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Stories of motherhood during Covid – 19 *Guest Blogger – Lyanne Kilbane*

Hoping to empower women to be authentic and put themselves out there, an unfiltered raw diary of my life hurdles as a mummy….Be yourself and let the world catch up!

My COVID career change…. a teacher, a cleaner, a baker, a candlestick maker ….

Around 20th March 2020 

Trying to remember back to when I found out the schools were closing and I was to become head mistress, form tutor, teaching assistant and playground friend to my two kids. Do you know what, aside from the sheer worry and pure dread that we were all about to die and the world was ending I was pretty damn excited! 

My initial thoughts were AMAZING, a blessing sent from above, someone has been listening to my prays at night (Oh Jesus Christ just give me a break for two mins Amen).  Quality time together, no school runs in my pjs laced with dry shampoo to save face, no more letters asking me to bring in left over jars, a yellow top, two pounds and some booze for the staff room.  No homework, no school uniform cleaning, no awkward mind-numbing chats in the rain waiting for your kid to be the last bugger out every single time!  What could go wrong.  I had some coaching qualifications, I’ve worked in a care home previously, I teach children dance once a week, and the most important of all, I do have a handful of C grade GCSES don’t you know.  My two were going to be a walk in the COVID park.  Feeling smug ….

23rd March 2020 (I think – I mean I do not know, do not care, as I said no work or school runs.)

Welcome to the school of mum.  Pancakes for breakfast, snuggles for breaktime and PE to end the day, oh yes isn’t this fantastic, and our pooch Buster is like our pet therapist and when work gets too tricky we can have a break and have a cuddle. 

We had designed our home school logo, brainstormed something to bake for our family bake off tomorrow, PE with mindfulness, reading and talking about our books together and the last task for the day was write down 5 things you have done well today and remember how amazing you are!

I signed the bottom of my homemade school planner with 

 water, toilet breaks, cuddles and smiles are free all-day love from Mrs Mumsy

They surprised me.  They loved designing their home school logos and of course the pancakes for breakfast but not the PE lesson! The picture I have of their disgruntled lazy faces is hilarious, it reminded me of the face I pull when I see the laundry basket overflowing or find a sticky Haribo in my daughter’s coat pocket!

 It was mostly an uneventful lovely day for the kids, at least it ended playing in the garden.  For me It ended with a pack of frozen mixed veg on my right knee and a pack of frozen broccoli on my right shoulder.  Flip flops, 4 dogs and Indian slate DO NOT mix.  Nothing a bar of galaxy won’t fix….

The day before they go back to the new version of school

I am getting increasingly stressed and nervous, I feel my palpitations and a panic attack coming on.

If we break it down, anyone would normally be nervous about their children’s new school year and new teacher, made more intense this year because I have one going up to senior school (meaning two sets of emails, school runs, school shows, school mums, what’s app groups, playground dramas,  homework etc.).

I am writing this now through the blur of tears in my eyes.  It is all so different and scary.  We are receiving email updates daily now and copies of risk assessments for the return to school. 

The one I just received about how my son will be getting on his minibus to senior school without me being allowed to stand close enough to wave him off, nor meeting his new teacher or embarrassingly forcing him to have a photo by the entrance on the way in has just tipped me into teary mode!

He will be on the minibus with his tutor group bubble, assigned to a specific seat, again to contain the spread of viruses, and travelling to the school in silence so as not to possibly transmit Corona virus whilst on the bus. 

It feels so very sad and such a shame.  This is not how it’s supposed to be, it’s a new exciting chapter in his life, the next junction on his way to adulthood, the interim between mummy’s boy and someone’s husband and instead of chit chatting and giggling their way into their new school they will have face mask in hand ready to put on as he walks through the doors to the school after his silent minibus journey. They will not be mingling with their year group in the playground building new friendship groups and alliances, they will be too busy checking for red tape to adhere to the 2 metres apart rule. How do you develop interpersonal skills, relationships, support with these new rules in place? I mean there is not even sitting next to your mate and copying their work to look forward to for God’s sake!   There are no hugs from your new BFF, there are no butterflies and hand holding walks along the corridor with your first girlfriend.  It’s all different but is it only me who knows this?  Do the kids even realise how different it will be yet? Probably not because we shield them from as much as possible.  We think the less you know the better.  That theory has taken a back seat somewhat for me and I’m starting to trust their emotional maturity and wanting them to be able to have a clear glass view of the world, so they can make their own assumptions, judgment calls and, unfortunately but necessarily, some mistakes. After all, if you don’t start to learn what the real world is like as a junior you will have a very rude awakening come 18?

He hasn’t been to secondary before, maybe this is good to have a clear-cut fresh start, with strange rules, in a new school.  Easier for him maybe?? Is it better than my 8 year old returning to her school to the friends she hasn’t seen for 6 months yet not being able to swing around the monkey bars together like they used to or play Chinese whispers while you plait each other’s hair because it’s not possible to do it 2metres apart. My daughter has drawn a picture for her best friend to give to her tomorrow on their first day back, she showed me before she tucked it in the front pocket of her school bag and I felt a little lump in my throat, a pull on the heart strings breaking the news to her that she may not be allowed to give it to her due to social distancing and sanitation rules.  She will have to check with the teacher first but it’s totally fine with me and a beautiful drawing!

