Diary of a Lockdown Dad

It seems like an eternity since we first heard the mention of the Coronavirus in early January. Fast forward nearly 4 months and we are in the middle of a lockdown which has changed the way we live our lives. What has this time meant for you?

For me, as for many others, the initial phase of school closures was something that I did not take too seriously. While being respectful of the guidelines, I felt that it would end, and that normality would resume after the Easter holidays. Well the Easter holidays have come and gone and while there has been some ease up in restrictions, life as we know it is still very different. Luckily, my wife and I have both managed to keep our employment and for that we are very grateful. But working full time from home and having too young school aged children (5 and 8) brings its own challenges!

I write this article as a father of two children and not a parenting expert. Though it has been difficult, we have manged to get through it so far. While every family is unique and has their own way of doing things, here are some of things that have worked well for us most of the time. Try to remember that this is a new situation for everyone. No one alive has lived through these types of restrictions before so everything we do is about learning to adapt in a new situation. It’s funny how up to about 4 months ago technology was the ‘evil monster’ who would ruin our children’s lives, now we are nearly relying on it to teach them, keep them active and keep them entertained. How quickly things change and in a world of change its important for us as parents to adjust.

Do not be too hard on yourself. We learned very quickly, that trying to get children to sit and do schoolwork for the same length of time they would be doing it in school was not going to work. So, we adapted and now have a workable solution which eases a lot of arguments and stress. We have an allocated time for schoolwork and have applied the same kind of logic to screen time, playtime etc. It has not been fool proof and there are still arguments, but these are not normal times and we are doing the best we can.

Another thing that we found helped a lot was to try and get the children’s exercise done early before they start schoolwork or anything else. While it can be a struggle, either my wife or myself try to get them out for their 30 minutes of exercise in fresh air each morning. We do not have a garden, so we have to walk, cycle or jog in our local area. For us, this really helps the children to settle down to do a bit of work as they have burned off a lot of their excess energy. It is also great for you to get involved in your children’s exercise as they will see you has a role model and learn from you. You will also feel the benefits.

This is a strange time for adults to cope with it but try to imagine what its like for children! Their worlds have been taken apart and the structure and social interaction of school and friends ripped from them. Its important to keep your children informed (age appropriate) as to the reasons why their worlds have been turned upside down. Do not watch or read too much content online, stick to official news updates and feed this information back to your children in a suitable manner. On this, please do not feel obliged to complete online challenges, dance offs, bake offs or anything else. I can honestly say we have not completed one challenge. I had early visions of couch to 10ks being completed, push up challenges being accomplished and making the most beautiful picture-perfect dinners with all this extra ‘time’ on my hands. Again, the reality is very different, the extra time is not there and even though my children are being fed, I still have not produced a dinner worthy of social media! We are all under pressure with this new way of living, do not let social media add more pressure to you. Engage in what you can have some fun with, anything else is not worth it.
Finally, do not underestimate the value of your own physical activity. Sixty minutes a day will do you the world of good. It will boost your mood, help you start feeling better, looking better and sleeping better. All of these benefits with just 60 minutes of your time. Do something you like doing. For me, it is a couple of walks a day with my dog, its time for myself but its also time that benefits my mental health. For my wife, it is a jog, to clear her head and help her maintain focus. Everyone has their own reasons for exercising, whatever your reason is, just do it.

My parting word goes back to my first point- do not be too hard on yourself. Try and build in some type of reward for yourself at the end of each week. This does not have to be a huge or costly reward, but it helps to bring a feel-good factor to both yourself and your family. For example, our reward to our children for keeping up their end of the bargain during the week is to stay up a couple of hours later on a Friday night. It does not cost anything, but it makes a massive difference in terms of having the kids work with you during the week instead of against you. My reward, I go back to bed on a Sunday morning after walking the dog. It is only for an hour, but I look forward to it every week. Roll on Sunday!

This article was contributed by Liam Cantwell, Sports Development Officer with Limerick Sports Partnership, a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations.