We said we would be back and then we scarpered. Not intentional promise. Turns out the RMF WordPress theme was so old most of our features were leaning towards the left of the screen and images were going AWOL. Adam has been fixing/snazzing/polishing it behind the scenes so our articles are no longer on the permanent wonk. FYI I’m taking zero credit for the modern website sheen, all I’ve managed to do is ask Adam fairly obvious questions whilst consuming my own bodyweight in crisps.

So here we are. Tidier, shinier and with a dwindling supply of Wotsits.

Right in the middle of a global pandemic.

Parenting is challenging enough without the increased pressure of school and nursery closures and the expectation we can juggle the needs (also see: demands) of our children whilst working from home.

From my relatively brief dalliances with social media these past weeks, it would appear that amongst the amusing memes and videos of mothers pouring Sauvignon over their cornflakes, there is an undercurrent of judgment against those parents choosing to try and do it all during this unprecedented and unpredictable time. And that makes me sad. All of our needs are different. All of our children’s needs are different. None of us have the answers and none of us could have possibly predicted this virus would have such a significant impact on our day to day lives.

My six year old daughter Mabel needs structure and routine. If she doesn’t know exactly what is happening on an hourly basis she becomes anxious. I don’t want her to be anxious. It is discombobulating enough for her that she is unable to see her friends, her grandparents or visit any of her favourite places.

I am a Mum that has a timetable. I have been theming weeks – for my own focus and sanity as much as Mabel’s. I’m not a crafter, a DIY-er or a make-believer by nature. I need something to follow and “inspire” ideas or I’ll just draw a blank and be as bored as they will. When I mention they – I also have two year old Iris to throw into the mix.

A four year age gap has always been fine. Up until now. Mabel and Iris are in the confines of a house together pretty much all day every day. Iris wants what Mabel has and Mabel just about tolerates her. I find myself spending as much time trying to prevent Iris from destroying Mabel’s attempts at painting/making a broomstick out of twigs and pipe cleaners as I do picking crushed biscuits from the soles of my socks.

It’s challenging. But I’m also embracing it as much as I feasibly can. I figure that if I appear stressed and distracted by the daily onslaught of news then it’s not going to help any of us. My husband James and I are currently working shifts of sorts – and when it’s my turn to manage the girls my phone is off and my caffeine intake is off the chart.

We’ve found that a morning, lunchtime and afternoon break similar to Mabel’s typical school day structure/timings is working well. It’s familiar to her and after a few weeks, she knows exactly when she can look forward to snacks. And good lord do they SNACK. I wasn’t aware such small people could consume so much food.

The AM is when we make the most of Mabel’s attention span. She reads about whatever it is our “theme” is in some form or other, writes about it – either facts she has remembered or a related story of her own. We then have a bash at maths, either from an Abacus workbook I purchased from Amazon or I make something up that incorporates addition, subtraction or multiplication – again based on the theme. Some attempts have been more successful than others.

In the PM we make things, bake, paint, draw, get covered in glitter or immerse ourselves in sticker books and jigsaws. Alternatively, we all sit down in front of the television and eat biscuits.

We all go outside whenever the weather is warm enough – it has been good so far and this week is supposed to be lovely.

It works. For us. At least for now.

Joe Wicks has not been popular bless him. I’ve enjoyed his HIIT for years but Mabel thinks his PE lessons are too difficult and Iris isn’t in the least bit interested. Instead, we do some Cosmic yoga from about 9am for 15 minutes or so and then Iris gets to bop about to various nursery rhymes by either The Wiggles or Bounce Patrol. I endeavour to do some pilates at the same time. Admittedly sometimes I’m in bridge position with a toddler sat on my thighs but if that doesn’t improve my core strength then nothing will.

Themes thus far have been Quentin Blake, the human body and this week it’s erm….Easter. I know, I often amaze myself with my originality.

Quentin Blake stemmed from the book “Mr Magnolia” which is Mabel’s favourite. For those of you that are unfamiliar, it’s a witty rhyming story about an eccentric gentleman who loses his boot. We began the week with Mabel reading the book to Iris, followed by Mabel writing her own version of the rhyme based on Mr Magnolia losing his hat. We painted pictures of boots and made dodgy paper finger puppets of owls (illustrated in the book). Blake’s “Mrs Armitage on Wheels” followed. Mabel drew some excellent bicycles (my attempt was poor in comparison) and we faffed about with some items that represented what Mrs Armitage would add to her bicycle of dreams – taking them away, grouping them and essentially learning the 5 x table.

Mabel said how much she enjoyed “learning” and doesn’t seem to mind practicing handwriting, grammar, spelling and mathematics as long as it’s not for extended periods and is followed by games, craft and play.

At the moment the kids are happy. And even though this situation feels strange and often impossible to navigate (none of us can be expected to give 100% to parenting, teaching and work 100% of the time) I am enjoying spending more time with the girls, I would not have this opportunity to do so under normal circumstances.

Of course, ask me that again in another few weeks. And if school closures continue until September there is no doubt in my mind that my not-so-secret whisky stash will become increasingly popular.

Do let me know how you are managing (also see juggling) your days and how you are keeping (mostly) sane. Please do join our RMF forum to share ideas with other members of the community and let us know what you would like us to discuss/feature over the coming months.

Stay home, stay safe and keep well all: I’m clinking my virtual glass with yours.

Fancy more reading? Charlotte, Becky and Naomi are sharing their Beauty Pie reviews over on Rock My Style.