What now?

So here we are. Sort of, or maybe not, back in action. Some days it feels like an age since we listened to Leo on a random Friday night in March telling us our lives were about to change irrevocably, and some days it feels like yesterday. Some days I wake up and not only do I not know what day it is but I’d be hard pushed to tell you my name. The novelty of the early days of art and craft with the little kids and middle-of-the-day mid-week movie watching certainly wore off on the days of washing the groceries in Milton solution and stripping anyone who had to leave the house to their undies at the back door before they were allowed back in. The shush in the house when the daily infected and died figures were being read out was matched only by the shush of no home from school-time. In our house the Leaving cert was cancelled, graduation was cancelled. There was no long-awaited TY trip to Italy, no bright-evening clatter of kids visiting, in and out all day. No little pals, no big pals, no getting dolled up for a night out or togged out for a big game. When the march of Covid changed our lives and made us still and our homes quiet any novelty was long gone. So now, just when we would ordinarily be winding down for the Summer holidays we’ve been told we can sort-of venture back out, but stick to the rules.

Truthfully, I don’t know how I feel about that. The kids are all nearly old enough that I had embarked on a plan to upskill and re-join the real world some time ago. Get a job, do something worthwhile, but Covid and the changes it brought does throw a bit of a spanner in the works. I’ve been privileged to be at home with my kids but it was always my plan to return to work. That plan which was coming along all in its own time, but nicely none the less seems very different now. The world seems different somehow and for people like me for whom re-joining the ranks of the gainfully employed was always going to be a challenge it feels like a much more dauting prospect.  I canvassed a few of my ‘working-mom’ friends who had to work from home during lockdown and they tell me that doing so full time while the kids are at home is no joke. I believe them.  Being a full-time working parent is tough at the best of times. Still, lots of them said that working from home two or three days a week is definitely preferable to commuting every day.  It’d be nice to think that all the changes to working lives that have been implemented over the last few months might give rise to better remote and flexible employment options for them and the rest of us in the future.

So where does all this change leave people like me, those of us looking on from the side-lines and doing our best to upskill and get back to work? Despite everyone’s best (and sometimes nearly heroic!) efforts at remote teaching and learning, let’s face it, that’s not easy either. My college closed down along with the schools and I had to finish out the semester online. It definitely wasn’t ideal. It was really tough and at times I wondered whether the efforts I made and the sacrifices of time and money would be worth it in the end. It’s a costly venture, this upskilling business, and I’m a bit fearful that the working world will have changed so much by the time I’m done that it will be even harder to re-enter. All we can do is carry on and hope that our ability to change and adapt and our determination to continue with our plans will be recognised by prospective employers and that maybe some of the positive changes to remote and flexible working will be still around for us too.