So I was going to do the whole social media thing and say I am blessed to be working from home and having all this extra time with my children is amazing but I thought some of you may appreciate a bit of honesty!

The first few weeks were tough! Like running barefoot through a Lego maze kind of tough. Being a single Mum trying to work, home school an autistic 8 year old that really struggles with learning anyway and a 5 year old that often resembles a chimp! And continuing to study AAT level 3 was just hell. Then after a particularly bad work call where I spent most of the 45-minute conversation apologizing about world war 3 going off downstairs I decided things HAD to change. I think I came to this revelation somewhere between my third anxiety attack of the day and crying in the garden with my daughter crying upstairs and my son wondering around aimlessly saying “I’ve never seen you cry before Mummy” Que even more Mum guilt! Friends had asked how things were going and I’d done what most of us do and replied “oh we’re  fine” But in reality it was far from it. I saw post after post of families doing all these amazing and creative things and I just felt like I had 10 balls in the air and was dropping most them.

However, NOW things are good, really good in fact! I realized we can’t do it all. And the worst pressure is what we put on ourselves. My exams are cancelled so I have stopped studying for now. The tutor is still doing the lessons all day every Wednesday on Teams but I will pick it up again when things have gotten back to normal and guess what, the world hasn’t stopped.

The best thing that has worked for us is getting a new routine (and the occasional Lego bribe after earning a few stars!) We still get up at normal time, have breakfast and all do an hour of work. We have a reward chart so we gain our first star of the day on completion of school work. I figure a productive hour per day is better than 6 hours of stress. Then we make sure we get outside for fresh air and exercise, also star number 2. We are lucky enough to be near Stratton woods which has been very quiet but beautiful, we talk, we run and play hide and seek with no distractions just us together and it has been great for both our bodies and minds. Then we come home and have lunch. I am lucky enough to only work part time so only do another two hours while the kids, who are now tired and full watch a film or play. Before our routine I was guilty of checking my emails and working on and off all day long, pausing games and constantly saying oh hang on to the kids. However now at 3pm the afternoons are ours. And I can honestly say we love them! We have put our Christmas lights up around the house so have living room parties, we bake bread and cakes, play with play doh, play board games and craft! And sometimes we just watch film after film!

We still have our moments where I have to reread an email 4 times as I’m being asked the most random questions or I’ve typed the word Lego as it’s being discussed in my ear for the hundredth time or shouting downstairs that they can’t kill each other as we can’t go to A&E right now. Luckily my lovely team don’t mind the odd visitor popping into our Zoom meetings to say hi. I tell myself we’re all in this together and we need to embrace the chaos. There are so many positives if we look in the right place. My son said yesterday morning “the virus isn’t bad Mummy we’re all together. It’s like being on holiday” and he’s right! We are all doing our best and that’s enough.

Zoe West – Income and Bookings Assistant, Stratton St Margaret Parish Council