Lockdown Tales

I can hardly believe we are coming to the end of 2021, in what is the second year of the first major global pandemic to have impacted humanity in the last 100 years or so. As I write this, I am sitting in my kitchen drinking my 8th or 12th cup of tea and reflecting on how I have navigated this period in my life and in the history of the world.

At the beginning of the first lockdown, it was just me and my two children and we were spending all this time together and it was great. I often make up stories for them at bedtime and they loved this practice. My son thought my stories were really great and encouraged me to write a book, I decided to start slow, and I started a blog writing up some of the bedtime stories I made up for them.

I am so proud of that blog, many people have achieved such fantastic feats with the extra time they gained during the pandemic, some published researched papers, others developed a vaccine to slow the pace of the virus, we even have a malaria vaccine now in trials as I understand it…

Well, I started a blog, sharing short stories for children and I am so proud. Besides the bedtime stories, I also wrote a few articles about my parenting and work challenges as I navigated the restrictions of the lockdowns. The quirkiness of being with my children every hour of every day soon became challenging as pressures of work and home schooling started to pile on.

The first of my lockdown tales was published in July 2020. I was trying to make the most of the challenges I was facing during the early days of the pandemic and not lose my mind. My husband and partner was in Nigeria and unable to travel due to border closures and flight restrictions. All childcare options were no longer available as schools and nurseries were closed and I was tearing out my hair looking after two kids, home schooling and a fulltime job which I had only started a year ago.

Here is how that went –

I know from looking at my Twitter feed that just about every parent with young children has had their fair share of video conference gaffes during lockdown 2020.

There is this really cute BBC video of a parent, her daughter; and a unicorn picture frame. I wish I had the gracefulness of that parent.

I embarrass so easily and I have felt mortified more times during lockdown than I care to imagine. There was this incident when I was having a performance review conversation with my head of unit and my precocious two year old, who is potty training came up to me and said ‘Mommy, I want to poo.’ I know, many parents have been there!

Oh, the stories I can tell…

Once during a meeting with some colleagues, my daughter, Ana, was drinking some milk and then started to pour it down the toy Batman house unto the wooden floor. I had unmuted a few minutes before to make a contribution and forgot to mute again when I called out ‘stop that or you’ll face the naughty corner.’

My colleagues started to smile knowingly, and the fellow speaking looked around his office asking, ‘what naughty corner?’

Recently I saw the Apple WFH video advert and that Dad had a very similar situation and this time, I was the one smiling knowingly.

In hindsight I can see that there really had been no need to feel embarrassed about these situations, as I soon found out, people happily had their dogs and cats on video calls and children were greeted kindly when they came into view. I perhaps put too much pressure on myself to separate work and life at a time when it was impossible to do so

I published a second post in July as I continued to navigate the loneliness of being by myself with just my children for company in those early months of the first lockdown. I was trying to draw inspiration from the parenting newsletter from the New York Times which I had just subscribed to and the writers there were doing a much better job of articulating the experiences I was going through in beautiful prose and flowery language.

My second article was much shorter, but really captured my struggles….

Parenting is hard work, difficult, challenging! Call it whatever adjective you prefer; but you know what I mean. Parenting in lockdown has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. No one said working full time, home schooling a 7-year-old and trying to keep a 2-year-old entertained was going to be easy.

I have never experienced so many emotions in my entire life. From immense pride when they accomplish to infinite despondency when I felt I failed them.

A friend shared a parenting tip about setting aside just 10 minutes every day to give your children your undivided attention. As simple as that sounds it worked like a charm. The endless arguments started to abate.

My 7-year-old likes to be tickled and to play hide and seek. I found that spending some time with him every evening just playing hide and seek and tickles worked wonders. I now have a less grumpy child and a happier home. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that school is out for the Summer.

Now when I hear, ‘Mom, it’s tickle time.’ I smile and endure.

I guess at the time, I didn’t fully appreciate how challenging it was for the kids to be without the company of their own peers. I think they just needed space to play and be children and our episodes of tickle time and hide and seek were highlights of their day.

What I didn’t share in the article above was that my son and I also started a podcast together. We published six or seven episodes talking about anything and everything, from his love of dinosaurs to friendship and the Remembrance Day that came up during that period.

