A loss of family time post-lockdown

A loss of family time post-lockdown
A Parent’s Perspective

I’m definitely not the only mother who feels a bit sad and weepy at the prospect of a return to some semblance of pre-Covid normality. It’s not that I don’t relish a return to normal life but I’m really going to miss having my two eldest daughters at home all the time. They’re dying to stretch their wings and to make up for all that they’ve missed but I’ll be shedding a few quiet tears as they head back to college. I’ve seen many parents expressing sadness at the various changes the end of Covid restrictions will bring. Most hated the loss of basic freedoms but there were some unexpected benefits too. A lot of parents loved the flexibility of working from home and there was a dawning realisation that they didn’t want to go back to the bad old days when they hardly had a minute to breathe.

As a parent of older and younger children, I really enjoyed the unexpected extra time with my college-aged children. There were some tough moments but, overall, the extra days and weeks together were a pleasure. Instead of my 21-year-old being off seeing the world and experiencing all the joys of college life, we reaped the benefits of her get-up-and-go approach in our home. We never played as many games, watched as many films and our fitness levels soared with all the walks and excursions. In some ways it was like recapturing some moments that had been lost in time. It was a bit like early childhood when your children are always around but, maybe you don’t quite appreciate the magic until it’s gone. This was a second chance to have those long chats, to share intimate morning coffees and to almost forget that time was moving on and that this little reprieve wouldn’t last forever. From the point of view of teenagers and young adults, it wasn’t all idyllic but lasting memories have been formed and new bonds forged. I even realised that I actually like BTS, the South Korean band and really enjoyed watching Mob Psycho 100, the Japanese anime series that my 20-year-old daughter introduced me to.

For those whose only experience was the busyness of both parents working full time, having enjoyed a slower pace of life may be prompting a re-evaluation of priorities”

Now that we’re moving slowly towards business as usual, how will we deal with all the transitions? Some will quickly adjust and will just be happy to enjoy a bit more freedom while others won’t bounce back as quickly. I’ve seen some accounts from those who complained about having their children under their feet during lockdowns but felt lonely and despondent when the children had to return to school. One journalist I follow on Twitter remarked that she was taken aback by her sense of loss and by how much she missed her children. For those whose only experience was the busyness of both parents working full time, having enjoyed a slower pace of life may be prompting a re-evaluation of priorities. Parents with older children who’ll be leaving home completely may be experiencing ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’, that sorrow and distress that can accompany the last child flying the nest. I’m in a category of its own with some children being home educated and others who’ll be home in the evenings but I still feel a bit forlorn. However, with a bit of thoughtful planning, we can move on to this new phase while still preserving some of the positive elements of all our time together.

Children being back in school or college doesn’t mean that we still can’t carve out a few special moments each week to keep that positive family vibe going. I’m definitely planning to keep up the regular family hikes. It’s amazing the conversations that take place while you’re trudging along and how walking in all sorts of terrain builds confidence and resilience. As in life, you face the challenges, feel tired at times and even think of throwing in the towel, but get there in the end with a little help along the way. Another area that really benefited from everyone being together was prayer life. Without all the coming and going, it was easier to pin down a time for prayer. I was delighted to get the whole family onboard with a 33-day online devotion to Our Lady leading to a consecration to Jesus through Mary. It was a Legion of Mary initiative which captured the imagination of all age groups. On one particular August evening, my four youngest logged on from a windswept Omey Island in Claddaghduff, Co. Galway. Another evening found me joining in from a Clifden restaurant as I tried to screenshot the day’s readings while waiting for our food.

My 11-year-old son is now really familiar with Psalm 91 after the nightly recitation of this lovely prayer. I’m really determined to keep this joint effort going no matter how busy our autumn schedules are. The final thing I’d love to hold onto is our film and game nights. Sharing a movie you loved as a child or winning at Scrabble or Monopoly seems like something small but the family that plays together will stay together. Even though the constant physical togetherness may be gone, every family can map out ways to keep living out the positive elements that blossomed while everyone was under the same roof. In the words of Pope St John Paul ll “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world.”