Going back to the secondary school tears I am having about all the changes and new rules, I need to get a grip to a certain extent and start focusing on the positives – so let us list some.

  • No need to have the birds and the bees chat if he is not even allowed to sit next to a girl. There will for sure be no funny business for the foreseeable thank the lord! (Pretty sure he’s way to young yet anyway.)
  • Less likely to come home with every other virus under the sun as they normally do when going back to school.  The not so hygienic kids are now forced to wash their hands and keep their distance (cheers Boris).
  • My family are still alive and kicking and, as far as we know, coronavirus free for the time being.  We are so incredibly lucky and my heart goes out to all less fortunate (we think big kid had it before lockdown and apart from ear problems he’s ok now).
  • They are going back to school and they will, I am sure, receive a considerably better education with actual teachers in the school setting than they did working through wing it Wednesday’s and fake it Fridays with mummy.
  • They get to see their friends, all be it from a distance, after all I quite possibly would not make it through more than 48 hours without mine on the end of the phone.
  • We have had some amazing time together and not many mum’s get 6 solid months with their sproggs uninterrupted by work, summer camps and social commitments!  Again lucky   
  • I also think along with possibly some OCD we may just be in the middle of raising compassionate, careful, considerate, more resilient little people who understand the importance of respecting other people’s personal space and how to be patient and queue for hours in the rain just to eat pasta and wipe your bum!

3rd Sept 2020

My girl has gone back to school.  She was so excited and that it helped melt away the worry for me and I was able to disguise the fact I only had 4 hours sleep, and on the plus side I got out of the awkward playground chats about the weather due to the new Covid rules.  Morning school run no 1 done win-win. 

For my girl,

Your back at school it’s a new year, 

Time to smile, listen make new friends and cheer’

This one’s a bit strange we can’t share the slide,

There’s lots of new rules for us to abide.

But still I’m young, incredible and resilient I adapt so well,

And I’m just sooo excited to see my friends its swell.

4th Sept 2020 (My little man’s first day at senior school)

I was up early and in the shower, fresh mum for school run, I made him his scrambled eggs and I’d ironed his shirt yesterday (actually had to go and buy an iron).  Everything normally goes in the tumble dryer and has done for years now, but now my little soldier is wearing proper man shirts so I have to iron again.  When I dug out the iron I remembered the last time I had used it it left cute leopard like  black marks all over my linen top so off I popped to get a new one in preparation for ironing.  Still – only 5 shirts a week for the foreseeable future. We also went to 5 different shops to get him reusable face masks yesterday after the government guidelines changed for senior school children and the school sent an email letting us know they were required today. 

I reminded him to use DO for the BO (deodorant) now he has actually started to get that teenage smelly edge these last few weeks, no one wants their son to start senior school nicknamed the smelly kid! He gelled his hair, got into his smart clothes with a little help from dad at the end and that all so recognisable baggy blazer you see the years 7s wearing in September every year and think how cute they look like their wearing dads suit jacket! Just leaves time for cringy pictures with us all and off we went butterflies for me and I reckon him too.

The contrast in the conversation in the car between a mum and a dad was palpable, perhaps a reflection of our own differing experiences of senior school

 Dad’s words of wisdom in the car:

If you have any trouble fight back, stand up for yourself from day one let people know you won’t be pushed around and taken advantage of have fun love ya.”

Mums dialogue in the car:

Don’t forget to also be nice like you are normally, treat everyone how you would like to be treated, remember everyone is different, respect the differences please! If everyone had this conversation with their kids on day one maybe there would be less bullying. You have mostly been surrounded by adults for the last 5-6 months remember so do as I say not as I do and don’t use any of the swear words I’ve been rolling with for the last few months (my bad tough times)! 

Have you got your lunch?

Have you got your paperwork?

Have you got your pencil case?

Have you got your water bottle?

 Did you drink the water I put for you with your eggs this morning? Are you ok?

 Most of all do you have your hand sanitiser, do you have your face mask?

 Don’t forget face masks in corridors and on the bus, no talking on the bus, listen to the new rules due to corona and it will be ok.

 Enjoy it you’ll be amazing, be open to new friends, say hi to the ones you recognise from junior school and football, you’re going to be amazing, we love you, proud of you bubba.”

Mum takes a breath; we get out of the car and walk down to the outdoor queue for his form (I sneak a kiss from my hand to his cheek).  Cones on the floor for the 2 metres distance, a sea of nervous children with face masks on, so surreal without a doubt could never of imagined this is what it would be like on his first day of senior school, but it will be fine, he will be fine, he won’t be teased, he won’t be naughty, he won’t hurt himself, he won’t miss me, he wont find the new rules difficult?………   Will he? …..

For my boy

I’m bursting with pride I can’t believe your mine,

You’re simply incredible you’ll do just fine.

I’m sorry this isn’t how I wanted it to be for you,

Face masks and sanitiser all these new things to remember and do!

Your making history the year 7s of the pandemic be confident let’s go,

Remember you’ve got this and when you need me I’m here for you my bubba, always close by in your shadow. 

Time for a coffee and a cry whilst I count down the hours to picking you up and giving you a massive squeeze.

My mum mantra of the week

Keep your snack cupboard full and the WIFI turned on and they will love you no matter what!