Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Every kiwi whānau with non-essential workers in their whare will be going through the same change of routine due to the COVID-19 level 4 lockdown in Aotearoa, to a different degree perhaps but changes nevertheless. There are struggles that come with any change, it's not all rainbows and butterflies. Our whānau was lucky/unlucky (however you want to look at it) in that we had a head start on our at home routine since Dad broke his ribs a few weeks back and has been off work. You would think having 2 parents home to care for our pēpi and do housework that things would run much smoother, be easier, and always be clean and tidy. Logically it makes sense, many hands make light work right? Well not quite. Our initial lockdown routine ended up being an extended version of our weekend ’routine’ meaning the load of washing each day didn’t happen, there were twice as many dishes, and the TV went on early in the day. It was a natural progression that continued through the week when my partner no longer had to go to work. There was no discussion about that, it just happened.
There was a definite 'teething period' (both literally and figuratively) when my partner began staying home. There was frustration on all 3 sides, the house was a mess most of the time, our son's day naps were almost non-existent, and we were on entirely different schedules - we didn't wake up or go to sleep together, we didn't eat at the same times, and we had no idea what each other needed. We were lacking communication, this lockdown came with another challenge for our relationship. We had to sit down and figure out what wasn't working, this wasn't as simple as one sit down and an "okay you do the day naps and I'll clean the house", it took several conversations and a few different versions of our new schedule. We still haven't mastered the schedule but we are better at checking in on each other and recognising when each other needs a break and how we can make that break happen. We make sure that each day we get at least an hour to ourselves while the other takes care of our son. Mostly we use that hour to get a workout in but on the odd occasion we use it for a nap or a shower. Once we come back together we both always feel more patient and more emotionally available - it is crucial to our mental health. We also have to make more of a conscious effort to have time for just us 2. My partner and I have both made changes in order to get us through this lockdown, for however long it lasts.
I luckily realised that it wasn’t good for my mental health to be taking in the news of the world all day on social media, and on all 3 news programmes spanning almost the full length of the day. I felt as though I needed to catch up with the current status and once you start it is hard to stop. It is so easy to feel the weight of this pandemic when you start to look around at the pain and loss people are experiencing due to this virus. It can deteriorate your mental health without you realising it, if you're like me you will emulate that pain and your whānau will suffer because of it. Once I realised the consequences it was having on my mindset I knew I had to make some changes. Not too dissimilar to my initial changes in the newborn phase with my son, I made sure that TV time was limited instead of keeping it on all day for background noise. I made time for myself and made sure I did something for myself each day. The biggest change I made was that I asked for help. It can be so easy to stay in the routine of doing everything yourself but the same logic that "he has to sleep for work" or "he doesn't know the routine the same" doesn't apply when you have at least 4 weeks ahead of you locked down at home. Don't make excuses as to why you should do it yourself or why Dad can't help. He can, and he should, and he most likely wants to but doesn't know how. Help him, tell him what to do, even if you feel like a nag. At the very least he'll get some time to bond with his tamariki.
If you're a whānau who have Nan's, Nanny's, Koro's, Papa's, Aunties, and Uncles around to help then this lockdown has likely effected your ability to spend time apart from your pēpi as a couple, and also to feel connected - thank goodness for technology. We already have realised that it may be some time before our son sees anyone other than the 2 of us and that he may be walking, if not at least crawling, before we next get to see anyone else in person. Making sure he gets the benefit of a full extended whānau worth of aroha from the 2 of us feels like a huge task but we know we are capable of it and that we will come out the other side stronger and better for it.
It can be hard work, but look for the positives - you have some added exclusive whānau time. Soak it up, take it one day at a time, try to be grateful, and don't forget to love one another - You got this Māmā!