As part of a series of blog posts we are publishing during this time, Sam, Mature Student's Officer 2019-20 at the University of Essex has provided some answers to questions about her experience of the Covid-19 crisis. We hope you enjoy reading it!
If you are also happy to talk about your experience during this time, give us a shout by e-mailing Jeni at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT DID YOU DO THE DAYS JUST BEFORE, AND AT THE START OF THE LOCKDOWN?
I was so busy just before the lockdown, with a mountain of assignments, that as the email came through from the Vice-Chancellor that the University was closing, I was actually sat in the library. However, I was starting to become unwell that day, so took myself home where me and my whole family had to isolate. So, when the news of the UK’s lockdown came, we had already been isolating for over a week! I did wish at the time that I had been more prepared, because with the news of the lockdown came a manic buying period, and just typically we had nothing in the house! More than that I had the news that I was going to have to home-school my children: and could I find workbooks, or printer ink anywhere? Nope! However, ever the realist, I reasoned with myself that it really wasn’t that bad…little did I know at this point.
HOW IS ISOLATION TREATING YOU?
At the beginning, isolation was incredibly difficult for me. I work very hard usually, and university is my escape. That might sound weird to an ‘average’ student, but being a mum of three, university life gave me the bit of space I needed to become more than just ‘mum’. Losing that was tough on my mental health. Further to this, my husband is a keyworker and works very long hours running his own company, so I suddenly found myself locked in the house with three young children, aged 8, 7 and 2, who are usually incredibly active.
I was in a complete state trying to consider how to complete assignments and exams while in this situation. My children were anxious, and bored, and with my two-year-old clinging to me 18 hours of the day, so much so that I could not even go to the toilet in peace, I felt my world crumbling a little. However, I simply chose to take it day by day (and not watch the news). As time went by, things got a little easier, as we all adapted to new routines: we had to try a lot of different ones till we found the right fit for us. And although exams were hard, especially when my 2-year-old decided to strangle me in a vice like cuddle while crumbling biscuits into my hair at regular intervals, I got through them. Now, I am suddenly seeing the brighter side to being at home all the time. I am learning with them – as we decided sitting down to do Maths and English was way too stuffy, and not all that easy, we changed the routine up and are now doing themed days (where it is much easier to hide secret Maths and English). We have already done the Great Barrier Reef, Mars, Airplanes, Fashion through the ages, Cars, Climate Change and The Titanic.
My children love history, so it really is an easy way to do it – plus I add a project in after every day such as tie dying t-shirts, bottle rockets, and we even made a huge Great Barrier Reef! We are getting out for walks, and I bought loads of garden toys with all the money I have been saving on the unavailability of McDonalds and Costa. Even more than that, my children are always happy, and while miss their friends dearly, are talking about how much fun they are actually having. It’s been refreshing to have real time to spend with them and has made me re-evaluate the importance of family time.
WHERE ARE YOU STUCK AND WHAT’S IT LIKE THERE?
I’m in Colchester, at my home, which is not too far from the University. Lockdown is tough, although we have not been out much, except for some walks around. Luckily, I live opposite Highwoods Country Park, which has been great to explore. If you haven’t had a chance to visit, when things go back to relative normality, you should really go! It’s a beautiful forest, with a lovely lake, and lots of hidden trails! My children love the cow fields on the edges too!
HOW DO YOU COPE WITH THE SITUATION ON A DAY TO DAY BASIS?
Genuinely, the saviour has been to take one day at a time. I am a complete control freak, having to know and analyse every detail and plan accordingly, so this has been less than easy for me – however, it is so overwhelming if I think too far into the future. To gain some sort of control back, I make lists – lists of chores, weekly meal plans, daily home school plans. It sounds ridiculous, but makes me feel like I have a plan, and keeps me focused, as well as giving me some sort of sense of achievement at the end of the day. There are obviously some days when my children are having one of those days where everything is wrong, and they simply detest the sight of each other, my 2 year old has decided I cant do anything right (even if he asked for it, it is still wrong), and when I literally have no energy to force school, or pick up the multiple number of toys strewn over the floor a million times a day. On those days, I turn to Disney+ with absolutely no shame, while my house is wrecked. But the world keeps turning, and the next morning I wake up with a newfound sense of calm and energy to begin again. It really is all about self-care and having a good routine.
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT?
I am a mother, so first and foremost my 2-year-old. But really, it is the fear of the unknown. Like I said previously, I am a huge control freak, and had my life plan laid out a long time ago. There is no way of seeing into the future at the current time, or knowing when things will return to normal, if they ever will. It is difficult to look at a whole new way of life, for me and my family. However, my husband likes to tell me I overthink everything, and life is about the unexpected, so I try to avoid thinking to much about the future.
Something else that really keeps me up at night, is the victims of domestic violence and how they may be suffering at this time. I am a huge advocate of women’s rights and have spoken publicly many times regarding domestic abuse, after my own life experiences. I often think, I may be struggling, but cannot imagine the women (and men) who are stuck in lockdown right now with an abusive partner. It makes me incredibly sad to think the lockdown will exemplify abusive tendencies and with very little escape, victims will be in more danger. I am trying to raise awareness, and help anyone who contacts me, however it is difficult not to feel slightly helpless, when this lockdown makes it harder for victims to leave. If you, or someone you know is struggling with this, then please reach out.
HOW DO YOU KEEP IN TOUCH WITH YOUR FRIENDS?
To be completely honest, I’m was so busy before the lockdown, that my social life was rather lacking. However, the few friends I regularly saw, I keep in contact with over the phone and zoom. My children have organised zoom calls for their classmates and have kept in regular contact with their teachers through sending pictures of what they have been up to. We have also started writing letters to their best friends, and their grandparents and great-grandparents. They really appreciate the effort, and its sort of secret learning for my children (any way I can fit some secret learning/practice in, then I will). Regular Zoom contacts with the people I work with at Uni, have been a godsend for giving me some regular adult conversation, apart from my husband that is. Obviously, the merits of social media are palpable during this time, and in actual fact I’ve been talking to people I have lost contact with, which is so great! (As you can see, I am trying to focus on the positives that have come out of this experience!)