On 20 March 2020 Boris Johnson made the dreaded announcement that schools and nurseries were to close, and we were instructed to stay home. At that time, my son was 4 and my daughter was 2, so both were at nursery and thankfully home schooling was not a burden I had to deal with. Between my husband and I we juggled the children and working, splitting the day in two so we each had time to dedicate to work, without distraction from the children.
The only feasible way for me to make this balancing act work was to reduce my hours at World Jewish Relief. Luckily, the organisation could not have been more understanding. The Senior Leadership Team were incredibly supportive of this decision and my manager was careful not to put additional pressure on me during those few months.
I recently saw a meme doing the rounds that showed a picture of rain showering on the UK all year round except the lockdown months, which were filled with beautiful sunshine. This could not be more accurate. I was grateful for the beautiful weather and outdoor space during the first lockdown, which made the days much easier as the children could explore the garden. They brought more mud and stones into the house than I would normally like, but it kept them busy, so who was I to complain!
When schools closed again in January we were lucky that our daughter was able to continue going to her nursery, but we now had the added pressure of home-schooling our son who had started Reception in September. As parents, we like to know the ins and outs of our child’s day at school, which remains difficult as trying to get information out of my son is like getting blood out of a stone. However in hindsight, I think I would take that blissful ignorance over sitting next to my son, removing anything that might be a distraction, and logging into several ‘live’ Zoom sessions each day!
Despite the monotony of home-schooling, it has been extremely rewarding to see my son flourish as his reading and writing improves by the day, and his resilience never ceases to amaze me. I think that all children have been incredible over the past year and, as adults, we can learn from them in many ways. Of course there have been challenges, I don’t think any parent out there could say otherwise. And I know that when 8 March rolled around I was delighted to see my son back in his classroom, happily surrounded by his peers and learning face-to-face, an experience that simply cannot be replicated from home.
The past year has taught me how important it is to speak out and say when you are struggling, whether with workload or family responsibilities. Someone is always willing to listen, and often simply admitting that things are difficult can make you feel ten times better. I have also learned what a digraph is, among other things, and that being a teacher requires the patience of a saint (something I definitely do not have!).
The support I have felt over the last 12 months has been unbelievable. From my co-workers to my manager, to the Senior Leadership Team, I have never felt more grateful to be working at World Jewish Relief. All employers need to recognise that to have a productive and happy staff team, employees’ wellbeing and mental health must be a priority. And I believe that flexibility and a willingness to adapt is absolutely essential in these unprecedented times.
Simone with her two children being able to visit Buckingham Palace after lockdown