By October 2020 my husband was able to travel over and join us and we settled into a new phase of work and life. I was however, struggling with burnout and mental exhaustion from the previous six – eight months. When one of my colleagues casually shared a screenshot of Nigerians protesting outside the Nigerian Embassy in London, I barely paid it a second glance. However, the protest gained momentum and started to trend even in the UK and globally.

I got caught up in the spirit of hope the movement presented to Nigerians globally. Then on 20 October 2020, reports of a military shooting of protesters in Lagos, my Lagos… started to filter through, scuttling all hope that the government would engage meaningful and make changes. I really should have known better; I was once a security focal point in my old job and that role consisted of passing on pessimistic reports of the security situation in the country to incoming visitors. I was no blushing virgin to the Nigerian situation, so why did this situation affect me so badly?

My post, this time on LinkedIn, published in the third quarter of 2021 to memorialize world mental health day below I think encapsulated it succinctly. I was just so burnt out my normal mental defences had all been shattered by the previous period of the lockdowns.

The post went like this…

I never really thought about mental health at all until 2020. After I found myself struggling to look after myself and two kids on my own and work full time in the middle of a pandemic. (Everyone was going through the same thing, what was the point of complaining?)

Then in October 2020 events in my home country affected me inordinately, more than I would have ever thought possible and I just started to drift.

For most of 2021 I was on automatic, just coasting and going through the motions until I finally understood that I needed to pause and rest my mind.

I think I am now resetting and getting back on track. Many thanks to all who have been patient with me and supported me.

Just reflecting on the way mental health challenges can slowly creep up on you and how important it is to look out for each other.

Everyone in the world I think will have their share of lockdown tales to share. The heartbreak of losing loved ones to the terrible Covid-19 virus or other health care challenges for that matter that have been impacted due to stretched hospitals and health care provision. Others have had to endure the extreme loneliness of being away from family for a year or longer. My stories I think may pale in comparison to these, but these are my experiences and I have felt them all keenly.

I will share one more post from the lockdowns, this one was published on Twitter at the beginning of 2021 as I was reflecting at the end of the first year of the pandemic about how I had fared.

I’m going to share a little of my personal experience of #2020. So last year I learned that while I can manage multiple projects and events with tight and almost impossible deadlines and stay focused, when my kids started screaming and demanding my attention at the same time…

I’d become a flustered mass of stress. I have since had some opportunity and relief through the madness that was 2020, to reflect on the year and I am grateful for so many things in retrospect. #burnout

Perfection is an illusion, putting endless pressures on myself, trying to keep up a with self-imposed expectations is often unnecessary. I don’t make New Years resolutions, but I have a strong resolve to be much kinder to myself this year. #selflove

With a new #nationallockdown looming, I am resolved to love my family and make space for them while finding the moments to focus exclusively on my day job, moments when I am most likely to achieve the highest outputs. It is okay to take a minute and sit with a two-year-old

I really enjoyed developing a blog and podcast with my 7-year-old son and we’ll try to make space for that again as we manage #schoolclosures and #homeschooling. You can check out our blog at https://sephoraimomoh.com/blog-2/

My children are now eight and three and they have both grown up so much in the last 20 months. My daughter helps me bake cookies and cakes. As a self-confessed late adopter to all trends and fads I started baking seriously in the second year of lockdown when others had done that as part of their 2020 lockdown tales. Baking can be therapeutic though and I

have really enjoyed doing this as part of my selfcare and selflove routine in 2021.

The blog and podcast have taken a backseat, but I am proud to share that my eight year old is now writing little comic books which he intends to publish as e-books. One way to make some pocket money he says. He is so such a creative child and I am so proud. We have all found our local library to be a fun place to get lots of new books to read and draw inspiration from. Schools are back in session and after school care is now available. Some normalcy is returning but we all can see another lockdown could be announced at any moment. This time it won’t be so bad, we have all found ways to cope with it.

My final lockdown project? I discovered Duolingo (like I said, late adopter, I will probably buy my first crypto currency in 2025 when governments have accepted them.) so I am now learning Swedish which I have found very enjoyable, what a beautiful language.

Tack så mycket för att du läser. Mycket kärlek!

(Thank you so much for reading. Much Love!)

By Sephora Imomoh