Blog: In the rush to return to normal

“In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”

For me, memes, stories and quotes have been such an important part of this whole experience. In many, I have found much needed humour, others have inspired me and helped me with my own wellbeing, but this one is something that is stuck in my mind and I can’t get seem to get it out.

I know I speak for so many when I say that mum life is almost never calm and time for self-care is rarer than I’d like. Working, taking care of 3 young sons (with a multitude of interests that seem to require non-stop driving), a house that needs cleaning, washing that sadly doesn’t do itself, meals that are seemingly required EVERY day, sorting out social arrangements (ours and the children’s!) and the general life admin that all of this requires doesn’t leave much time or headspace. I have often pondered how nice it would be to just stop the world for a short time and get off.

Turns out one should be careful what one wishes for!

Almost 5 weeks in and it has certainly been an experience so far. Getting to grips with remote working, supervising the kids doing school work at home (I refuse to call it home schooling as that is a choice that parents make to educate their children at home and this for me, is definitely not that), adjusting to an entirely new way of communicating with my family and my friends and managing mood swings I never knew were possible, and I don’t just mean mine.

But you know what? All things considered, there is a lot I like about it.

Mornings in the Cohen household until now were more like military boot camp than anything else. Screams of “get your shoes on, put your PE kit in your bag and WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVE HOMEWORK DUE IN TODAY?” could be heard loud and clear across Borehamwood. And having worked all day, the post school routine mainly tended to involve picking one son up from one place, 2 sons up from another and on most days an inevitable rush to feed them and drop them at activities.

It was exhausting, largely unfulfilling and there wasn’t really any thanks for it. Not because my kids aren’t grateful, but because it had become the norm. They asked for it, they expected it and by and large they got it. What parent doesn’t want to be able to give their kids the opportunities they desire if they can? And as for the weekends… well activities aside, if there were no plans in the diary for an afternoon there was the inevitable conversation between my husband and I most Thursday / Fridays that almost always went along the lines of, “Oh blimey, we have no plans for them, where shall we take them? Trampoline park? Cinema? Bowling?”.

And it is only now, in the midst of a global pandemic, that I realise exactly how ridiculous that was.

Because pre pandemic, it is unlikely that I would have received a positive reaction to a suggestion that our activity for that day was a bike / scooter ride or a walk in a local park or wood. They might well have done it, but they’d certainly have been expecting this to be a precursor to something much grander (and that no doubt cost us a small fortune). Don’t get me wrong, we cherish family time in whatever form it comes. It has always been special to us and a game of Rummikub is pretty normal here, but regular board game playing? Watching a film altogether more than once in a short time? Unheard of.

I have a whole lot of hopes for my children during this time. I hope they remember the fun they had (with us and with each other), I hope they aren’t too scarred by my moments of total and utter frustration with them or the times when they drove each other to absolute madness, but above all I hope they have learnt a lesson in resilience. That life isn’t a fairy tale and sometimes being bored is ok. These are life lessons and for me, they beat equivalent fractions any day of the week.

A colleague spoke to me this week about her own personal manifesto, her plan of action to make sure that at least some of positivity she currently feels remains afterwards and I think this has a lot of merit. Of course it doesn’t need to be a huge, bound, pretty document, but I believe there is certainly something in the idea of deciding now, before this is over, what changes you are going to make, however big or small.

I have made a promise to myself that if I take one thing from this, that I really try and stick with, it will be not to fill every minute. Some of it I know will go right back to how it was. I won’t stop working in the job that love and similarly I won’t stop my kids doing the things that they love, but I absolutely won’t be filling every weekend with meaningless, expensive outings when they are just as happy, even dare I say it happier, without it.

So my question to you is this. What will you take from this time?

What are you doing that you enjoy and how will you make sure that you make time for it afterwards?

Think about it and think about it now, before we are thrown back into “real life” and wishing we’d have made more of it.

Nicki Cohen