A month (and a day) ago, on a Sunday evening we heard President Ramaphosa announcing that the coming Thursday the country is entering a 21-day period of lockdown – to be later expanded with extra two weeks. That Monday, our family decided to #stayhome – it is 30 days today, a full month!
Overall, our family has dealt with the situation with positive energy, although not all the days are as if out of a TV commercial. We don’t laugh the whole time, although we try. We don’t cuddle the whole time, although we want. We don’t sing and dance, although the boys have the energy to do so. But as a family, we do many things together; we value the family meals and discussions, we read books laying in one bed, we watch movies holding hugs, we work productively so that we play afterwards, and we fight and makeup.
Most of all, this lockdown gave us more time to think – slow thinking though, not the one that is compulsory for work purposes. Here, I am sharing four of the recurring thoughts of this month, those that came initiated from varying incidents and interactions, readings and discussions.
1) Family balance is the result of hard work.
“Your kids are doing so well” or “You look like you have this under control”. Yes, in general, we do, but that got me thinking. Discussing with others, some characteristics are common and that is not more love, or more blessings, or more luck. Don’t get me wrong in that, love helps. The boys are calm and relaxed because of their parents like being together. It would not have been as easy otherwise.
But, teamwork wins: I am not helping my partner, and he is not helping me, we are in that together. It is not easy always but we have a common goal: a harmonic, efficient, productive and happy everyday life. Reading online how to deal with kids these days, the opinions and advice vary from "let the kids play the whole day" to "have a strict schedule and routine". In our household, we are prone-routine (at least the three of the four… our youngest is more of a free spirit). Our boys are calmer and friendlier when they know what to expect from their day. We had to show them somehow that we are not on holidays. As the parents have to work, the kids also have to “work” at certain times of the day. We enjoy the weekends all together that differentiate from the working days. Calmness comes only from the realisation that we are not all the same and each family knows at heart what works: usually, it is what always worked before the lockdown.
2) Challenging times are a magnifying glass
The #lockdown and #stayhome have not created relationships, friendships and personalities from scratch. Difficult conditions intensify and bring out the superlative of everything. Relationships that were strong become stronger, and those that were on the surface just disappear. Negative people tend to get blinded in their negativity and cannot see anything positive anymore. Naturally stressful people just stress more now.
Have there not been any surprises? Of course, yes, but in my mind, there were surprises to the rest of us. It was just because we did not know the person that well, or because the person has not allowed us to see that trait of theirs. Leaders rise in challenges: it is their time to show their capability – not to show off. Those that are opportunistic in nature will be revealed easily in such times.
3) Perfect timing to relook at our “reality”.
This time away from our everyday routine is a luxury to prioritise the things we do and value in our everyday life. What is the reality we want to go back to? What are the pieces and the people that miss the most? To do so, we don’t need to do meditation or yoga or anything else. Everything was clear to me the moment I started writing down everything that came in my mind that I would like to do after the lockdown. It is crystal clear there that some people are more important in my life, some places are more special to me and some things I miss more than others (and some foods I am dying to eat more than others).
In our “normal” life, there are so many things that we postpone due to lack of time but is that really the correct reason? Now it is the time to evaluate that. I am not amongst those that say we should use this time to learn a new language, start a new hobby or read your whole bookcase. The simple reason? Not all of us have soooo much extra time – we still work, homeschool, clean our houses, cook (and bake, right?) and we are also stressed with all the uncertainty. However, what we can all do is ask ourselves whether it was because of limited time or lack of desire that prevented us from completing the tasks.
4) Different people and views + mature debate = PROGRESS
I realised that people are truly connected not when they agree, not when they come from similar backgrounds and not when they lead similar lifestyles. They connect when:
- they work and think with the same ethical values and priorities;
- they can disagree while debating with maturity where everybody is heard and understood and more importantly, not impose their opinion;
- they dream of the same world and future.
I thought of stop saying my opinion and thoughts online because some people that disagree do not know how to debate in public. I thought of not reading other people’s opinions for fear I am going to get disappointed but I decided against both.
I offer my opinion and I am open to disagreements that have to be however justified and motivated. If the opinion is extremist, based on sources that are not reliable, diversifying and aiming to intensify negativity then sorry I don’t tolerate it and I don’t have time for it. The maximum I might do is to ask for more information to find out on what facts is the opinion based and avoid possible misunderstandings from my side.
Otherwise, I hear or read the discussion and I categorise those that I disagree with in three groups: 1) those mature to understand that there can be disagreement and we continue afterwards with life as before; 2) those that are stubborn, hold grudges and it is perfectly fine if they don’t want to talk to me afterwards; 3) those whose opinions are against my own ethics system that I don’t want to talk to anymore.
Life would have been boring and uninteresting if we only heard our own voice, our own theories and beliefs. By sharing our thoughts, listening to others and debating, our own views and perspectives improve, get stronger, change, alter and move afterwards. And for that, it is worth going through some upsets and frustrations at times.
Final reminder to myself
All in all, I realised I need to be kinder to myself; it is okay to not do it all (thanks #thelifeonpurpose).
- I need to prioritize and I ask if I really want to do something as opposed to if I have time to do something.
- I cannot control what other people think and believe – but if I want a better world for all, I need to listen to them, I might be wrong too.
- I need to know with whom I should debate when I feel strongly about my own evidence-informed opinion.
- I need to realise with whom and when to stop, either because I disagree in the matter or I disagree with the perspective.
- I should keep working hard for the balance in our household, not only for my own calmness but for my boys too.
When the lockdown is finished, when we all go back to normal, we have the once in a lifetime opportunity to go back to our chosen normal.
Let’s make the challenging times count.