My own experiences of the pandemic, one we are still very much in, has been one like many others who were told to shield for weeks and months at a time.
I, along with my colleagues moved to working from home on Monday 16th March, a decision we took as a team as we are fortunate enough to have tasks we can carry out remotely, but we for sure thought this would be a temporary solution to a temporary problem.
However, in the days that followed it was clear that what was going on was totally out of our control, that things were about to change quite rapidly and a new ‘normal’ would emerge.
Government guidelines soon highlighted those who were most at risk and ‘vulnerable’ from COVID-19 if contracted and as someone who lives with an illness which is managed by immunosuppressants, I wasn’t surprised to find myself in that category. And so began months of shielding at home with my son, with all my family in another county, unable to travel to see me.
Working from home became trickier to manage as a single mum of a 1 year old (now 2 year old) and soon I was furloughed. My days then came and went much like groundhog day, repeating the same mundane routines. I couldn’t leave the house so my garden and facetime became my son and my lifeline. However, I soon looked to find new things to try to pass the time, but also give me a sense of achievement, including free Open University courses (highly recommend) and also home workouts- something which I never did before but which then became my daily ritual.
I also sought out activities for my son to do, including salt dough creations, various colouring sheets and drawings to display in our windows as well as spending quality time together, helping him form his first proper words. I cherish the time I had with him and I know it would have been a very different experience for me if I was living alone. That being said, the lack of adult face to face interaction was a challenge. Of course technology meant that there was always someone at the end of a phone call but even that started to feel a bit dry day in, day out.
My food shopping was done online via Iceland or Tesco and on average I was probably spending 3 times as much a week as I would have on my normal weekly shop at Aldi. Mostly because of delivery charges or basket minimum spends and also because the price comparison on items really does stack up.
As restrictions started to ease, I was able to make our first walk of many round my block, stretching our legs beyond our garden and actually see other people from a distance too. I’m thankful to a handful of friends who lived nearby who jumped to my rescue with emergency food items or little pick me ups. While they could only stand on the kerb, 2 meters from my front door, the few minutes of a friendly face always cheered me up and my son was thrilled to see another face besides mine.
I’ll never forget the first time my parents were allowed to drive to my house, very briefly in an evening while my son was asleep, bringing essentials into my back garden. It was surreal
as we kept our distance. It was also the first time I had seen any family members following my Grandad’s passing due to COVID-19 as I wasn’t able to attend his funeral due to my vulnerability, so not being able to console each other was weird too. I still don’t feel like I’ve been able to grieve.
Now England’s in a position where a number of restrictions have been lifting, an element of ‘normality’ has returned but yet our immediate future is still very uncertain. It’s likely we’ll see further restrictions and guidelines in the coming weeks and my main take away is to look after yourself and those around you. Check in on friends and family, especially those classed as vulnerable.
I hope that we’ll once again return to what we know as everyday, but until then, let’s do what we can in being part of the solution.