Does this lockdown feel worse than the last ones?

Why are many people finding homeschooling second time around much harder, even though we’ve done it before?

women sleeping on laptop


Are you feeling worse about the whole homeschooling/lockdown thing this time around than last time?

It’s an issue that came up in our roundtable with employers yesterday, with some employers noting that many parents are finding it harder second time around. During the first lockdown, they said, people tried to muddle through somehow, not knowing how long lockdown would last. There was, of course, the weekly clapping for the NHS and carers. There was a sense of coming together, even if we were physically apart.

This time round feels very different. People are more stressed after more months of Covid; they are more worried about getting it or about relatives getting it; many have had it and many, more sadly, know people who have died from it or been very seriously ill because of it; many people’s finances are significantly worse, with more and more families relying on food banks; more jobs have gone with more job losses and closed businesses likely to come. For frontline workers the sheer numbers, the cumulative exhaustion and the heaping of trauma on trauma can be overwhelming. Although we have the vaccine, it seems we still have a long way to go before we are in any way ‘back to normal’.

And then, for many, there is the whole homeschooling thing after months of school years opening and closing and the lack of information about the exams. The longer term impacts on children’s mental health of lockdown and constant uncertainty about the immediate as well as the long-term future are kicking in. Parents, of course, worry about their kids. On top of that they are finding it harder to get back into long days and evenings of doing everything, and expectations that they can do everything are higher.

There are the usual round of funny videos about homeschooling, but they don’t seem so funny this time around. We’ve way passed the first flush of excitement about Zoom.  Whereas the big focus before was on the difficulty/impossibility of working with younger children around, it is now very clear that there are also huge issues for teenagers and they need a whole different level of emotional support, which can be extremely draining.

Someone sent me an article the other day about parenting during coronavirus. It said the usual things about being ‘good enough’ which is true, but don’t make me feel any better somehow. There was a bit about praising your child and setting expectations eg saying ‘I need 20 minutes for this call, then we can play’. The trouble is life is not always this organised and 20 minutes can turn into 40 and another urgent call can follow that one.

There was, of course, mention of the need for personal time – ‘me time’ in old money. I’ve given up on me time unless it involves a bath. I’m not even convinced of its worth. My ideal ‘me time’ would be watching Glee with the girls or having a chat with only son about the Moon. It’s not me time I need, just more time and time when I’m not doing at least 10 things at once.

The advice ended with a call to remember that children are sponges and that they soak up not just what is happening around them, but how you are handling it. I am sure this was meant to be helpful, but it basically seemed to be saying that parents have to take on all this extra stuff and worry and keep a smile firmly plastered on their faces in the manner of a Stepford wife. Wouldn’t it be better to level with the kids that this is hard, that everyone finds it hard, that no-one is superhuman and show them how to let off steam – maybe a group scream fest or howling at the moon?

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