While another lockdown leaves families trying to juggle everything from the kitchen table, local mum and teacher Maria Rushe has top tips for getting the balance right.

What a week it’s been eh?

We’re all feeling a bit incredulous really. This past few days, it’s felt like we are slowly sliding into chaos once again.

We’re trying to adapt to all of the changes that are coming at us faster than Sonic the bloody Hedgehog, while trying to maintain a “calm” in front of our kids. 

And with the indecisiveness, “we will , we won’t, we might-iness” of our Government, we can be forgiven for wondering what the actual feck is going on.

Once again, we’re back to working, whether at work or online, all while minding and homeschooling our kids, trying to keep them occupied and fed and generally trying to do eleventy billion jobs from our kitchen tables. 

And this time, we don’t have the long sunny evenings or unusually warm weather to soften the blow. 

And as I try to get my own head around this new situation in my own house, I’m trying to remember the things that worked (and that did NOT work) for me last time we were in this type of lockdown. 

One thing that became VERY clear to us last March, was that Homeschooling was NOT something that we were successful at. Trying to pivot your business online and trying to teach online for the first time ever, after almost 20 years of standing in an actual classroom, meant that finding time to sit with our girls to “homeschool” was impossible. 

I felt like crap about it to start. How is it that a teacher, for God’s sake, couldn’t manage to educate her own children? Disgraceful… 

And then I copped myself on. I couldn’t do it. I was trying to make up a whole new version of my job AND we were trying to keep our family business alive. And it’s going to be the same this time to be honest. (Also, I could teach Shakespeare to a duck, but 3rd class maths? Nope!)

I will get them to do some of the work their angels of teachers send, but it’ll be done within the realms of OUR ability and only as long as it isn’t adding more stress to our lives. 

Here we go again I suppose. 

One of the biggest mistakes that loads of us made last time, was to think that we had to do it all. Think about it…

There aren’t enough hours to combine the 6/7 hours your kids spend at school, with the 8/10 hours you work, the few hours you need for cooking, cleaning etc… never mind homework, exercise and trying to stay on top of things. You’re trying to fit about 30 hours of “stuff” into a 24 hour day. When do you sleep Mammy?

It’s not physically possible to do it all. 

SO choose what you NEED to do and do that. 

Give yourself a break. We’re in a global pandemic. 

Here are some things that work for me. 

  1. Routine: Make a plan for the week, just as you would if you were all getting up to go to work/school. For me, I tend to get up at 6am as usual to do a few hours of school work before the girls get up and then a few more in the afternoon. I’ll allocate a time for the kids to do some school work. The girls will have playtime and downtime and bedtime will remain as normal as possible. And they’ll know that Mammy and Daddy still have to work for certain hours.
  1. Eating: If your kids are anything like mine, they’re ALWAYS hungry. I’m going to try to keep the idea of “breaktime” and “lunchtime” etc going at home. Otherwise, Princess’s bum will be stuck out of the fridge constantly. 
  1. Get dressed: seems obvious, and yet it’s so easy to stay in the pjs. But from tomorrow, it’s up, shower and get dressed. Just without heels or makeup. See the positives where you can!
  1. Don’t overdo the Mary Poppins act: I’ve already seen social media influencers who have done 3 weeks worth of arts and crafts activities in the first 2 days of no school. Calm yourselves. Let the kids play. Let them be bored. Let them read or draw. Put on their coats and open the door if you can! Not every activity needs to be organised or planned. Save those for the really long rainy days where they are genuinely bored or need cheered up.
  1. Follow people who inspire you: Social Media has been a dark place this past few months. Don’t allow yourself to become bogged down or overwhelmed. Switch off the phone. And try to have a switch off time in the evening. And only follow people who are making you smile. Please learn to use the unfollow/mute button on accounts that make you doubt what a Queen you are. 
  1. Keep active: We’ll train together every morning with our Rushe Fitness members and most days, I’ll try to get out for a run/walk. Sometimes, just getting OUT is amazing. While it’s cold and slippy, it’s still gorgeous out there. Go for a walk or jog. Fresh air is good for everyone. Get as much as you can. If you’re used to training but can’t do it alone, join us for our online programme which you can follow from your home at a time that suits you.
  1. Read: If you’re like me, you’ll have a pile of started and unread books in the house. Put down the phone and start to read. Let your kids see you do it. Have a “reading time” block in the day where you all sit and read. Monkey see, Monkey do.
  1. Cook: Again, most of us cook functionally and conveniently. Rather than firing on the slowcooker or cooking in a hurry, set your inner Nigella alight and get chopping. Let the kids cook too. They love it. And if you have a few of those “Betty” quick brownies in the press for the really long days, you’re winning at life AND you have something sweet and tasty for your cuppa.
  1. Stay in touch: For many of us who are used to social interaction with colleagues or clients, the sudden isolation and lack of communication can be upsetting. Talk to each other. Message friends. Set up messenger groups with people who you would usually see each day and check in on each other. Make phonecalls. Pick up the phone and call someone rather than always messaging. Some people might not hear another voice from one end of the day to the next. Communicate.
  1. Stay positive: yeah it’s easy to say isn’t it? But it’s hard to do. We all have good days and bad days. But go easy on yourself. You’re allowed to be scared. You’re allowed to be upset. Grief and fear are not signs of weakness. In order to deal with things, we first have to process it; to let it sink in. So allow yourself time to process. Then, look for the positives and focus on those.

We are in weird times. We are dealing with disappointments and stresses that are unprecedented. Much of what we are facing is bleak. and yet in the middle of it all, we’re seeing glimpses of hope and finally, an end is in sight. 

Mind yourselves. Go easy on yourselves. You are not in competition with anyone. Do what you need to do, for you.