If I was told I'd be stuck at home with my immediate family for a few months with nowhere to go and nothing to do, it definitely wouldn't be my idea of fun. Throw in home-working and home-schooling my teenager who has autism, learning difficulties and challenging behaviour, and I would've said that was my idea of a nightmare. The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that lots of parents like us have been doing this for the last few months. 

Even with permission from my employer to work super flexibly, it's been a struggle on a good day, and chaotic on other days. Despite planning to tag-team, there were times we had teleconferences or video meetings at the same time and would text each other to ask where my son was and what he was doing, as neither of us could see what mischief he was up to (safeguarding! don't worry, he's always safe but my make-up might be down the loo). As I didn't have any office space and needed to be able to see him anyway, he found it hard to 'share' me being on the phone or using the laptop and has been quite jealous of this. A couple of times he 'gatecrashed' my Zoom meetings. Once he came and sat next to me out of view and started strumming a bass guitar (he can't actually play, this is a distraction tactic). My colleagues were puzzled about the weird noises on Zoom! I didn't confess. Other times he's wandered up-to me and given me a hug while I've been on-screen.

And it's a bit disappointing that we haven't done any DIY or decorating, my garden is a mess and my house is scruffy. My TV consumption hasn't gone up and I still don't know what people are talking about when they recommend TV programmes and box sets I've never heard of. The lovely art materials that were gifted to me for my birthday are still in their boxes on the dining table.  

On the other hand, I have never been bored. We won't get any prizes for home-schooling, but it's made us realise that my son can do a lot more than we thought and we've had some nice surprises. We've done activities with him we thought were beyond his abilities, and he's been beaming with pride. We've been taking a photo record of different things he's done and show him them each evening which he loves, and we'll scrapbook them to send to school when he returns. Having both parents at home and no frantic school mornings when he's rushed out the door has definitely had a positive effect, he's smiling more and is much more cheeky and fun-seeking. I was bending down in the garden to do a painting activity and he painted my backside which he thought was hilarious! 

I thought that support from school would be non-existent, but we've had weekly catch-ups and I can tell they're also juggling home-working and their own families, so I stopped worrying about the huge home-schooling pack when I realised my ability to homeschool wasn't going to get tested by anyone. I also realised early on that my son's teaching staff were leaving their own children to support other people's children, and how hard this must be for them… I haven't had to do this, my child has been safe at home with me.

I know I work for a caring organisation and have lovely colleagues but sometimes I don't remember this when I'm struggling and feeling sorry for myself. I've been sent a surprise postcard with a lovely message, and a self-care gift bag with lavender tea-lights, treats, sunflower seeds and other thoughtful things, which I know would have been a lot of effort to get together (shopping for a start) and to get hand-delivered to all my colleague's homes. How amazing is that? My work colleagues have been so supportive, for example, texting me to check if it’s okay to call me and be understanding when I’ve had to cut calls short, even though they’ve all had to adjust to homeworking and juggling their own lives, needs and families. 

Instead of feeling 'stuck' at home with my family during the Covid-19 pandemic, I know that we've been safe at home.

- Anonymous Working Parent Carer