For our latest instalment of the realities of the work/life/everything juggle during this coronavirus crisis, Jo Houghton-Ross, Juliet's PA, has a good old natter with Juliet about how she's getting on.
Having served in Afghanistan with the Army, Jo is normally pretty unflappable but, because she is trying for baby at the moment, she has felt anxious about COVID-19 and the unknowable risks it presents. Usually optimistic and positive, Jo has felt more isolated than she imagined, despite living comfortably with her husband, two year old daughter and her endlessly energetic Labradoodle.
Ordinarily Jo’s week is a hive of activity – busy juggling her portfolio of clients whilst being a Brownies leader, the Secretary of the local WI, and organising Sunday tea parties for the elderly. ‘I have never had a period in my life when everything, including my work, has just suddenly stopped, leaving me rudderless.’ Even though Jo’s day is still fully occupied juggling the family, keeping a demanding two year old entertained, and walking the dog, she feels very lonely after only three weeks of lockdown. ‘It sounds crazy saying it, but I find myself phoning my friends and family just to hear their voices, even though I have nothing really to say as I have done nothing!’ Which is why Jo is loving the 2to3days weekly team meetings and our virtual Cake O’Clock when all the children are welcome to join!
Jo talked to Juliet about how she's getting on at the moment.
Ah the Tantrums!
Not yet mine, I hasten to add! My daughter normally has a better social life than me. Her weekly diary is peppered with trips to gymnastics class, swimming, play dates and local toddler groups. Now that’s all crashed to a halt she finds herself with a completely empty dance card and despite my best efforts at being a CBeebies entertainer she is often bored and my, oh my, can the tantrums kick in! Feels like 50 mini explosions each day. So, my top tips for keeping us both sane include:
Playing with play-doh
Playing in the garden – filling plant pots and finding creepy crawlies
Playing shop using empty packets and a toy cash register
Making Easter cards
I tried papier mâché-ing a balloon – a tad adventurous so I ended up doing it on my own!
Grooming the dog
Playing in the paddling pool
A home made obstacle course with cardboard box tunnels and climbing obstacles
Each day we walk around our neighbourhood, maintaining our social distances and counting the rainbows in the windows. Currently there are 21 on our route.
My husband is in heaven...
Not literally! As a budding photographer and happy introvert, he is enjoying not being dragged by me to yet another social event and instead is lapping up the gift of social distancing and stolen hours in his dark room. The road we live on is very neighbourly and he is embarking on a photography project of photographing each isolated family standing on their front doorstep.
Our secret to domestic harmony!
By establishing a weekly rota which sets out who is cooking which meal, two has charge of the wayward toddler and who is walking the dog. I confess that apart from blitzing the kitchen every day, the domestic goddess in me has yet to have the same burning desire to clean the rest of the house – ask me again in another few weeks!
Caring for the elderly
Sadly, both my parents died when I was in my 20’s so for me taking care of the elderly members of my family means the world to me. I find myself increasingly concerned about them but actually the rallying cry from the keyworkers and volunteers is that they are all being very well looked after. The irony is that they are seeing more people than me! One thing that my mother did instill in me is a ‘make do and mend’ mentality. I am big time (I confess because I am lazy too!) into batch cooking and creating a meal out of an empty fridge is my superpower.
The gift of time
My mother used to love to write and I have piles of her notebooks. With time on my side I am loving going through these and typing up her short stories and poems. It makes me feel closer to her as I learn more about the woman she was. I have also just finished reading a great book called High Heels and Beetle Crushers, a wonderfully compelling memoir of post-war Britain. The author, Jackie Skingley, who was a family friend, grew up with limited career choices, joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps and was required to learn flower arranging amongst other skills. How the world has changed and thank goodness my military training didn’t involve arranging flowers in a vase!
The silver lining of Covid -19
Like everyone else I had my ‘oh sh*t’ moment when my work dried up overnight. But luckily my husband’s income is secure, and I know my work will start again once we are through all of this. My hope is that the world of commerce has its own epiphany and that flexible working becomes the norm for us all. We are also revelling in cleaner air and much less noise. Let’s all walk or cycle as much as we can when we are finally free.