MORE than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic upended our lives, many of us will feel a huge sense of relief as the last remaining restrictions finally come to an end. England and Northern Ireland have already removed all constraints, and Scotland and Wales are due to follow suit by the end of March. As we enter this new phase of ‘living with Covid’, many of us are returning to our normal workplaces, while myself and others continue to enjoy the flexibility of hybrid working.
As an award-winning journalist, I have worked my way up from gritty Greater Manchester locals and North London newspapers to the searing heat and dizzy heights of UAE media. After returning from the Middle East to start a family, I’ve spent the past decade raising my children alongside freelance stints writing stories, producing videos and photographs. I’ve also worked part-time at BBC TV Sports News and undertaken various Digital Mums courses in social media marketing.
However, nothing could have prepared me for the huge upheaval and trauma of dealing with the pandemic and the misery of being kept apart from family and friends. Like so many other parents, I can recall the sheer panic I felt when the news broke that we would face months, if not more, grappling with home schooling.
I remember the triumph of snatching up the last printer in Argos, frantically searching Twinkl for teaching resources, and transforming our dining room into the aptly named ‘Savage Home School’. In years to come, generations won’t believe I was trading flour for Calpol over neighbours’ fences and scrolling websites at midnight for elusive food delivery slots. I’ll look back at the heartache I felt watching my daughter trying to enjoy playdates through the iPad. And the desperate tears I shed when my son was too sad to talk to his Grandparents via Zoom. “It’s not the same Mummy, you can’t hug a screen,” he’d cry.
But I’ll also reminisce about our hilarious family attempts to complete a full Joe Wicks workout. We never did make it! And the Thursday nights clapping furiously and banging pans on the front doorstep to applaud the NHS. I’ll hark back to our statutory daily walks, spotting countless ‘Rainbows for our Heroes’ painted on windows, chalked on paving stones, and scrawled on A3 posters. I’ll think about our basketball challenges, penalty shootouts, and dousing each other with water bombs in the garden. And muse over convincing my children not to fret - the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas were keyworkers, so would still visit.
As a mum of two, I have to be a savvy time manager and multi-tasking pro at the best of times. The pandemic also meant a crash course in teaching and modern technology. Zoom meetings, Google Classroom, and Seesaw became commonplace in our household overnight. And when schools finally reopened, Blueberry Marketing Solutions gave me the chance to work on The National Teaching Awards. I’ve never worked in education telemarketing before, so I was excited and nervous at the prospect. I’ve always been good at talking to all walks of life. But when was the last time I filled in an Excel spreadsheet? What if I messed up the stat sheets or failed to meet the KPIs? And how do you set up a background on Microsoft Teams video calls to mask the tubs of paint and play dough?
With the help of the Blueberry team, I soon got the hang of it. My journalistic instincts kicked in and I happily chatted to headteachers across the UK about their lockdown heroes. The penguin-clad teachers popping up in online lessons, whole classes taking part in virtual snowball fights, and Roald Dahl chocolate cake challenges. There were Masked Singer contests in online assemblies and ‘Screen-Free Fridays’ where children took part in scavenger hunts and nature trails. I listened to heart-warming stories about teachers writing letters, reading poetry, and delivering mental health kit bags and Christmas packs to isolating children. In the face of adversity, teachers showed us their incredible resilience, empathy, patience, love, care, and adaptability. All with huge smiles on their faces.
So, when one by one, the family finally succumbed to Covid, I resolved to take their lead and just get on with it. Especially since the kids were practically asymptomatic, apart from complaining that crisps tasted like mud and fish fingers smelt like rotten eggs. I diligently orchestrated a timetable, full of emoji code-breaking, word searches, and Times Table Rock Stars, for them to follow. And when we’d all finished our work for the day, we watched movies, baked cakes, and played board games.
I’m so grateful for hybrid working opportunities and I’m excited about what the future holds. The pandemic has taught me to make the most of my time with friends and family. And most importantly, not to sweat the small stuff. After what we’ve been through these past few years, it’s all small stuff.
[Copyright © 2022 Angela Kunawicz & Blueberry Marketing Solutions. All rights reserved.]