Lessons from Lockdown: Shielding as a Family

"Lockdown has made Michelle, my wife, feel guilty that we are having to change our lives for her. Guilty that we can’t have a little drive down to the coast, guilty that Ruby can’t meet her friends, guilty that she couldn’t cuddle the girls. Michelle is extremely strong minded, but her girls are her life and not being able to give them basic things is taking its toll."

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I am Jon (43) married to my beautiful Wife and best friend Michelle, together we have 3 fantastic daughters Ruby, Imogen and Tallulah.

Covid-19 has turned our life upside down.

Michelle lives with an extremely rare autoimmune eye condition; she is on immune suppressants that leave her with no immune system at all. As soon as Boris announced that millions of people needed to shield, we knew Michelle would be on that list. So, it was no shock when she took a call the very next day from her Consultant.

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As I write this we are now on Day 93 of shielding Michelle, and that’s what it’s been about, me and the girls protecting mum.

That’s what you do as a family.

Michelle’s shielding instructions were:

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Not being able to hug the kids has been so hard for Michelle and for the girls. Since mid-March we have been completely locked down.

At the start of lockdown, I was one of the only ones wearing gloves and face mask to go shopping. I was also the only one shopping with a large trolley and got accused of stock piling. This hit a nerve, I had to tell them that every time I come out, I put my wife’s life at risk. It upset me. People should think before they speak and just be kind. Michelle and the girls go upstairs as I bring the shopping in, and I anti-bacteria wipe every item. I then spray all the bags and put them back in my car, wash down the sides and the floor. I put my clothes in the wash and have a shower. Some people may think this is over kill but it keeps my wife alive.

Michelle was instructed not to leave her home:

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Michelle being Michelle takes this in her stride, me on the other hand...

Panic

Initial panicky thoughts focused on the kids and school. The younger two need taking. I was still working and normally would be away from home a few days a week. This was still back before everyone had to lockdown or as me and Toots (Tallulah) say TOTAL LOCKDOWN. Due to the nature of my work it became clear very early on that I would not be able to carry on as normal, so my work instructed me to work from home from Friday 13th March. Again, after the initial worry and shock this worked in our favour as it meant that I could do school runs (This was still a week before Total Lockdown).

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Total Lockdown

The nature of Covid-19 was changing daily at that point. When the news came that Total Lockdown was coming, it was a kind of relief for us as it meant we could protect Michelle. Our Day to Day now is like something out of an episode of EastEnders, without the Duff, Duff drums. Working from home I would get up normal workday time (5am) work for a few hours before kids got up and then do Breakfast for them and try and set them up to do some work. Once Michelle got up, I would then go and work in the bedroom (As that’s the only room in the house I could be left alone). We are very lucky that all the girls like school, however getting Imogen motivated to do schoolwork from home is like trying to get blood out of stone. Ruby being in year 9 is doing remote leaning so she needs to be logged on and register for lessons as she would if she was at school, so she still has a structure. Toots being the youngest and most like her Mother kind of just goes with it. In the early days of lockdown, it was difficult to find the boundaries as I would be working and every day blurred into one. On top of this Michelle would have good and bad days, and every two weeks she administers a Micro Biological Injection that can knock her out. Michelle needs rest and is not used to all of us being here 24/7. Every parent knows how demanding kids are and this has only been magnified since lockdown.

Furlough

Then I was furloughed. It was weird being at home all the time and not able to go anywhere. I began to feel a bit useless as I need my structure and routine. We have learnt, in these uncertain times, there is no right or wrong way to parent. If the kids are not getting the schoolwork, sack it off that day, start fresh the next morning, if they are having a late night then make sure the next one is earlier. If you give them left over pizza for breakfast, then go with it (Just don’t tell mum). For us everything is about keeping Michelle/Mum safe and we do what it takes to do that. I have really struggled with lockdown. I asked Michelle why she thought this was and she says, “I don’t do change”. I am a creature of habits I like to go to work Monday to Friday and enjoy the weekend. I often stress and worry about things that are out of my control and this is totally out of my control. It certainly helps me to keep busy, so I now have a list of things to do and tick them off once they are done.

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The Loft is sorted, Garage tidied and painted, decking painted, path laid in the garden and now onto the inside of the house. I would say Michelle has been the strongest out of all of us but that is a testament to the way she is, Life throws lemons at her she makes lemonade as the saying goes.

Teenagers

Ruby (14) is fantastic, she gets on with her work and does all the normal teenage things (staying in her room all day and not getting up until late at the weekends). She is fully onboard on what needs to be done in these crazy times, we talk to her regularly letting her know it’s ok to say you're having a bad day. We are concerned about how this will affect her going forward. Her friends are starting to socialise now and so the situation is becoming tougher for Rubz. At 14 you just want to go out and have fun with your mates. Hopefully in the coming weeks we may feel comfortable enough to let her out for a while. On a positive note her mates have been great, the other day they arrived spontaneously at our house and they sat out on our front lawn (Social distancing) for a while and chatted which meant the world to Ruby.

Return to School?

The children returning to school was becoming a major topic between Michelle and I and wondering what to do for the best. We know they need to get back to School ASAP especially Ruby as she is in her first year of GSCE’s, but at the back of our mind is always our goal which is to protect Michelle, and with the kids going back can we do this? We were relieved when the news came that schools will not be open until September , this just takes the pressure off for the time being.

Lessons from Lockdown?

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We are still going strong and haven’t argued. It has been nice spending time with girls as I feel it is about making memories that they can tell their kids when they are learning about this in years to come. The girls are missing their Gym, Ruby is missing her friends and her football. I have really missed Football, I coach a U15’s girl team and our season was cut short. We will come out of this a stronger family. As lockdown eases, I’ve ventured to shops with Tallulah once and she was so excited, we made a game of it saying we need to stay away from the Zombies as we go in masks and gloved up. Lockdown has made me think about what’s important in life. We all work and live busy lives and when this is taken away from you it is a time to sit back and think about what matters.

About the Author

Jon Wood, husband of Michelle and Dad of three also coaches an impressive U15's girls football team. Michelle has been keeping very busy the last few months running her home made reversible face mask making business. Check it out :)

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If you would like to share your lessons from lockdown then be in touch with nell@dad.info

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