Experiences of 2020
Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing blog posts from women across many walks of life in Scotland. We hope to give a platform to voice how the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting you; your family, relationships, work, education, home life, mental health, wellbeing, and many more aspects of life.
The stories shared will allow us to give evidence to decision makers at all levels, ensuring women's experiences are focussed on throughout the Coronavirus response. We hope they'll also provide a form of support and solidarity to others in similar situations, or educate our wider audience about their role or position.
Click below to select individual stories, or scroll down to read them all!
I’m Sarah and I live just outside Dundee. I live with my partner and youngest son, who is 15. My eldest son is 19 and is in the process of his first phase of army training at Pirbright.
I am currently a full-time (very!) mature student undertaking a BA Community Education. The academic year didn’t get off to the best start for the 2nd semester of my 2nd year. My classes were affected significantly by industrial action throughout February. I think I had about three face to face classes in all. So, when the university eventually closed in March, I was kind of in the swing of online learning. However, I found it difficult to get motivated and focus on studying.
The week before lockdown was the beginning of what continues to be a surreal time. My partner decided to begin shielding before the government made any announcements. It was very worrying as he has a heart condition. Then the schools came off. I had no idea at the time that my son would miss so much of his schooling. The school did everything they could to help but with my partner working from home and me trying to study it was pretty much impossible to do any home-schooling. I have a new admiration for teachers, they are absolute saints.
At the end of lockdown week my eldest son informed us he would be coming home from recruit training. He was less than pleased to be home. Having two teenagers in the house was very challenging at times. My eldest didn’t really take on board the seriousness of the situation, and pretty much carried on as usual. My youngest was very understanding and stuck to the guidelines without a complaint. I’m proud of him for coping so well, it could not have been easy having the whole world turned upside down in an instant. I feel this will have a lasting impact on young people for a long time to come.
Issues such a social isolation and racism have always existed. Food banks are now the norm. Whether the virus is eventually brought under control or not, I hope that we can all become more aware and understanding of the injustices people face every day. I’m not sure I want to go back to “normal”, not the old one anyway. This is an opportunity for change. There has been so much kindness and humanity shown all over Scotland, let’s hope this continues.
Reflecting on the past few months the experience has been a rollercoaster, this maybe comes across! I’ve learnt a lot about myself and what’s important. I’m trying to live in the moment as much as possible instead of worrying about the things I can’t control. I managed to pass 2nd year with very good grades, my son will catch up on his schooling and my partner is now allowed out to the shops - that’s pretty good all things considered!
My inclination is always towards the bigger picture. And for me, since lockdown, the bigger picture is enveloped in anger, at the lack of leadership (in Westminster), the incompetence, the lies and corruption that we usually attribute to less developed countries. I am angry that lack of action on climate change and an overarching greed by those in power, has led to the animal to human leap by a virus and that lessons do not seem to have been learned. My kids are looking at a world where there may not be enough food. I am angry that we are still due to suffer the under-considered consequences of Brexit.
My business, which I have run successfully in the centre of Edinburgh for twenty years may no longer be viable due to social distancing measures. My beloved side-career as a playwright is on hold as theatres have been forced to close. Dreams and imagination seem in short supply as we prioritise adjusting to a new reality.
I have taken refuge in increased physical activity: cycling and swimming in the sea, as well as learning slow breathing techniques. I want to bury my head under the duvet, but I know I have to participate and speak up if I want change for the better. It may happen without me, but I want to help bring it about if I can.
I am an optimistic person. I have been lucky. I have travelled and lived in many different countries and have parents who prioritised education and life experience. I’m not led by money. I’m driven by positive and new experiences. And loveliness does still exist. The 13 weeks I spent with my 85-year-old dad, when he came to live with me during lockdown, are precious now and will be a more precious memory in the future. Despite having the virus, I wasn’t hospitalised. I got away lightly and am grateful for that.
As I write, I am sitting in my newly re-opened local café, trying to drum up busines for them by making it look busy. It seems to be working. People are coming to the window and then tentatively placing an order. It is reminding me of the time before Covid and I know we can’t go back there but, with every sip of my coffee, I feel more hopeful for the future.
I found my passion during the pandemic.
I’m 28 years old and a videographer for the Scotland Social Services Council in Dundee. I work in the digital learning team and was the first woman to join the team 2 years ago. I would describe myself as a strong character and my role requires me to connect, emphasise and build relationships with people.
All productions came to a halt in lockdown and I struggled to adapt to continuous editing from home, wondering what the future of my job would be as the majority of it is filming people. I was eager to document, and I felt frustrated that I couldn’t go out and film the great work the social sector was doing. Technology allowed me to find other ways of communicating and as a result I worked with Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care helping them film their story.
