Ten lessons I'm holding on to when the lockdown ends

I think once this is over I'll dish out hugs a lot more freely than I used to.
I think once this is over I'll dish out hugs a lot more freely than I used to.

I'll never forget the night President Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would be going into a 21-day lockdown.

My husband and I gathered the kids around the TV because we knew we would be hearing something that would make it into the history books, and even though the kids are young we wanted them to be there.

We all sat in somewhat stunned silence, trying to process what 21 days of being restricted to our house would mean in real terms.

We had already implemented our own social and physical distancing safety methods, and we hadn't seen our extended family, nanny, domestic worker or school for a week already.

I had also been working from home for a week, as our company got ahead of the work-from-home directive and was trialling it ahead of the official regulations, and my husband works remotely full time.

As parents of a premature baby who later spent days in hospital with no less than 5 simultaneous respiratory infections as a toddler, and with beloved family who are high risk, we had battened down our hatches when we realised that the Covid-19 virus was here to stay.

But I was somehow still unprepared for the official announcement.

And that is how the rest of this Covid-19 lockdown went for me, until only recently: I was always somewhat unprepared – mentally – for it.

Each day we managed the children, worked through our task lists, rationed our groceries to avoid leaving home and kept in touch with family and friends via the web.

We taught the kids the correct hygiene protocols, took our daily exercise within the required hours and I learnt to sew masks.

But every day, at least once a day, I found myself exclaiming "I can't believe this is happening!"

Nonetheless, I also learnt a lot about my family and our daily lives, and I found that some of the adjustments we made were good for us.

These are ten of the lockdown lifestyle habits that we'll be keeping even when the Covid-19 pandemic is a distant memory:

1. We quickly realised that we really enjoyed being together at home

Before the lockdown kept us home all weekend, the time we were at home was spent preparing to leave home. Birthday parties, outings, family visits and such kept us busy every weekend.

Now, we enjoy just being in our house, and the kids haven't missed that busy life at all.

2. We don't need money and things to have fun

We spend a lot less money on toys and entrance fees and traveling and eating out now.

And we spend a lot more time in the garden, and on the carpet, just playing together.

Yes, we miss breakfast as a family followed by a trip to the local gardens or aquarium, but cooking together and then searching for earthworms in the pot plants is just as fun, really.

3. Cooking can be fun

We don't love cooking, we did it because it's healthier and cheaper than eating out every day.

But now that we cook every single meal at home we have to be creative, and we've involved the kids, who have learnt a lot about how bread is made and how to crack an egg properly – and even how to unpack the dishwasher.

4. Our children are more capable than we thought 

Their independence has improved so much, and they've had to learn to play together better, what with no school dividing them in the day, and no teachers or friends to entertain them.

With both parents working flat out they've become closer as siblings, and have even learnt to forage for their own snacks while we work nearby.

5. Tactile experiences are so important

As many of our activities moved online it quickly became apparent that digital replacements for many of our usual activities just didn't cut it.

We had to adjust, and the kids learnt to make art with whatever was at hand, to make up their own dances and songs, and to play in the mud a lot more.

6. We actually do love playing with the children

Puzzles and playdough and Duplo used to litter our house, and it was just another annoying thing I had to clean up, but now we get involved in the kids fantasy worlds. I've even developed a bit of a Duplo obsession.

7. We learnt who our friends are

We learnt a lot about our friends and family through seeing how the lockdown affected them, and how they adapted. Some lost jobs and had to create new businesses to support their families, others are frontline workers who we admire even more now, while some turned to conspiracy theories to find meaning in all this.

This gave us a greater appreciation for other people's experiences and reactions to events, and I hope we'll have even more empathy in future.

8. We can do more DIY at home

Together my husband and I landscaped our garden, sawing down small trees, which the kids dragged to the compost heap, and planted fresh flowers all around. We then regrouted the bathroom and kitchen, and now we're varnishing the windows.

And we didn't have one argument through all that, which, frankly, is a lockdown miracle.

9. I have a greater appreciation for our freedom

The days of being able to hop into the car and pop over to see a friend before running through the mall to pick up a cooked chicken (haha) for supper are long gone. Now every move is calculated and managed against the risk, and even in-person interaction is cautious and careful.

I think once this is over I'll dish out hugs a lot more freely than I used to.

10.  Working from home is entirely possible

The first few weeks of managing a team remotely, staying on schedule, staying on top of all the changes and keeping our readers informed was... tough. With no childcare and no support, I panicked. It wasn't sustainable. 

So we took our feet off the accelerator. My husband and I each had a frank chat with our superiors, and brought expectations back in line with what we were capable of doing in the circumstances.

As the lockdown regulations were relaxed, we were able to get back into work more fully, and now a full day of work is possible, while we enjoy listening to the kids play in the next room. I aim to have more WFH time in the years ahead.

Was it worth it? No.

It's been about 100 days since we shut our front doors. The lockdown regulations have lifted a lot since then, but the dangers of the virus remain and we are as cautious as ever.

I can't wait to feel relaxed in public, to hug my family with abandon and to breathe easy again, but that time is not yet here. Infection rates still rise, and while people are dying it's hard to be grateful for the wins.

I learnt a lot about myself and my family from this experience, and I am grateful that we have made it safely through this so far.

I'm still not ready to say that my lockdown lessons were worth the havoc the virus has caused. But I will keep looking for silver linings.

What did you learn from the lockdown, and what habits will you be keeping?


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