Lockdown 'has been a tough journey' with 'drastic' changes for this local mom of three

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The Mogale family
The Mogale family

Desiree Mogale, a married mom of three, tells me that her family loves outings, and that she and her husband also love date weekends, when the two of them go away for a weekend break. 

"I am the social butterfly in the family. My husband is really a homebody. The kids love being outdoors but do not mind being cuddled up at home watching movies," she says, adding, "my kids are easy."

But thanks to the Covid-19 lockdown, her family experienced "a drastic change." 

This is one article in a series on the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on ordinary South African families. Find the full series here: Behind the Mask

"Our usual outings stopped and we had to find alternative ways to entertain the kids at home," the mom of three children, aged 3, 6 and 10, says.

ALSO READ | Stress management: six lessons parents can take from pandemic homeschooling

A tough journey

"We stay in a penthouse apartment, so it was quite difficult, as we now had to make do with what we have, without having to go outside. Kids were learning from home for a period of time, and schooling became harder for my eldest daughter with having to go to school on alternative days." 

The mom, who is in her late 30s, says homework has more than doubled for the kids. Sometimes too much work is crammed into one day. "It has been a tough journey," she adds.

Educational Psychologist Jamie Brassell says that during the stricter stages of lockdown last year, many parents reported to her that their children's behaviour had changed drastically.

"Even children who had previously been calm, easy-going and obedient were suddenly very difficult to manage. There was an increase in defiance, emotional outbursts and meltdowns, and aggressive behaviour," she says. 

A common feeling among most children has been a sense of loneliness, Brassell tells me.

"Even children who have siblings to play with at home were left longing to play with their friends at school again," she adds. 

Mom, teacher, wife

The Mogale family struggled to adjust. They say the change definitely resulted in more late nights,and a bit of sleep deprivation. 

Brassell stresses that it is important to keep in mind that the past months have been an incredibly stressful time for parents.

"In addition to many parents coping with financial difficulties and retrenchments caused by [the] lockdown, they have also had to take on the dual role of being a parent as well as teacher," she says. 

Mogale agrees with this, saying: "Having to do more homework, and with me working full-time and studying part-time too, I had to ensure that all my time is accounted for." 

ALSO SEE | Local doctor provides tips to implement sleep hygiene for children during the pandemic

Not without some perks 

But the time was not without some perks.

Mogale says the lockdown brought her and her husband closer together again because they spent more time together at home. "It was like we found each other again," she says.

As many other families experienced, the three children spent more time indoors than outdoors. They also had to learn to be more aware of their surroundings, in terms of sanitising, not hugging other people, or not touching surfaces. 

"The kids are spending more time on devices and the internet than being kids, running around with friends outside," Mogale tells me.  "The lockdown also made us super aware of our surroundings. My husband and I had Covid in June 2020 and it was the worst experience for me."

She says this caused the family to withdraw. They aren't socially involved with other people anymore. "We don't go out as much as we used to, and interactions have become less and less over time," Mogale says. 

Quite tough for the children

It has been quite tough for the children, she admits. "They cannot hug their friends at school, they cannot share lunch the way they used to at school, and still have to keep a distance when they are on break."

She adds that they can't arrange sleepovers anymore, constantly explain to the children what's happening, and find ways to ensure that their mental health is in a good state.

To counter the ill-effects of this isolation, Mogale says: "We have constant conversations with the kids, and do daily check-ins, especially with the older ones, to ensure that everyone in the house is good."

Educational psychologist Dayne Williams agrees that children are suffering because they are missing out on crucial socialisation opportunities, thanks to less in-person schooling and the engagement that comes along with meeting at school. He adds that each age group brings with it unique social concerns that are impacted by Covid-19 and the resulting isolation. 

"While it's great to live in a technological age where friends can still communicate readily, its not the same as in-person contact," he says. Williams tells us he always encourages parents to make every attempt to responsibly expose their children to safe social opportunities.

He stresses that it is important to remember that "socialising" online has its place, but this shouldn’t become a substitute for in-person connections.  

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More mindful

Sharing her thoughts on the lockdown, Mogale says that for her family, it was a stop-and-restart button, and they have made the best out of the situation. "We all had to adapt, but I think we are now more mindful about who we spend time with and what we spend our time on," she says. 

"Family is important. We found art activities to do with the kids, we have movie night at home, we found things we could do as a family. It also taught us that nothing in this life is guaranteed, so I've taken on studying again this year, while working full-time and running my part-time make up artistry business, and I'm loving that we are all doing what makes us happy," she says.

"It definitely taught us that life is short, so we don't procrastinate on the things that we really want to do anymore and we spend our time wisely," she adds.

"Being asthmatic and having had Covid-19 in 2020 with the worst symptoms, has definitely taught me to chase my dreams and go after what I want. Also, work is never guaranteed, so we need to have a back-up. Just do what makes you happy!" 

Read the full series here: Behind the Mask


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