A dad’s experience of lockdown

Statistically, mothers have been more affected by children not being in school, lack of childcare and generally ‘keeping house’ during lockdown.

How did the dads cope?  We haven’t heard much in the press, so we thought we’d ask a few.  Here is first of two articles by Joe Young (aka www.dadonspl.co.uk).  Thanks very much Joe!

After dark I strapped my 16 month old daughter into the back seat of our hire car. The car was loaded with essentials: a few changes of clothes for us, more for our daughter and all of the paracetamol, nappies and toilet roll we could find (these being scarce items, eerily absent from the supermarket shelves). As Natasha tended to our daughter, I returned to the flat for a last check. I looked around the first property I had owned in the full acceptance that I might never stand in it again. One would be mistaken for thinking this was the opening scene of a dystopian novel, but in fact this was London in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

The day before, sensing that a nationwide lockdown was coming, we had taken the decision to travel to my mum’s home in Yorkshire. Having stayed with us in London the week before, my mum had caught the “colds” we had shrugged off. Over the next few days, my mum’s symptoms became much worse and her doctor advised her she had COVID-19 (though you’ll recall it was impossible to get a test). My mum was ill and needed help. My 92 year old grandma (my dad’s mum) had also been hospitalised due to multiple issues, and had now tested positive for COVID-19. My dad was shielding due to health conditions. As we drove 150 miles north through the night, it’s no exaggeration to say my thoughts flickered between my family and the survival scenes of post-disaster movies. The air was thick with panic.

The above is a somewhat dramatic way to start a blog post about being a parent and working from home during the lockdown! However, the context within which the lockdown took place is crucial to understanding how it felt to be a parent at that time. The circumstances of every parent’s lockdown were different and so it’s hard to generalise, though I’ve set out my personal experience below, which may or may not resonate with others.

Broad overview

We were bunkered down in a village in Yorkshire on the north bank of the Humber Estuary. My mum’s charming two bedroom house has a beautiful garden. Milly had taken over my mum’s study and her travel cot became her regular bed. Natasha and I had commandeered tables in corners around the house upon which to set up our work laptops. We were working as best we could – pushing my mum’s flickering internet to the max – keen that our clients would continue to receive the first class service they are accustomed to. As the projected length of the lockdown grew (one might recall it was “only” for 3 weeks, at first) it was apparent to us that my mum’s house was a preferable abode for lockdown to our pokey two-bed second floor flat in Central London.

The lockdown was split into some distinct phases for us, which largely revolved around, firstly, my mum’s health and, secondly, our respective workloads. For what was left of March, and for most of April, my mum was recovering from COVID in bed. My grandma also sadly passed away at the end of March. This meant that I took some time off work to provide support to my family and attend the funeral.

In late April and through May, my mum recovered to the extent that she could begin to help with childcare, which was a blessing, as Tash became extremely busy workwise in May. In late May and through June, the situation reversed, Tash’s work eased off and I had an extremely busy period, clocking over 100 billable hours in the first two weeks of June.

We returned to London mid June, when our nursery reopened. In our minds, this was the “end” of lockdown.

Our approach/daily routine

Like everyone, we started the lockdown with the best intentions; like everyone, as we became exhausted from the gruelling daily routine our best intentions faded!

As with all our parenting, we split responsibilities equally as possible. A typical working day proceeded as follows:

  • Night shift: Parent A dealt with all wake ups during the night until 06:00.
  • 06:00 to 08:00: Parent B would take Milly when she woke up, get her dressed and have breakfast with her. Parent A would climb back into bed to catch up on sleep.
  • Mornings / afternoons (08:00-12:00 & 13:00-17:00): to fit in with our respective work days, one of us would take Milly in the morning, whilst the other worked, and then we would switch in the afternoon. When my mum recovered, she would take Milly in the mornings, but one of us remained “on call”. My mum was also a life-saver in that, once recovered, she could take Milly on the occasions when both Natasha and I had an overlapping work call or Zoom meeting.
  • We would eat lunch together at 12:00 and dinner together at 17:00 (alternating the cooking duties).
  • Between 18:00 and 20:00, we would get Milly ready for bed, read books and sing songs etc. again swapping the roles to suit working patterns.
  • From 20:00 to 23:00 (or later!), we would typically both log back on and work to catch up on our half day “off” earlier in the day.

Fun stuff

Lockdown life started with Houseparty and Zoom calls with friends and family, Joe Wicks PE lessons every morning and an educational-play routine planned out for Milly. There was a “can do” spirit permeating conversations and almost a jolly keep calm and carry on atmosphere.

Natasha and I were well prepared in terms of activities with Milly. Natasha and my mum (both keen horticulturalists) loved spending time with Milly in the Garden. I took Milly out with me for my state-sanctioned exercise – either a run with the buggy or a cycle and we did other activities such as painting or “wildlife photography” (see photos!)

My six months of Shared Parental Leave was without doubt excellent preparation for this time. Taking Milly for half a day was simply great fun: my SPL experience had given me the confidence to enjoy the time with her and get the most out of it for both of us (and Natasha had the confidence to leave us to it). It was almost like “old times” again with my best little buddy!

Having given an overview of how we tackled it, in part two of this blog, which is coming soon, I talk briefly about some of the effects of lockdown, as I perceive them.

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