I’ve worked at GAD for 11 years now, first as a trainee and then as a qualified actuary. The last 11 weeks though have been very different from the previous 11 years. The coronavirus lockdown has led to changes in aspects of my professional life and as a parent.
Like many other parents of young children, I’m waiting to see what it’ll be like once primary schools reopen to many more pupils. The areas of uncertainty were different but in the first week after the Prime Minister’s announcement advising against non-essential travel on 16 March we were also waiting to see ‘what next’.
I was able to swiftly and smoothly switch to working from home (thanks to the industry of GAD’s central services team). After a couple of days my wife was also able to leave her office for the foreseeable future.
We both realised we were on the verge of a big transition in the patterns of our daily life. The nursery and primary school our 3 daughters attend were still open, but for how long? And how on earth were employment, education and even basic caring going to coexist when, as seemed inevitable, they closed?
At least explaining an infectious virus to little children who could both vividly remember having chicken pox last year turned out to be less challenging than we had at first feared. Our 3-year-old was soon loudly telling her grandparents over the phone: “We can’t go to the playground because of the virus”.
Setting a pattern
Of course, schools were duly closed the next week, and we muddled through. I looked after the girls in the mornings while my wife worked and changing places in the middle of the day.
Once 3 little children were asleep, evenings provided time to catch up. This was only possible with flexibility at work where many others were after all in similar circumstances.
I work most weekday evenings, but always finish at the end of the afternoon on Fridays and make time to speak to friends. The warm weather helped and we either stick to the garden or take turns for solo trips to shop for food. These shopping trips are an important antidote to feeling enclosed at home, as we later realise when a heavy cold keeps us at home one weekend.
Even so, the first week was hard work combining looking after our children aged 1, 3 and 5 together with my work. After a fair start we found it tricky to keep the new routine going all week. The next week we regroup.
We start each home school day with free live online exercise classes before trying to tick off some reading, writing and numeracy each day leaving time for more fun activities and play.
The long run
After Easter it is apparent schools will be closed for longer. Our local primary school bulks up the amount of support material, with around 5 activities to do on paper and online each day. We have figured out some early years’ online activities for our 3-year-old, who is very keen to take regular turns on the family laptop like her older sister.
Grandparents have also signed up to reading sessions over video calls to help keep learning as enjoyable as possible. With determination and a careful balancing of breaks, favourite and less favoured learning activities, as dictated by the precious commodity of attention span, we hit a routine that gets us through. There are difficult patches; English in the afternoons is frequently contentious.
After 11 weeks we have navigated through an, at times, 3-dimensional labyrinth of shifting sleep patterns. The 5-year-old has kept up with reading a book everyday boosting her confidence. Our 3-year-old has learned the rudiments of using a computer and our 1-year-old has gone from wobbly first steps to stomping everywhere and shouting first words.
These are all things that would have happened had there been no virus outbreak, but we’ve managed to keep 3 little lives progressing, despite the pandemic.
The opinions in this blog post are not intended to provide specific advice. For our full disclaimer, please see the About this blog page.