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Parenting in a lockdown:

If I, (or anyone else, for that matter) thought being a parent was tough before, I’m in no doubt about it now! At first, it seemed doable. We were going to have a short global pause, look after our youngsters for a while,‑ and juggle everything around them. But four months later, the strain is undoubtedly taking its toll. Suddenly, we are housekeepers, teachers, hairdressers, nurses, gardeners, and plumbers, alongside other roles we were barely managing before. I’m beginning to realise how much I’ve changed as a mum. I’m actually a superhero. Someone I would be proud to know. I’m capable, confident, and savvy. When the world returns, I will be a master of time management, smashing everything that comes my way.

Free time is a thing of the past. We live on top of each other, one hand stirring milkshake, the other answering emails. Privacy is a luxury we can no longer afford; even the bathroom isn’t sacred anymore.  I am more forgiving of others, as we’re all dropping the ball, messaging back the wrong person, bombing Zoom meetings in our underpants. If Lockdown has taught me one thing, it’s this. Let the small stuff slide. Your sanity depends on it!

Oh… and iPads rule

Parenting in a lockdown

The Home-schooling agenda:

Home-schooling began with the greatest intentions. I approached every day with a sense of optimism. I accepted that at least for now, my work would happen in the late afternoons and school right after breakfast. We stayed home and did our part, just as we were told. We helped keep the vulnerable safe, and ensure the next generation wasn’t made up entirely of socially stunted gamers. But by week five, I owed my life to Roblox.

Never again will I question the essential role our schools play in the happiness balance of life! Yes, I write children’s stories, but it is a different breed of person altogether that can train the ceaselessly curious, endlessly distracted minds of our youngest citizens.

Parenting in a lockdown

Like many, I worry about them falling behind. At first, I came at the problem with tables and charts, which may work for some, but for me, it created a monster. It changed Mummy from caregiving friend into a tyrannical teacher, a role not made for me. Eventually, I weighed up the pros and cons and chose happiness.  Now, our flow is spontaneous, as the days blend into one. We work when the timing is right. When I’m feeling on top, and the kids are well-rested. I find ways to hide teaching within other activities. We watch programs on Youtube and debate them. The tension is gone, and the tears have stopped. It feels better this way. Everyone has to find a method. The important thing is, we can’t beat ourselves up. We are all doing our best.

Being a positive parent:

Being positive is tough some days, but as there are so many people worse off, positivity feels like the least I can do. Some days, finding a smile it is tougher than others. It’s hard to resist the temptation of a long day in bed. With some simple coping strategies and routines, I’ve managed to get everyone fed, watered, and ready for mummy school by 9.15 am.

My trick is to jump straight in the shower when I wake, no matter how tired and defeated I feel. Get dressed. Light some candles, spray something nice into the air and open the curtains to see the real world. An attack of the senses. That connection to my former life has been essential to our mental wellbeing. Keeping some element of constancy amid immense change.

Adjusting my own mood is the key to a positive home-schooling experience. My patience, for one thing, depends a lot on how I feel and how much mental prep I’ve done. When I’m not connected to an activity, the kids can pick up on it.  If they too are feeling out of sorts, I need all the strength I can muster to weather the storm.

Parenting in a lockdown

The toughest thing is prioritising what I teach the kids. With an array of subjects and hobbies vying for attention, there is some anxiety. ‘They used to be so good at the piano.’ ‘They were really starting to get somewhere with swimming.’ I realise it’s my own disappointment talking, not theirs. To be honest, they couldn’t care less whether they haven’t played clarinet for a few months. It’s me who feels it most. We have so many expectations for our little ones. Perhaps, too many. Once I accepted a slower pace and got my head around maintaining skills rather than progressing them, I felt much calmer.

