Working on wellbeing

When my four-year-old left nursery some weeks ago, to be educated and entertained at home, I was resolute that we would cope. I thought an academic diet of counting and colouring would serve him well. Perhaps a few phonics. Plenty of fun and games too, of course, and lots of lovely bonding time and making memories. Last week, as I wearily gave James a pile of bubble wrap to pop and brewed myself yet another pot of tea, I wondered if I was losing momentum. Despite chocolate buttons in the fridge and biscuits in the fruit bowl, I found my energy flagging.

Parental wellbeing has surely never been so important, or so fragile. My thoughts are scattered but my wee boy naturally wants my undivided attention throughout the day. Do I have the only child in town who refuses to watch a movie? I would give a lot for two hours of Disney right now. All I hear is, “Mummy, let’s find ALL the characters in Where’s Wally!” Finally, in desperate need of some solo time, I retrieved my bike from the garden shed and dusted it off. Yes, I am one of those people who has jumped astride two wheels for the first time in … let’s say … a while. I suspect I am a sight to behold. My antique bicycle has three gears and an enormous basket which only looks right with a baguette poking out of it.

Yet, as I set off, gradually gaining speed and confidence, I remembered how much I love cycling. With the sun shining, the Tay gurgling beside me and the twitter of birds above, I was revived. Pausing to catch my breath, I could feel those uplifting exercise endorphins surging through my body. As I exchanged smiles and cheery greetings with passing dog walkers, I would have scored off the chart on any wellbeing index.

Getting my bike fit for purpose prompted a clear-out of some other contraptions that were taking up space: a balance bike, a kids’ bike and James’s old mountain buggy. Hopefully they’re now being put to good use by other families. Going a bit Marie Kondo and sorting out my home environment has made me feel more positive; cleaning and organising helping to impart a sense of control during uncertain times.

My hitherto brown kitchen sink has revealed itself in gleaming silver. The oven has been relieved of several layers of charcoaled detritus. If I’m going to stare at these walls day in day out, I’d rather they weren’t covered in chocolate fingerprints. And I earned a round of applause from the neighbours by hanging out of our porch window with a squeegee mop. I was considering polishing our wooden worktops but when I found myself washing out the bins I decided the house is probably now clean enough.

With ‘deep slob’ being cited as a lifestyle option, what other ways might we take better care of ourselves during lockdown? Last weekend, I sat in front of my partner while he wielded scissors in one hand and his iPhone in the other. After a five-minute YouTube video giving instructions on how to cut ladies’ hair, he went for it, with rather more gusto than I had anticipated. It was a test of true love, if ever there was one. Luckily (for him) a bob is hard to mess up, and I can’t see the back.

Social contact is vital for our wellbeing, whether you’re Zooming, WhatsApping or even using that old relic, the landline. My parents – isolated 50 miles away – have mastered FaceTime with alacrity (although it took us a while to find the off button…) And a virtual chat with other mums is sometimes the only way I can convince myself my homeschooling struggles are not mine alone. Scotland All-Strong are offering a variety of helpful health and wellness options online, including Andy’s Strength and Social class, Yoga and Pilates.

Our shared experiences are so challenging at this time, it’s worth making the most of small pleasures. My little boy turned 5 years old at the end of April and he wasn’t about to let a worldwide pandemic interfere with his birthday. His party was a select gathering for three, and his presents were wrapped in Christmas paper, but a few unseasonal reindeer didn’t slow him down. We celebrated with a delicious delivery from Cardo and, as James tucked into his usual ‘bunny’ pizza and I tried to nab the salted caramel macaron, it felt almost like normal family life.