Same storm, different boats – navigating lockdown with school aged children

I saw a quote on Facebook that was something along the lines of ‘we’re not all in the same boat but we are in the same storm’ and thought how true that is. People often say ‘we’re in the same boat’ with good intentions of illustrating our togetherness but actually, our experiences of this pandemic are going to be different, wildly so in some cases.

My family and friends are fortunate enough to not be directly adversely affected by the physical illness so far; our varying experiences are purely to do with living under the lockdown measures. This is where the different boats bit comes in.

Some of our numbers are sailing through this experience with relative ease; they’re the ones in a cruise liner. They have plenty to keep them entertained at home, their immediate family members are safe and happy being at home, furlough or self employment grants allow the security and head space to enjoy this freed up timetable, and the icing on the cake is that they aren’t overly keen on close physical proximity so social distancing is a bit of a gift.

Others are having a total nightmare, job insecurity or unemployment, children struggling to adjust, usual support networks are out of physical reach, homeschooling the cause of meltdowns for both child and ‘teacher’. These are the ones in a punctured dinghy; feeling like they’re not getting anywhere fast and it’s a relentless effort to just stay afloat. They’ve sent up a flare and are clinging on hoping that help will come soon.

Somewhere in the middle of these is everyone else. Their vessels are determined daily, even hourly. Some days they might feel like they’re winning, they’ve got the kids out for a nice walk or bike ride, a homeschool task yielded a recordable outcome that could be shared with the school teacher, the supermarket had self raising flour so they baked cakes together, everyone went to bed happy, they’re having a luxury yacht day.

Other days they’re in a pedalo, peddling against the tide and feeling tossed about in the waves caused by the luxury yachts passing by. The phone hasn’t stopped pinging with Dojo alerts from school, post after post about all the other families that are managing to do really great things with their kids; the geocaching, the art work, the elaborate marble runs, the three course meals that they planned and made – a constant reminder of how the pedalo crew is failing. They might be the ones who are working from home whilst trying to homeschool, the ones who typically have a good social calendar between friends, family and maybe even time out as a couple but are now feeling bereft of their usual closeness with others and overwhelmed by the impossible task of trying to do it all to a standard that they feel is acceptable.

Generally speaking, I’m aiming for a fishing vessel most days. It might not be the prettiest, there are a few rust patches where the water seeps in but it’s functional and pretty reliable save for the odd bit of maintenance that might catch me unawares. Most days, the fishing boats are chugging along quite consistently. They might pull up the nets to a great catch, enough to sustain themselves and to share with others. They have enough on board emotionally to offer an ear to those who need to be heard, a smile or a laugh to those who need a bit of sunshine, a reassuring word for those who need a virtual hand hold. Some days the catch is sparse, the nets have become tangled and there’s nothing to draw from, they’re empty. It’s not really an SOS moment so they don’t call on anyone else for help in case the people they call are having an empty net day too. They bob along in the water feeling totally alone, hoping that the catch will be better tomorrow… and usually it is because the fishing boat doesn’t stay anchored to the same spot, it sails on to richer waters.

When this storm has passed and the boats all make it back to the harbour, how well they weathered may be evident from appearance alone. Some won’t be though; it’ll only be through examining the captain’s log that we’ll really get to understand each journey.

Whichever vessel we’re sailing in, let’s hope it delivers us all safely through. Think carefully about your crew, not everyone on board will have experienced the journey in quite the same way as the captain and on the darkest of stormy days; I hope you’ve got a first mate who can take the helm if you need some time below deck.

May you have fair winds and following seas! (That’s sailor speak for a safe journey and good fortune – I had to look it up, I’m really not that au fait with nautical terms and phrases!)

Big virtual hugs or warm smiles, depending on your preference!