Despite this, I felt like I was missing something. I missed social interaction, I missed going somewhere, I missed having purpose. Staring at the wall, I looked at a pair of roller skates hanging up as a decoration for almost two years. Why not give them a shot?
After a day of falling, I realised that feeling like I was a teenager, having fun, learning something new was exactly what I needed in lockdown. I had a think and came up with a charity challenge, 26 days to learn and perform a live stream dancing on my roller skates. I used my videographer skills to make a diary of my progress. In the 26 days I raised £3,000 for Theatre Nemo, who were providing art, drama and music lessons to people living with long term mental health conditions during the pandemic.
Not only did I learn a new skill but, I was able to helps others without seeing them. I connected with the charity founder, I met a community of other skaters online and I had something to focus on during a time were things seemed so foggy. After lockdown I set up a group for people learning to skate. There are 8 other woman who, like me, once felt embarrassed to skate in public, now have the support and confidence to do so.
“Mummy I need you” is a familiar line from my time in lockdown. But I suppose it’s better than the “Mummy come wipe my bum” which is often shouted out, usually right in the middle of a zoom call. It’s funny how they always walk past their dad and come to me first, not that my other half doesn’t do his share. I’m sure it’s similar in many households up and down the country.
Lockdown has been really hard. I have a three-year-old and a seven-year-old. I work four days a week for Scouts Scotland and my other half also works full time. Lockdown for Scouts has meant 80% of staff have been furloughed. For those of us left working, it has meant a much increased workload.
It has not been an easy time for the Scouts. We, like many other third sector organisations, have been hit hard with a huge loss in income. In normal times my work is much more fun, sharing happy news stories about the impact that Scouts makes to young people; but now I have to retell the hard reality that we are facing to MSPs or journalists and it’s incredibly draining. Combining that with working from home, trying to homeschool and constant cooking – because apparently my children are always hungry - has meant that my own mental health has suffered. There were a few weeks that I was just so angry at everything and everyone (sorry to all who felt the wrath).
The shining lights through this have been the youth groups that my seven year is involved in. Her dance teacher has been amazing. She’s adapted her classes to run online. The sound of her voice shouting directions through the tablet is very welcome, and we have a smiley happy girl at the end.
The volunteers with her local Beaver group have also been brilliant. I can’t thank them enough. Because of them my daughter has taken part in camps from home, built dens, played emoji bingo, done drawing challenges, run around finding things for scavenger hunts and a had great big campfire song singalong in the kitchen.
The mum guilt is strong though. My three-year-old has learned the phrases “in a minute” and “I’m too busy” and I know this is what I tell her when she wants to play. Hopefully soon we will all have more time to play.
My name is Lauren, and I’m a 29-year-old unemployed woman living in Glasgow. I was diagnosed with autism two years ago, after struggling with my mental health and social relationships all my life. I feel lockdown has given me the chance to recognise my personal strengths and driven me to help other autistic people to reach this stage. Our current circumstances, with limited social interactions and working from home, have allowed for the breaking down of societal ‘norms,’ and other autistic people have reported feeling safer and more comfortable. It’s given us a chance to stop fighting the battles we find so exhausting and see just how capable we are when we have the right amount of time and space!
Late diagnosis and misdiagnosis are common in autistic women, not only because a lot of early autism research focussed on male participants (yay for medical bias!), but because autistic women tend to use ‘masking’ more often and more effectively than male autistics. Masking means developing behaviours which hide our difficulties by creating strict rules for ourselves and avoiding situations where we might be exposed. Scottish Women’s Autism Network shares the analogy that autistic women are like swans - they appear on the surface to be gliding effortlessly, but there is a load of invisible work going on in the background.
But lockdown gave me a chance to find out just how capable I am! I joined Glasgow Mutual Aid (a group of volunteers supporting local community groups). As part of the dispatching team I quickly found myself developing protocol, writing policies and recruiting volunteers. I’ve applied for two jobs during lockdown, and already been interviewed for one. I have also applied to a casting call for a mini-series starring a neurodiverse actress. For a long time, I didn’t believe I was worth an employer’s time to make the adjustments I need to thrive in the workplace. Now that I know this comes from a lack of self-belief rather than a lack of talent, I’ve developed Oddities, a social enterprise which gives other autistic people the space and support to recognise their capacities. Lockdown has shown me just how wasteful it is of employers to overlook the talents of autistic people, and has given me the drive to show off just how capable me and my fellow auties are!