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Parenting through a pandemic, mums share their struggles

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No school, no sport, no grandparents, more screen time, more time at home and more tantrums – parenting in a pandemic has been “really tough” say Hunter mums.

For Ashtonfield mother-of-two Megan Warby ‘Freedom Day’ as it is being touted, can’t come soon enough.

If NSW Government plans for easing of restrictions mean schools will once again open their doors to youngsters from Monday 18 October, it will be just in time, she says.

Megan has been juggling parenting six-year-old Lincoln and three-year-old Adelaide at home full-time since the region was plunged into its second lockdown on 5 August.

“It’s been hard,” she says.

“Let’s just say my parenting is not what I’d like it to be.”

While her husband has thankfully been able to continue his full-time work with the council, Megan has been charged with keeping up with learning for both kids.

“Lincoln started Kindergarten this year and I’m conscious of this being an important first step in schooling,” Megan says.

“It’s particularly hard for this age though, because they can’t do their work by themselves, they can’t read the instructions.

“He’s learning how to navigate the apps for online learning but I’ve had to do the schooling with him, which presents a challenge when you have a three-year-old with extra needs as well.”

Sadly Adelaide’s childcare routine was disrupted by the latest round of lockdowns.

“She doesn’t understand why all my time and attention is on her brother and why I can’t just play with her,” Megan says.

Comprehending a global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns has been tough enough for adults.

“It’s had a profound effect on both of my kids, in different ways,” Megan admits.

“There are real feelings of disconnect.

“Lincoln will see kids from school out on the street and yet he can’t go and play with them… And Adelaide, who’s only three-and-a-half, will hear me on the phone and I’ll say ‘see you soon’ and she’ll say ‘no, you can’t – lockdown, the virus’ and that’s pretty hard to take.

“They’re missing their friends and they’re very close to my mum and they haven’t been able to see her either.” 

Attitudes towards technology have also changed within the home.

“The IPad isn’t used much for the kids, it’s a treat,” Megan says.

“When lockdown happened and suddenly Lincoln was on the IPad everyday for most of it, it was hard for Adelaide to comprehend. ‘Why is he allowed on it having fun?’ and ‘Why can’t I have a turn?’

“It took a lot of adjusting, and screen time for both of them increased as to calm her sometimes she got time on my phone (another treat), while he did some school work.”

“Home is our play space, not our school space. 

“I know the whole world is topsy-turvey at the moment and we’re all doing the best we can, but I’m sure a lot of mums can’t wait for this to be over.”

Newcastle mum Lisa agrees.

“Working and schooling from home has flipped so much on it’s head for us,” she says.

“We live in an open-plan house with floorboards and it’s intense here now noise-wise and frenetic activity-wise from dawn till dusk.  

“The nights are okay but the days…oh geez the dasy, there’s no reprieve. The kids are expected to be able to log in and out into 87 portals within a single school day, I’m expected to be available to help them with that and still meet only slightly adjusted work targets.  

“My partner who earns the most and whose income we really don’t want to lose gets priority using the wifi and has jagged himself the quietest spot to sit with the good chair, the good desk, and good background for Zooming his team without semi-dressed kids and all other manner of malarky behind him.

“I get so resentful. I’d love to be getting catered to like that.  

“Meanwhile I’m working perched up at the breakfast bar breaking up fights and coaxing my reluctant 10-year-old to do ‘something’ schoolwork-oriented for the day while writing end-of-month reports, online ordering groceries and ducking out to check on my aged parents.  

“The horse feels like it has bolted on device use. I used to monitor what they were doing online and now I am just happy they are quiet.  

“I’m scared about how we are going to rein that back in when things go back to ‘normal’. 

“It’s so hard to not overdo the wine at the end of the day.

“It works at the time for an unwind but I’m mindful it’s gotten to be a crutch and that there are a lot more bottles in our recycling bin than I feel good about. It’s all just so big.  

“Other people seem to be coping and having their firepit nights and campouts in the backyard. How do they have energy left for that?”

New Lambton-based parenting coach Mel Burgess says she’s positive parents will survive current lockdowns intact, if they focus on what’s most important.

“It is well-understandable that as parents we are all stretched so thin we are almost see-through at the moment. 

“It is going to take a bit for us to recalibrate and to support our kids to do the same, but we will manage it. 

“Especially if we put our energy into what we value rather than taxing ourselves by living out of our ‘shoulds’ (which are likely to be other people’s values).”

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