Updated: Jul 3, 2020
So, it’s been a while and that’s really because there’s been lots of change in our routines recently. We’re all slowly exploring what it’s like to peek out of lockdown and see what it feels like. For us, its been two of our three boys going back to school for a couple of days a week that has made the biggest change. So, with the extra bit of head space that this has brought I’ve had time for a bit of personal reflection on the lessons of lockdown life.
First up, lets just take a moment to recognise that this whole period has been unpredicted and unpredictable. My mood, energy and general outlook on life has been up and down. I found the monotony of living the same day, every day not just dull but also exhausting. But, when I stopped and thought about it, it’s not been all bad.
Yes, it took some adjusting, I had to consciously think about what I was able to do each day, what my expectations of myself could, and should, realistically be and I’ve had to have a couple of stern words with myself to just crack on- I did not have it that bad. In fact, I had it easy by comparison to many.
So, with that recognition, how can I use this unexpected pause in my life to learn about myself, my life and what I want my future to be like? I’ve tried to think about seeing this time as an unasked for and unprecedented opportunity to take stock of where I am, where I’ve been and where I want to go next (metaphorically speaking of course- I really love where I live!).
Here’s the main ‘lessons’ that I ended up with:
The kids don’t need entertaining all the time
We don’t need a busy schedule to be happy
BUT, the kids need their friends; they need time away from us to just be kids-
there are only so many fart jokes I can laugh at and I know that other 6 and 8 year old boys have no such limitations!
I need people in my life; I need friends, I need incidental chit chat at the school run or the shops, I need our extended family.
I enjoy going out and having fun – for me this is a meal out, hanging out with other mums while the kids play, going out dancing, going for a drink, generally being with people in a space that isn’t my home. All of these allow me to feel and express myself as something other than ‘mum’ or ‘occupational therapist’.
I’ve really missed having balance and variety in my role’s. I miss not being ‘my whole self’: there are facets of my identity that I’ve not been able to express in the context of family life and online work and this has been most keenly felt in the restrictions of social environments.
Work and career
This has been the big one for me. Before lockdown I was planning for when my youngest goes to school ( not until 2021 but I do like a plan!) and was exploring the possibility of returning to study or research, maybe even a PhD.
Something to compliment the private work I do that would feel connected to my profession and something that would be just for me and my own sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
But, when I explored some ideas around further study or research, I kept hearing about needing to be ready for ‘independent work’, ‘self-directed learning’ and a need for internal motivation and focus. The more I researched and thought about it, the more I realised that this wouldn’t give me the balance that I need; lockdown has taught me that I need more people in my daily life not less.
It’s the nature of independent practice to be working by yourself and there are many positives and benefits to this that I wouldn’t want to give up, but… I miss the sense of togetherness that being part of a wider team or organisation brings. If I were then also working alone in research/study? It would be too much work stuff by myself.
So, what was I to do? Reflection. Not a surprising answer given that I’m always suggesting it for other people, but I really do think it helps. I jotted down some quick notes about what I was learning about myself at work during this time.
Excuse the handwriting but I wanted to show that refection doesn’t have to be in depth or using a specific format. This captured what I needed it to and the highlighted bits are the bits I kept coming back to.
So where did they lead? They led, of course, to planning! My second favourite process to tell people to do. I thought about what I wanted from my future work life and having decided that further study wasn’t going to fit my needs, came up with a couple of other options:
Option 1 - return to a job similar to those I’ve done previously
Option 2 - find a job in a new context or environment that offers some of the things that are important to me and fits with my current and hoped for future work-life balance
Option 1- From experience, I don’t feel that returning to the NHS part time and keeping my own practice running whilst still having relatively small children would give me much sense of balance. So, option 1 was out of the picture.
Onto option 2- I started investigating other work opportunities and that’s when a tweet about a job with a local mental health support charity popped up. I applied (bit scary), interviewed (very scary), didn’t get the job but did get a good feeling about the way that my current work, my current life could accommodate part time work with an organisation offering support to those that need it. A place where I felt I might be able to offer something to those who aren’t in position to access private therapy and so give me a sense of balance and ‘rightness’ in my career and professional values. It would also be with people- I’d be part of a team and organisation.
In a nutshell: I have now changed my future career plans as a result of lessons learned from lockdown.
And this got me thinking: what have other people have learnt from lockdown?
Do you feel that lockdown has changed your perspective?
How ready are you to hold onto the good, jettison the bad and make the useful stuff stick when lockdown lifts and the usual pressures and pace of life start to return? Have you thought about this at all? Do you want to think about this at all? If you do want to think about it, would you be interested in doing this in a structured way?
I’m thinking about head space; dedicated time to think about using this experience to plan for what parts of your life you want to change and what you want to hold onto. How much of that change is feasible? How much is in your control and how much relies on outside circumstances? How do you decide where to put your energy to get the balance right for you and your needs in your life and routine?
If you’ve got any thoughts on this, I’d love to know. And if you’d be interested in a virtual group programme to think about it all, please get in touch- I’ve got one ready to go (details at https://www.katebinnington.co.uk/lifeafterlockdown) and I'd love to know if anyone would be interested.
Thanks for reading