Experiences of 2020
Since the beginning of Spring 2020, we have been using this space to share regular blog posts from women across many walks of life in Scotland. We hope to give a platform to voice how the events of this year are affecting you; your family, relationships, work, education, home life, mental health, wellbeing, and many more aspects of life.
The stories shared allow us to give evidence to decision makers at all levels, ensuring women's experiences are focussed on throughout the Coronavirus response and into the 'new normal'. 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!
Since March my office colleagues have consisted of my husband, a small child and a toddler. Over the last few months I’ve been a working parent, an eager, though underprepared, educator, and a full-time at home mum to two wonderful girls. All at the same time.
The viral videos of parents trying to conduct zoom meetings, or interviews whilst their children photobomb is amusing to watch. Less so if you are the parent sitting in that seat. But for many, including myself, this has been the reality of life for the last 4 months. Little faces peering round the door, daily negotiations for snacks, fielding questions and endless shouts of ‘mummy’ all whilst trying to juggle meetings, emails and deadlines is the reality of life at home with small children during this strange time.
I’m fortunate in that my job is flexible. I also work part time. Adapting to home working was reasonably straight forward and the flexibility of my employer to work hours that suited me and my life at home, was and is greatly appreciated.
My husband and I tried various ways to make our working week work, but our earlier attempts often felt frantic and chaotic. We managed to find a way that worked, carefully balancing work responsibilities and shared parenting, making up the additional hours when we can - usually in the evenings, once our children are both in bed. But that third shift, when it’s needed, is exhausting.
Alongside this there has been the new responsibility of leading home learning, and trying to be an educator for my now at home p1.
We are fortunate that our children are young, and love being outside. In the early days of lockdown we fully embraced the outdoor learning approach with hours in the garden, and our daily walk spent exploring the woodland and countryside we are fortunate to have on our doorstep. There was of course a need to balance this with home learning work set each week. But the school adopted an approach which prioritised mental and physical wellbeing, which reduced the pressure immensely. We are lucky that at p1, play based learning, enhanced social skills and new life skills are just as valuable as formal learning (in my opinion).
Add into all of this a whirlwind of a toddler who is never quite sure if she loves having us all home or wants some more of her own space...
But it hasn’t been all bad, and it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that it has. For me, the last few months have been challenging and exhausting. But we’ve had more family time. Although this has been pressured and stressful, at times, it has also meant both parents at home, our eldest at home again, and no rushing in and out to get to the next pick up or drop off or after school activity. We’ve lived in our own little bubble, and, (aside from missing family and friends) it’s been pretty great.
Being a working parent during the pandemic has been an endless juggle. There have been so many balls in the air - family life, home learning, working, mental and emotional wellbeing, caring for and checking in on other family members. At times it’s felt overwhelming.
But it’s been 4 months and we are all still standing. There are long-term concerns over job security, the state of the economy, and rumours over a second winter wave. But there have been significant benefits thanks to remote working and increased flexibility in how hours are fulfilled. I hope that our collective response, as a society and as communities, will lead to positive changes as we move forward.
When lockdown was announced, I was walking through Finnieston on my own, Boris Johnson’s voice piping through my headphones via the BBC News app. I was terrified, and not for the reasons people expected. I knew from experience what working from home with no strict schedule and no social outlets would do to my mental health, and I also knew I was entirely unequipped to deal with it.
After 4 months of the best mental health I’d ever had, I felt like I’d been dropped back into the deep end from a great height. Within days of lockdown starting, I lost the ability to concentrate, sleep, or even string a sentence together. My jaw was permanently clenched, and my shoulders ached. I spent every conversation worrying about what I was going to say next, and hours after replaying what I had said. Within a week, the panic attacks were back.
On top of this, was the sudden awareness that when a global pandemic hits, life can get really, really, lonely. I’ve been single for a while and it’s something I’ve enjoyed, but the realisation that you don’t have a teammate for the end of the world can feel like a bit of a free fall. I felt irrational towards friends and family with different circumstances, and I’m deeply ashamed to say I felt defensive when others talked about their experiences, like my brain was playing a disgusting game of Top Trumps over who had it worse. If it had been a game of Top Trumps, I would have certainly lost.
I have a safe, secure flat with a lovely flatmate. My job is stable and none of my friends or family have so far been ill. I don’t have caring or childcare responsibilities. I have no personal health issues or immediate money concerns. I haven’t had to shield, and I have a strong support network. God forbid I haven’t had to say goodbye to a loved one over Zoom. Some holidays were cancelled, some non-urgent medical treatment postponed, and I stopped walking at night because the streets were empty: I’ve had an embarrassingly lucky time.
I’m still a bit shell shocked at how ‘badly’ I dealt with lockdown, especially when others have had it so much worse. I like the quote included in the SWC’s recent update: “We are in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat”. I always tell friends that ‘other people’s experiences don’t invalidate your own’, but now I think it’s more than that. Being able to acknowledge the experiences of others has helped me put my challenges in context, and helped me feel lucky that many of my worries have already subsided now that I can leave the city, stand in the sea, spend time in the countryside, and meet my friends and family again. All considered, I’ve been in a pretty nice boat for this one, even if I wasn’t sailing it very steadily.
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.