We were nearly two weeks into this new normal which for many was homeschooling. As a reminder for those who are reading this in the future: if you weren’t deemed an “essential worker” or if you were now working from home, the kids had to be “home schooled”.

Just as I was getting ready to publish this, I saw a photo on Alison’s fb page which reminded me that they returned from holidays as the lockdowns were beginning. I asked if she would include that experience as well…

Ali says: We travelled to Tasmania in mid March, and things seemed to escalate quickly while we were away. Before we left, there were only a few cases in Australia, social distancing had only just started and people were still figuring out what it meant. As we travelled around Tasmania we were incredibly lucky, everything was still open and it wasn’t until towards the end of the week that things started to close. Mainly indoor attractions such as the museums and art galleries were shutting and the day we left, Port Arthur Historical Site closed. A travel ban came in at midnight the day we left, stopping all inbound travel to Tasmania. 

However, travelling around Tasmania, there was no real difference to the world, supermarkets still had food and there was no panic buying. We arrived back in Toowoomba late on a Saturday afternoon, and had to go pick up some groceries on the way home. I thought a simple spaghetti bol will do. I walked into Coles and nearly cried. There were no eggs, no mince, no pasta, no tinned tomatoes, very few vegetables and only a few loaves of bread left on the shelf (and obviously no toilet paper!!). The next day I went to 4 different shops trying to complete a full grocery shop – it took hours but we got there. The Toowoomba we returned to was significantly different to the one we left only 7 days before.

Bruce was told not to come in to the office as they were worried he could have picked something on the plane. We also decided to keep the kids home from school. Sunday, ScoMo announced schools would remain open but parents had the choice to keep them home. It turns out they only missed 3 days of Term 1 and then school was out for what would be 8 weeks (including holidays).

How would you describe what is happening right now regarding COVID19 ?
It seems a little surreal. Life is certainly slower but more hectic in some ways as well. We are all at home all the time, working, and school. We only leave to get groceries and it is only one person allowed from each household to do that. Even though everyone is apart, we all seem very connected. A commonality I suppose.
Fuel is cheap, the national parks and playgrounds are closed, people are walking their dogs – A LOT!
Getting used to social distancing is so hard, it doesn’t come naturally to stand so far from someone, especially friends. I found masks confronting to start with but not so much now.

How has this affected your family?
I have enjoyed the slower pace, the kids are learning to be bored, which I think is a huge positive. Our kids have found new ways to entertain themselves, and each afternoon there are a number of kids riding bikes up and down the street. They have made a bike track on the green space near our house, which has always been there but never been used. We have been enjoying exercising together as family. During the week it is more stressful as everyone is working and schooling, but weekends have been back to basics.

How has this affected your work?
I have been working on the COVID 19 State Government relief package, which has opened my eyes to the domino effect this is having on businesses. Our team is all new to the role and we have done induction and training over video conference and phone. I am yet to meet anyone in my team face to face, but speak to them daily and feel like I know them well!

Bruce has been busy trying to find new ways for businesses to connect and navigate the current environment.  Their team is very connected with daily video calls, and every Friday they have Friday dress up drinks to unwind.

It is a more relaxed approach to work, and we are learning more about each other as a person (dogs barking in the middle of meetings, kids guitar lessons playing in the background of phone calls to clients etc!).  I think this side is a really nice positive coming out of the current environment. 

We set the spare room up as a school room for the kids, and Bruce and I work side by side in the home office, and Poppy (the dog), floats between supervising us all.

What is one thing that has surprised you about this event – Positively or negatively?
Positively – people are patient and understanding of one another now. There is a focus on the person not the job which I love. We also know all our neighbours better now which has been great! The kids have said they never knew so many kids lived in the street. We are all looking forward to a street party when this is all over.
Negatively – It is very tiring working from home, it is hard to switch off from the day and it is easy to feel lethargic. I think everyone is getting fatigued of it now the novelty is wearing off.

What is one thing you will always remember about this time?
I will value the time we had with our family unit, and that we focused on making this a memorable time rather than a stressful one. We have enjoyed camping in the backyard, delivering Easter eggs to neighbours, drive-by birthday parades and the Light up the Dawn ANZAC day service on the driveway.
I will definitely remember teaching the kids and being involved in their learning, which has been stressful, but I have enjoyed seeing how and what they learn in more detail.

What do you think is really important right now?
Mental health for adults and kids alike is key. With little down time and no space from one another the niggles are coming out. The lack of social interaction is affecting the kids as much as the adults. I think it is also important to remember everyone is going through something different right now, some are so busy with work and kids they don’t have 5 minutes to spare, others are out of work and don’t have $5 to spare. Each situation is equally stressful and we need to be kind to one another.

What have you done to stay in touch with others?
Zoom meetings and Facetime have been fantastic.  It is so nice to see a person rather than just hear their voice. We have been connecting with friends we haven’t seen in some cases, years, but because all contact is via zoom, we have been able to catch up for Sunday drinks with people all over the country. Imagine if this happened pre-internet (or dial up internet!).

What is one thing that you miss right now?
Friends and freedom. Cabin fever is setting in.

What have you been doing to keep yourself and your family busy?
During the week I sit in the office on and off for 10 hours + trying to get my 7.5 hours of work in between interruptions. I spend about an hour every afternoon sorting out kids school work, then have to turn around and cook dinner, or fold washing I have put out during the day etc. So the weeks are so busy already!
Weekends we have been doing the spring cleaning jobs – oiling the deck, cleaning the outside of the windows etc. We do workouts as a family and walk the dog. We love doing board games and puzzles to relax as a family too. Bruce has decided to use some time to learn to ride a unicycle, all new skills coming out!

Does this scare you?
I try to not overthink it as I think it would.  I like the saying “We are not stuck at home, we are safe at home”. I think being in a regional location makes it less scary than being in Sydney for example. I feel quite safe in Toowoomba, watching other countries is quite terrifying.  

What is one good thing that you hope will happen after this is all over?
I hope the community spirit stays the same, and people continue to be a little more understanding of one another. I hope workplaces maintain a less serious view of themselves, and we continue with the friendlier way of business that is becoming the norm. We seem to have realised by bringing work into our homes what is actually important. I would also hope we continue to use the technology we have to enable people flexibility at work, and also to connect with distant friends.

What is the first thing you are going to do when it is all over? 
Send the kids to school and hug my friends!!!! And book a holiday…… far, far away! 😊

School kids How have you maintained your friendships? 
J – Zoom meetings and video calls.
A – Zoom meetings
L – Through Zoom and that’s about it.
What’s your thoughts on home schooling? 
J – Its fun because you get to play on the trampoline and on your bike. School work is a bit “funner” because you have a whole desk to yourself and you can decorate it.
A – Good,  its nice to do it.  
L – Difficult, challenging but kind of fun because it is a new experience.
What do you think about the Corona Virus?
J – I don’t like it, it is really bad.
A – It is really bad and it is affecting a lot of people.
L – It is bad for elderly people, and everyone should stay inside until this is over and we find a cure.
What is one thing you miss doing right now?
J – Playing with my friends
A – Playing with my friends
L – Playing with my friends
What is one thing you are enjoying about this time?
J – You get to spend more time with your family.
A – I like doing zoom meetings.
L – I get a bit more time to myself and to relax.

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