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Image / Parenthood

A quarantined childhood: Four mums on how their little ones have coped through 2020


by Lauren Heskin
29th Mar 2021

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We spoke to four mothers with children aged 10 months to 13 years old about how living in quarantine has impacted their little ones’ lives.


“Pivot” may well have been the word of the pandemic. We’ve all been forced to “pivot” our home and work lives to a working-from-home life and “pivot” away from friends and family, all with the sense that we’ve been standing in the exact same spot since last March.

We’ve been asked to learn a new scientific dialect, brush up on our knowledge of the Spanish Flu and the approval process for vaccines. But children have been forced to learn that scientific language alongside us. They know words like “pandemic”, “virus”, “Covid” and “vaccination” – not a typical lexicon for a young child.

Many school-going children are even familiar with a Covid-19 test. As one friend commented before Christmas, her five-year-old was celebrating her negative Covid-19 test “like it was her Leaving Cert results”, because it meant she could go back to school and see her friends. It’s a knowledge they shouldn’t require and yet have been forced to shoulder in 2020.

Though relatively untouched by the more serious symptoms of this virus (a frankly monumental silver lining), their lives have been undoubtedly impacted. They’ve seen their social interactions curtailed, been asked to withhold their affections, their anxieties have been understandably heightened and their lives shrunk down to the size of a Zoom screen. Some have lost grandparents and relatives, often without the chance to say goodbye, and all have watched their parents struggling in these unprecedented times.

But they’ve also had more time than ever with their parents and siblings and felt the comfort and security of their sheltering arms. We spoke to four mothers about how their children have been coping through quarantine, from tots born on the cusp of lockdown to almost-teenagers finding their feet in secondary school.

 

Sorcha, mum to 10-month-old Aodhla

My daughter, Aodhla, was born in February 2020; the day the World Health Organisation officially named the coronavirus “COVID-19”. I do not remember this (I was slightly distracted that day) but my husband likes to tell everyone who dotes on our baby this fun fact.

We got in and out of the hospital while life was still “normal”. The intense first lockdown came in Aodhla’s first few months of life and although there were many tough days, as any new parent experiences, I can’t help but think how lucky she was to have both her parents by her side each and every day.

My husband’s job requires him to travel all over the world, so I could never have dreamed that in the first year of our daughter’s life he would be home with us every day.

There are things I know she has not yet had the chance to experience but I don’t feel it has been detrimental to her development. She has not met most of our extended families, friends or many other children but I think this is more difficult for us as parents than for her.

I hope that by the time she is at the stage of playing with other children and forming memories of family and friends, Covid will be a very distant memory. Everything now is new and interesting for her and she has so much she is able to experience, even during a level five lockdown.

I recently met another mother whose son is nearly a year old. She shared a theory with me that she believes many babies born in this Covid time are calm and relaxed because they have not had all the busyness that many babies experience in their first year of life. There is less moving, fewer visits and visitors, fewer trips in the car and more time with their parents at home. I like to imagine that this has had a positive impact on lots of babies. I hope and feel it has on my Aodhla.

 

Dominique, mum to 20-month-old Kai

My little boy Kai is nearly two, and generally, I think the pandemic has had a positive impact on his little life.

He was in a creche for a month before the first lockdown took place. He loved it there and was starting to make little friends. It was a very sad day when we left, unknowingly, for the last time.

For the following five months my partner and I managed to look after him while working full-time and also having coronavirus for three weeks.

Honestly even typing that, I’m not sure how we did it. I genuinely can’t really remember. I have probably blocked most of it out. Kai, on the other hand, was delighted with life. He got to see mum and dad all day, every day. In those months he took his first steps, spoke his first words and generally flourished with us by his side.

It has also been a special time. I am so aware that our experience was a luxury that many parents would kill for. Who gets to spend the first 18-months of their child’s life with them all day? For the last two months, we have had a childminder come to the house. I will never take childcare for granted again, they truly do god’s work.

I can see the impact of having a childcare professional in Kai’s life. He is learning new words and songs and playing activities that I would never have thought of. He is developing so fast now, I do worry about his lack of interaction with other kids. But at the moment, before the vaccine is plentiful, I feel he is safer at home.

 

Katie, mum to three-year-old Mark

Our little boy Mark is three years old and has coped surprisingly well throughout Covid-19, despite a few bumps in the road over the last nine months.

The initial phase was such a novelty, to both him and us as parents. Despite juggling working from home and childcare, it was nice to have more time together at home and not have the constant rushing around.

The real effects of the lockdown came in mid-summer when it was time to go back to creche and introduce some structure and routine again. This was, and still is if I’m honest, a struggle.

There was major resistance going to creche and he found it hard to settle back in. He just wanted to be at home all the time with us and suffered from separation anxiety a bit. Thankfully. the creche was so supportive in the transition back and still keeps a close eye on him.

He also developed some challenging behavioural issues and we sought advice from a parenting coach. It was more a preventative measure as I am expecting our second baby and we didn’t want things to spiral – we simply wanted to know more about how to handle it all. She provided us with really simple but very effective ways to nip it in the bud and make life that little easier, while understanding fully what was really going on for him, in his world.

I think parenting is a constant learning ground with good days and bad days and so my advice to any parent is to just take it day by day, week by week. Know that nothing lasts forever and no matter what, you are doing your best.

 

Lizzie, mum to an eight-year-old, 11-year-old and 13-year-old

By an incredibly happy accident, my children ended up spending the first lockdown in a house by the sea in Connemara. When news of the schools closing broke I decided to book a house in Galway for a week with my mum as we were all going to be working from home anyway. All we needed was decent WiFi and a few woolly jumpers. Luckily, we packed a few t-shirts too as we ended up spending 12 weeks in that house.

Had my children been at home in Dublin, I know how much they would have struggled with the fact that they couldn’t go out and play in the green in front of our house with their neighbourhood pals, wander freely to the shops, go to training and do all the things that make up their daily lives. As it happened, because they were completely removed from their everyday routine, they didn’t miss things so much.

Instead, they will always have that memory of a really special time spent with their granny, parents and the dog completely to themselves, no other distractions. Not to say we didn’t kill each other, regularly, because we did of course; homeschooling nearly sent me over the edge. But all-in-all, it was three months that none of us will ever forget.

Then came the second lockdown. Back to reality and back to school was different, but they coped well.

It was harder on my eldest. In secondary school, he wore a mask all day and where previously they would have changed classroom for every subject now they stayed put in one room for the whole day.

Shared amenities such as the canteen and science lab are off-limits and the whole thing felt like a drag. But the fact that his sports training was able to continue as normal was an absolute lifesaver. If that outlet had been cut off I know the impact on his mental health as well as physical would have been huge.

For my younger two, still in primary school, their lives are really not that affected. Apart from trying to explain the slightly bizarre logic to them of “no you can’t have a playdate in the house with the pal you sat next to all day”, there’s been very little hardship for them.

It’s my niece who started UCD in September only to find herself attending lectures from her bedroom in Birr that I really feel for – the restrictions have had such a huge impact on college-age kids. For my lot, they’ve adapted. They’re really sad not to be seeing the cousins this Christmas who can’t travel but other than that they’re pretty happy they’ll have grandparents, dog and parents (again) to themselves for the day and that’s pretty good.