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A life change they cannot control

Fran's contribution to our Stay Home collecting project

I live in Worcester, in a semi-detached house, built in 1910.

Most of the time I live with my two sons: Max who has just turned 9 and Barney who is 7. Two nights a week they stay with their father, who lives a few miles away.

I have lived in this house for nearly 12 years. I bought it originally with my (almost) ex-husband but he left 2 and a half years ago. I have just succeeded in buying him out of the house, but the divorce has been delayed.

Take part in our Stay Home collecting project

Blurry face of child in front of person
My youngest son sitting on my lap and demanding attention when I was trying to work

In what ways has the coronavirus pandemic changed the way you use your home?

My dining room has become a permanent study – I have my computer set up at one end of the table, and the other end of the table is reserved for board games.

The kitchen table is where the boys do their schoolwork, although they do sometimes join me in the dining room if I am not on calls.

Before lockdown the boys both slept in what was Barney's room but, for some reason best known to them, they have moved on to the sofa bed in Max's room. I suppose it is cosy. They used to sleep in separate bedrooms, but when their father left they wanted to sleep together and I suppose moving rooms is another reaction to a life change that they cannot control.

The back garden is a hugely important space at the moment. It is mainly used for cricket and football, which the boys miss hugely.

How do you feel about your home? How have these feelings changed?

Since the breakdown of my marriage I have fought to keep my home in order to provide stability for my children.

I love my house, although it needs a lot of work doing to it (that I can't afford at the moment). Through the turmoil of the last few years this house has been a constant and I am glad to be here for lockdown. When the boys aren't here the house feels too big, but at the moment that it very welcome.

The main problem with living and working in my home all the time is that I constantly feel the weight of the things I haven't done: when I am in the office I forget about the washing not done or the floor not cleaned, but at the moment I can't escape the reproach of the incomplete housework. I find it harder to relax at home than I used to because it is also my place of work.

How does staying at home affect your relationships?

There is certainly pressure on my relationship with my children – I am trying to work and look after them and encourage them to do school work. My job is very pressured and the boys are exposed to me in stressed work mode more than they would be normally.

The constant togetherness also affects the children's relationship with each other. Initially there was a lot of bickering, but they have got used to be together all the time now and there is less fighting (although still a substantial amount).

Strangely my relationship with my ex-husband is better because he is the only adult I see so we usually talk about events when he drops or picks up the children.

I really miss my friends and colleagues. My team at work have done a lot of virtual socialising and that has probably made us closer, but there are other people in the office who I haven't been in contact with all. It is the same with friends – some I see virtually, others not at all.

Person wearing glasses holding up a wine glass
A virtual social gathering with my colleagues

What do you appreciate most about your home? What do you find frustrating?

I appreciate the garden, especially as the weather has been so nice.

I also appreciate the space in my house, which allows us to all be in separate rooms when we need to be.

I find the mess and amount of work that needs to be done frustrating.

How has lockdown changed your habits or routines at home?

I thought that I would have more time – I commute over an hour to work and an hour back each day - but there is so much work to do that I seem to have less time.

I miss the gym but I am trying to do online classes at home. The boys and I do Joe Wicks each morning, so the sitting room has become a gym. On Friday evenings, when the boys are with their father, I do an online dance class with some friends from the gym on Zoom. We pick a theme each week and dress up to make it more fun (and have a gin or a glass of wine on hand). Last week we were the Spice Girls.

With the boys we are playing cards and board games more, and doing jigsaws. I am slightly addicted to jigsaws.

Two children with overflowing bottles of fizzy drinks
My boys doing experiments in the garden. I was trying to get them enthusiastic about science but they just liked the mess.

How is your sense of home affected by your neighbours or those living nearby?

I don't see my next door neighbours a lot, although they are very friendly when we do see each other. Mostly we interact by them throwing balls back into our garden after they have gone over the fence.

Once of my best friends lives just down the road and I miss her hugely. We have had several FaceTime calls, which seems weird when we are so close but we are trying to obey the rules. When the rules are relaxed I look forward to being able to drink tea (or something alcoholic) in each other's gardens.

Two children with a birthday cake on a table
My youngest singing happy birthday to his brother. It was hard to make it feel like a party with only three of us, but it was still nice.

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