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Charity Worker in Lockdown 4

MArley the cat and PC

Published on 04 June 2020 03:53 PM

Carer versus Career Mum in Lockdown

My name is Jo, my role at Age UK North Tyneside is as a part-time Community Engagement Officer, I am normally based in the Bradbury Centre at North Shields but am currently home working.

My role involves a little bit of everything from community consultation, campaigns, a bit of social media and various short-term projects thrown my way. I am a single mum with a ten year old autistic son.

When the over 70s were put into lockdown, my life was made more difficult because my mam a.k.a. Grandma helps out with childcare and the school run. Grandma was thoroughly frustrated that she could no longer do the school run and help me out, claiming that she never got near anybody on the walk to school.

As you can imagine this caused a bit of friction between us because I wanted to keep her safe. Work were great and really flexible allowing me to alter my hours so that I could do the school run. When we went into full lockdown I was considered a key worker as I would be redeployed to help with the crisis. I worked as part of the Customer Service team which was a ‘baptism of fire’ but after a while I managed to answer a few queries by myself, it was lovely talking to our customers and being able to advise them.

My son was devastated that he was having to go to school when everybody else got to stay at home. The first day I took him into school was really surreal as the playground was empty. My son said that school was really strange, when I collected him from after-school club he was the only one there and had been having to sit by himself for almost 3 hours.

He looked so sad and forlorn when I collected him and I felt so guilty for having to send him to school. That was Monday and on Tuesday when I went into work feeling guilty and honestly a little bit angry that I had to work and send my son to school. We were then told that the Bradbury Centre was closing and we all had to work from home, hurrah!

I rushed straight to the school and collected my son at about 11 AM. His little face was a picture, I don’t think I have ever seen him so happy and I shared that joy with him too as it was a massive relief being able to work from home.

Working from home and home schooling started off really well but after the first few weeks my son’s concentration to learn completely dwindled. Age UK North Tyneside have been completely supportive and flexible in me altering my hours to suit my childcare arrangements. I think that lockdown has made me feel pulled in two directions between work and my son’s education with constant feelings of guilt.

I was further redeployed from Customer Services to Age UK North Tyneside’s Shopping Service as a Coordinator which involved matching the customer with a shopper.

It was really nice doing this because speaking to older people in need of shopping and being able to help them was gratifying. I had some lovely conversations with some lovely people although sometimes I would be left feeling helpless because I spoke to some extremely vulnerable people who had very little help and support.

It was also nice doing this role as I got to speak to a number of my colleagues who had been redeployed to provide the shopping and there was a great sense of teamwork and pulling together in a crisis.

As the service developed Age UK North Tyneside offered shopping over the weekend and so I moved my hours around again and worked Sundays too. Not that this really made much difference to me as during lockdown all the days merge into one.

It was nice being a shopping coordinator because it made me feel like I was making a difference to older people who were in need during the Covid 19 pandemic. The last few weeks have seen the Age UK North Tyneside shopping service move across to our EveryDay team so it was back to my usual role.

So I began encouraging school children to send ‘Lockdown Letters’ to our EveryDay Care Extra Care schemes and encouraging people to get crocheting at home to make ear protectors for our care workers.

A day in my life consists of waking up and rolling downstairs in my pyjamas and having a coffee in my garden, then I start work while my son continues to sleep. I manage to get a couple of hours in before he wakes up which can be embarrassing getting caught in your P.J’s on a Zoom call!
I then go help him get washed and dressed which is when I get myself washed and dressed too. Then of course he wants breakfast which is currently a bacon sandwich, so I have to cook that.

He then sits and watches YouTube for hours and it’s back to work for me until I hear the cry of ‘Mam I’m hungry it’s lunchtime’. So off we go again to cook some lunch which frequently ends up in an argument because he is so fussy about what he will eat.

Back to work again for me and more YouTube for my son. It’s probably about this time of day that the feelings of guilt start to creep in as my son has been sat like a zombie watching YouTube on his phone all day and being ignored when I should be doing school work with him.

I get about another three hours work done between the cat meowing at me for food and attention and then my work day is over and it is time to start my other job as a home educator. I say this so that I sound like a responsible parent, the reality is that I try and do schoolwork with my son but this turns into another argument so I end up doing cleaning or gardening.

I think we have probably coped better than most with lockdown because it has not been that different to our normal lives and I quite enjoy working from home. Although my son is struggling quite a lot now with the isolation. The occasional noise from the seagulls, sirens, barking dogs, neighbours music, lawnmowers and screaming kids has all become normal now but I do miss seeing my colleagues and the banter of the office, and I look forward to our catch ups on Zoom.

I have so much admiration for my colleagues and our volunteers who continue to go out and care for our customers while putting themselves and their families at risk. I am proud to work for age UK North Tyneside who are doing everything they can to support other people through this difficult time.