Taking time for myself is a tricky one. I almost feel I have to earn the right to a good read or a long bath. Before I can even think about picking up a Stephen King, a bit of parenting, housekeeping, writing, and exercise must be completed. But this pause has allowed me to look my own limiting beliefs straight in the face. These rules and regulations I live by no longer fit. It’s very difficult to let them go. Peeling away layers to find out who I really am. Arriving at huge life-changing revelations through adversity. Working on ourselves, which we never had the time to do before. Now, I have this chance to truly challenge myself and to simplify. I do believe many of us will find true happiness at the end of all this.

Outdoor play has been a blessing. The fields, the skies, the birds in the trees, are unaffected by human issues. It’s easier to forget things out there. My kids have created a whole make-believe world in our garden. We leave the real world at the garden gate, and become woodland creatures with strange names like ‘Daffodil.’ I’ve found the child in me,  and an excitement I haven’t felt since Christmas in the early ’90s. 

Parenting in a lockdown

We also dug a pit. Don’t worry, I didn’t bury my husband in it, we just started digging one day, and now it’s enormous—8ft wide and 7ft deep and growing every day. The kids are mini archaeologists, examining rocks and pieces of pottery. We even found an old dagger, which we posted on social media. And who would believe it, like it fell from the pages of one of my children’s books, we discovered our house had been a pre-conquest monastery. The archaeologists took some samples and are now conducting a survey of the land. I couldn’t have written this myself. A think I feel another book coming on…

Launching businesses & books during a pandemic:

At the start of the year, I had everything planned. My new social enterprise, Split Perspectivz, was ready to launch. My first children’s book ‘My Mummy is a Monster’ was set to be touted to agents and publishers. However, the pandemic had other plans…

I decided to press on and publish independently, despite the situation. I didn’t want Corona to impact on every aspect of life. I wanted to bring joy with my fun, light-hearted books, focusing on togetherness, and understanding in families. Pretty soon, I was managing book sales from home. We made a production line in my kitchen, armed the kids with pens and sticky tape! I threw myself into promotion, marketing, and video editing videos, learning new skills every day.  ‘Sing-along Stories’ on Facebook Live proved popular. Singing sessions wearing monstrous masks. Loads of fun!

Parenting in a lockdown

Then came my second book! I opened ‘Collectively Isolated,’ a support group for people to discuss life in Lockdown, and share ideas. It became apparent that many parents were concerned about the impact Lockdown was having on their kids, especially with returning to school. ‘Ben and the Bug’ was written to alleviate these fears,  in both parent and child. By making the Bug seem less scary, while still stressing the importance of hand hygiene.

As crazy as it sounds, Lockdown had brought my family closer. We appreciate the simple things. From digging pits to launching books, I could never have predicted what 2020 had planned for me. My aim is to keep helping families make sense of these challenging times and spread positivity through reading and learning.

My name is Natalie Reeves Billing and I’m a children’s author and social entrepreneur. I was born in Toxteth, Liverpool but live in Wirral, Merseyside with my husband and 3 kids (4 including our dog, Scooby). I love to write fantastical stories for young audiences, and dabble in poetry, too. I spent most of my early career in the music industry as a performer and professional songwriter. This lead, almost inevitably, to storytelling.

I’m a fellow of the School of Social Entrepreneurs and a student of The Golden Egg Academy. I was mentored under the Lloyds Bank SSE program, with my literacy projects, and by Liverpool Editing Company, for my upcoming novels.  I’ve been published in several anthologies with my poetry and short stories, and am currently developing a children’s animated series with my scriptwriting partner. Pre-pandemic, I was delivering creative workshops throughout Merseyside.

During the lockdown, I’ve published 2 books. The first, ‘My Mummy is a Monster’ is a split-perspective book that aims to teach children their parents are not in fact monsters, via a dual narrative. The second book ‘Ben and the Bug’ focusses on teaching children how to stay safe during COVID-19.

Connect with me on Social Media.

Twitter @BillingReeves

Insta: natalie_reeves_billing

FB: NatalieRBillingAuthor

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