Parenting during lockdown

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kitty Lee-Watson, a 35 year old mum of 4 living in England. Kitty co-parents 3 of our children with her ex-husband and raises her fourth alone. She works as a clinical support worker in mental health, and her family is a neurodiverse household.

 

What are some experiences you feel are unique to your parenting experience or your identity as a mother?

When I had my son in 2009, I chose to have a home birth and that got a lot of raised eyebrows. I went down the attachment parenting route, and baby wore a “proper” carrier, breastfed, coslept, and did baby led weaning. I didn’t know anybody in person who did the same, but luckily I found a fab natural parenting forum and spent a LOT of time on there. My son is autistic and all my children have some kind of behaviour that makes life more challenging. I have very few “real life” friends after 11 years as a parent of a child/children who can make days/trips out or even a simple walk or coffee round someone’s house a lot more stressful than it needs to be. Some people just don’t get it and don’t agree with the way I parent. I can understand it from their perspective but also believe I’m better off with them out of my lives so I don’t feel like I’m constantly having to fire fight or helicopter parent and question my parenting just to satisfy them. That’s not what friendship is.
 
 
As a single mother, I feel I experience challenges that parents in couples do not. I coparent 3 of my children with my ex husband and I raise my fourth child alone. This means I can’t just leave the kids with someone to go to a PTA meeting or a meal out with the other mums, for example. It can make you feel isolated and excluded.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
That can be hard. What are some experiences that make you feel connected to other mums (i.e. those “I’ve been there” moments)?
 
I think the homeschooling thing in the pandemic has been pretty good for this. Yes, there’s been the occasional person who’s shown the wonderful work their child is producing, but the majority of posts on Insta I’ve seen or the conversations I’ve had with other mums have been around how stressful it is, how little we are actually getting done, and how many snacks they’re going through!
 
 
 
 
 

Puberty and the pre-teen attitude is also something that seems to be a shared experience now.

 

Describe a moment when you needed a reminder to be compassionate and kind towards yourself as you parented. This could be a specific struggle or a period of time that was particularly hard. What helped you get through this moment?

I’ve been feeling really bad about my parenting during this latest lockdown. During the first lockdown, the weather was lovely, and I’d just started back at my job after maternity leave and didn’t have a lot of responsibility, and there were no real homeschooling guidelines. All 3 of my school age children were in primary and it was mostly printing off activities from Twinkl. We had a lovely routine of doing activities in the morning while I did some admin work and helped them at the same time, lunch, a 2 hour walk from our house to the woods, and then home for a snack and a group activity together like colouring or a craft. After that, the kids would have free time to play or go on screens, and I’d finish off my work with a coffee before they had dinner. It was a really lovely experience and I honestly enjoyed that lockdown.

This time round I have a caseload of patients I have to call or visit, my youngest is back in nursery so I have to get everyone up for drop off and out for pick up, and my eldest is at secondary school now and is taught lessons by video from 9-3 and his attendance is recorded as if it were normal schooling. This means we are essentially trapped in the house between these hours, and by the time we’ve collected the youngest from nursery, it’s been getting dark so nobody is up for a walk. The middle two have been pretty much ignored and left to their own devices, and I made the decision to send my 6 year old to school for two days so I could get my job done (I’m a keyworker) because he just can’t keep quiet when asked. I was absolutely racked with guilt for sending him, even though logically I know it’s term time, but it feels like I’m getting rid of him.

I constantly have to pull myself up on my self-criticism and remind myself I’m trying to work 3 days a week whilst caring for 4 children and make the right decisions for them/us based on each of their personalities, needs, and the demands of my job. I feel like I’ve wasted the time I could have had with them (compared to the experience we had last year) and been boring and snappy. I’ve been actively trying to spend time with each of them doing crafts, baking, or joining them on Roblox (they’re obsessed) to compensate, but I know I am putting too much pressure on myself some days and my lovely friends remind me of this regularly.

 

Read on to hear how Kitty copes with challenges.

Self-Care can sometimes get pushed aside

 How do you find moments of respite to re-energize you and remind you of the aspects of yourself that sometimes get pushed to the side when you’re caring for others?

I am terrible at this. Sometimes I go days without showering or go to bed on an empty stomach because I’ve fallen asleep trying to get my 2 year old to sleep and not been able to grab myself some dinner. I often blast my music when driving on the school runs or the commute to work. I try and carry a book with me all the time for those unexpected car naps, or set the kids loose on a field with the dog while I sit watching them from a slight distance so I can enjoy some silence.

I try and carry a book with me all the time for those unexpected car naps.

 

Any funny parenting moments you’d like to share?

The kids are always coming out with bizarre phrases and statements that bring me humour. My 6 year old son in particular speaks with language quite beyond his years at times (and I’m not sure where it comes from or whether he fully understands it). His latest is to refer to me as “a foolish lady” when he’s angry and tonight he shouted at me that I always tell him what to do, to which I replied that was because I’m his mum.

 

Kitty is a fierce, loving Mama who is authentic to the core. To see more of her family adventures, follow her on Instagram @areweoutatthewoods.

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