing the smallest moments of joy became not just my santuary, but also my voice. It allowed me to look at my situation through a different lens. Without these moments, lockdown would have been more challenging.

My son’s closest way to connect with the outside world was though chalk dinosaurs in our back garden. Although I kept telling him everything would be fine, there were days I’m not quite sure I believed it myself.

There were joyful and heart-lifting moments during lockdown. There were also moments when Cyrus tried to attract attention, and we were half-listening while paying more attention to a phone call, message or concern. Seeking a good work/life balance has been vital on the homefront.

Doing nothing

We did absolutely nothing for a whole day and tried to go without thinking about anything to see what it would be like. H and Cyrus proved experts at this! During those first few days of spring, Cyrus liked to take a power snooze on sunny afternoons in the garden.

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The food diaries

The empty supermarket shelves were by far the toughest gig. We found it hard to buy food, particularly rice, pizzas and anti-bacterial hand gel was non-existent. It was impossible to find a sense of balance and the only constant was Cyrus having an egg each day for breakfast. I was beginning to wake up to the seriousness of the virus at this point.

We constantly reminded ourselves that we were lucky to be safe during lockdown, and that it was OK to be emotionally drained. Life was certainly less hectic, but cabin fever was setting in and we had all really had enough by May.

Eating happy

We chose colourful foods like red peppers, jalepenos, green apples and red onions to brighten up our days during isolation and keep us healthy. It was surreal living in a little bubble while the outside world went crazy.

I never wanted to work in the NHS, but I had a newfound admiration for what they were doing, even if we didn’t take part in the weekly clap. I just counted myself fortunate to have two people who loved me in by bubble.

We were a tight-knit trio during lockdown with our indoor picnics – eating kebabs, chips and rice on the living room floor. There were no themed meals. It was just plain, simple and delicious.

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Garlic breath

We did try different food combinations when boredom kicked in. We also ate a lot of garlic every day, since there was suddenly no need to go to work and offend our colleagues.

A new rhythm

At home we did lots of crafts together and cooked our favourite meals. I started to become less worried about Cyrus being able to adapt to new circumstances.

Initially lockdown sent me into a panic. I was full of anxiety because I had spent so much time outside with Cyrus that the idea of being housebound filled me with fear. It took a few weeks, but we found a new rhythm to our lives.

Creative spirit

Cyrus painted with his opposite hand, held the paintbrush between his toes and even used sponges to splodge bright colours all over. And in good Persian tradition we decorated eggs for the New Year (Nowruz). We then video-called his grandma and auntie and uncle in Iran to show them the wonderful creations on screen.

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Slowing down

Suddenly everything slowed down. I took my watch off and just stopped looking at the time. I wasn’t a baker, although I was impressed by how many friends had been whipping up creations in the kitchen. Cyrus just had to make do with my artistic guidance for entertainment.

Like so many other working mums, I was anxious that I wasn’t spending enough time with Cyrus. However I need not have worried since he was quite content making a lava quarry with his little bits of paper and letting his imagination run wild.

During my first staycation from work, I tried to spend as much quality time with my son as possible by staying present. I unplugged my laptop and put down my phone to solely focus on him. The hardest part was that I couldn’t answer him when he asked when he would return to nursery and see his friends.

Family time

Cyrus spent hours doodling during lockdown. One day we’ll look back on them and analyse together what they mean.

Three years after buying our window blinds, H finally got around to putting them up – and even had a helping hand to do it. Cyrus showed a fascination for gadgets and making things.

We became parents, teachers and playmates all rolled into one and were oscillating between laughter, tantrums, crying and sheer desperation at times. We just hoped we would see better days.

Some days were long and productive when we stopped feeling torn by work. Cyrus created a map on the computer and then we pretended to take a trip on it to experience it as though we were really there.

Growing and learning

Cyrus often had little conversations with his seedlings to help them grow. He loved learning about plants and animals during our quarantine and David Attenborough’s Our Planet certainly captured his imagination.

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We sat down and did some painting. We were happy, content and learning more about the world each day. I felt restless, but thankful at the same time that our house had become a playground.

I spent more than one evening reading children’s books … sometimes without Cyrus being there! We read, held hands and we lay in the garden after dinner. H’s top tip was to find a quiet space and get into a thinking position. We pieced things together one day at a time.

Lockdown disco

Our lockdown discos presented us with the freedom to express our emotions. One moment life was serene and peaceful, the next we were transported back to our childhoods with some top tunes. I just hope it didn’t irritate the neighbours!

Cover story

I bought a mask and wore it for a while, trying to act like the person the mask portrayed. A gift I received during lockdown from a friend made me feel supported, guided and loved beyond comprehension after some nightmares and tears.

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Mindful Gifting

Sometimes I felt tired. I needed a pick-me-up, a little treat to make me feel better after feeling guilty for being on my phone too much, not doing enough messy play and letting Cyrus watch too much TV.

Super-women

I contacted the author of Super-women to tell her how much I had enjoyed it. It gave me ideas I hadn’t thought about before. I then spent an hour or so identifying my own unique traits to get me out of my thinking rut that day.

First day out

We began by taking small steps being careful not to stray too far in case we needed to get back really quickly.

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There were tears and big emotions when we were eventually able to see grandad once more. But worry was always there in case we were carriers of this awful virus.

As we became more familiar with our new unchartered territory outside, we strayed farther and farther away. We watched Cyrus grow daily through our photos – and his legs just seemed to become longer one day!

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We created ‘thinking hats’ and put them on whenever we wanted to think differently about things.

Breath of fresh air

Ice-cream in Whitley Bay proved a huge hit during staycation number two. I’d never seen a small boy eat so much so fast.

We also did our very best to have a good day on Cyrus’s fourth birthday – despite having promised him a party with his friends all year. There’s always 2021 though!

A walk in the woods was something we had craved throughout lockdown and it started to feel safe to venture out again in June.

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Bedtime routine

Cyrus went to bed each night with his “friends” – Mr Dinosaur, Steggy and Bambi a.k.a Spotty. Uh Oh Milo! was a firm favourite with Cyrus at bedtime. It was a fun book for mummy to read too.

If lockdown has taught us one thing, it’s to look out for the little moments of joy in all of life’s imperfections.

If you want to see more of what we got up to during lockdown, visit our Instagram channel @ofsaffronandcyrus. We’d love to publish your stories too, so please do let us know about your journey at saffronandcyrus@gmail.com

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2 Comments

  1. August 25, 2020 / 8:08 pm

    I work from home anyway, and have for 6 years. However, working from home and working from home with husband also working and two kids doing home learning are two completely different things!
    It looks like you managed to keep a rich experience going on. I found home learning challenging: https://smellysocksandgardenpeas.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/the-reality-of-home-learning/
    With schools about to go back, I’m looking forward to getting back into the old routine a bit.

    • August 26, 2020 / 6:00 am

      There were days that were challenging for us. However I kept reminding myself that it was time I wasn’t going to get back with either of them. It worked for us, but I appreciate that everyone has different experiences of it.

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