Health & Well-being

Finishing lockdown well: A few subtle shifts

Parenting Placelockdown fatigue

So, level 4 lockdown continues for Auckland. For how much longer, we still don’t know. But I’m claiming that the end is in sight! There is light at the end of the tunnel… surely?!

I am wondering, though, if I’m not the only Aucklander in need of a little encouragement. Perhaps some fresh perspective to get through this last little push. So here’s a thought: I’m going shift around my priorities as we head to the ‘finish line’ (please, let it be so!).

And it's subtle – I’m simply prioritising relationships and connection in the hope that our family will cross the line well! (I can just picture us in joyful unity – all holding hands with arms raised, collectively taking out the finishing ribbon with beaming, elated smiles. Except that lockdown isn’t a race and that picture of a blissfully happy whānau is neither realistic nor that helpful right now.)

It’s all happening at home

Earlier in this lockdown, I was struck by something my colleague shared in a Zoom ‘check in’ (back when those were still a fun novelty). He said: “Last lockdown I was a really good employee and a mediocre father and husband. This time, I’m reversing that. I’m choosing to be a really good father and husband and an average employee.” Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m by no means advocating that we all slack off and just be really mediocre employees. Rather, I’m wondering if it might help to shift more of our focus to our relationships as we run these final stages of the lockdown gauntlet.

While previous lockdowns have had some novelty value, and all the bread-making and teddy-bear-spotting was kind of fun, this time round – the reality of working from home has hit me hard. I’m really aware of the tension between being a good mum and a good employee. I’ve been doing my best but in reality, my only option of a work space is an ironing board in my bedroom. Come ‘home time’, I’ve been finding myself often rather grumpy. Like many people, my work has been getting the best of me, leaving the least of me for my family.

I’ve been doing my best but in reality, my only option of a work space is an ironing board in my bedroom.

‘Working from home’ is a tricky term, and fairly loaded. It might help to reframe it, especially to counter the lockdown fatigue many of us Aucklanders are feeling. Working from home during lockdown is exhausting, and really hard to do well. Our productivity levels are not the same as they would be if we were in our usual workplaces. And that’s totally understandable! So, here’s the reframe: instead of ‘working from home’, I’m going back to ‘living at home’ while also doing what I can to get some of my work done. Amidst a crisis too! So I’m lowering my expectations on the work, and focusing more on the living.

Whānau connection

I’m asking myself each day, what would it look like to prioritise connection over completion? What if we put relationships first and our work responsibilities second? This seems a little daring, but the thing is – when we nurture relationships and value connection, our capacity for work actually increases. I truly believe we will be better employees who are more productive in lockdown if we choose to meet the needs of our whānau as the first priority. Here’s another great article that talks about the value of moments of connection with our kids, and the positive effects a mere minute or two can have on a whole day.

Practically speaking, I like the idea of splitting the day into three parts:

  1. Work time
  2. Play time
  3. Connection time
  1. WORK time: This looks like online school, Zoom meetings, catching up on emails, etc etc. If you can tag team with your partner and take turns 'checking in' on the at-home learners or super active pre-schoolers, this will ease the load.

  2. PLAY time: Get the kids outside for walks around the neighbourhood, throwing a ball around the backyard, bike rides, and if you dare... a game of spotlight at sun down.

  3. CONNECTING time: This is the time of the day where relationships are nurtured and developed. It may look like sharing kai around the table (most of us are too tired now for themed dinner parties, but all power to you if you're still up for it!), board games, movie nights with popcorn and lollies, snuggling on the couch for story time, dance parties in the lounge or quiet check-ins at bedtime. This can also include connecting with wider whānau via Zoom calls or Facetime.

Partner connection

Nourishing your relationship with your partner is challenging at the best of times, so lockdown increases the need for intentionality. We need to make the most of the little moments!

Rituals of connection look like purposeful things partners repeat in the relationship so as to not take the other person for granted.

The Gottman Institute talks about the importance of rituals of connections between partners – things you are intentional about routinely doing each day. Rituals of connection look like purposeful things partners repeat in the relationship so as not to take the other person for granted. Lockdown can certainly make it hard to pop out for coffee or dinner with your significant other (actually, many of us find that difficult even without lockdown!), but there are other strategies for ritual connection that we can still take a hold of in our bubbles.

Things like cuddling every morning before you get out of bed. Or a weekly date night at home – perhaps you have a candle-lit dinner when the kids are asleep. Things like exercising together and having a few ‘emotional check-ins’ each day with your partner – a simple “how’s your morning been?” can be powerful for enhancing connection. And those little appreciation rituals (which we tend to forget!) are incredibly important – actually remembering to say ‘thank you’ throughout the day: for the cuppa, for helping the kids with their maths, for letting you have the last row of chocolate...

Many of us came away with new skills after the first lockdown of 2020. Some of us became sourdough experts, some of us mastered macrame. My husband re-discovered a love of cooking, something I’m still benefitting from. This time round, we have a unique opportunity here to end this lockdown well relationally, even if the wheels might be falling off our ‘working from home’ efforts (and fewer of us have bothered baking our own bread). How about we leave this level four lockdown feeling more connected with our kids because we’ve prioritised connection over completion. And more connected in our relationships because we’ve established some simple daily rituals that can have a profound long-term influence.

Sheridan

Sheridan Eketone

Sheridan Eketone is passionate about shaping the hearts of the next generation through parenting. Mum of four, Sheridan is grateful to her own tamariki for teaching her the importance of connection when it comes to raising confident and resilient kids.


Sheridan works as a presenter and facilitator trainer for Parenting Place. A warm, relatable and enthusiastic communicator, Sheridan draws on ideas from the Circle of Security – an attachment-based relational concept that has deeply impacted her own parenting – to empower parents to be the best they can be.


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