Lockdown Is Bringing Us Closer To The People We Love – Even When We're Miles Apart

"It's been three weeks of perpetual Sunday afternoons – we’ve turned to each other for stimulation, motivation and inspiration."

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There are the daily FaceTimes with parents, Friday Houseparty sessions with mates and family cook-a-longs on Skype. There are the scheduled calls with grandparents, colleague catch-ups on Hangouts and pub quizzes on Zoom.

Despite plenty of us having been indoors for a month or more now, we’re finding new ways to connect with those we care about – and some of us are feeling tighter-knit bonds as a result.

Sibling disputes have been resolved or forgotten, friends who haven’t spoken in ages are getting back in touch, parents are feeling stronger connections with their teenagers – and vice versa. For a lot of people, the usual relationship rulebook has been thrown out. Anything goes. And it’s actually quite... nice?

Sarah Wolf, who lives in Somerset, says she’s definitely witnessing a change in how she and her teenage daughter Bella interact. “We have become physically closer in that we are seeing a lot more of each other,” Wolf tells HuffPost UK.

“Normally, life dictates that we are like hamsters on a wheel with all the scheduling and lack of time, but now we are in lockdown together, the normal rota has gone out of the window.

“We have more time to just be with each other, without any distraction.”

Sarah Wolf (right) with her daughter Bella (left)
Sarah Wolf
Sarah Wolf (right) with her daughter Bella (left)

The time gained means mother and daughter are doing more together – they’ve baked cakes, walked the dog, sorted the garden, and are sitting down at the dinner table to eat rather than, as Wolf puts it, “grabbing food and running off”.

“Partially this is because Bella, who is 15, is bored and so is okay to hang out with her mum more than normal, and secondly I think I’m less stressed and have more time to take my time over things,” the 45-year-old says.

Where once our hectic lifestyles didn’t allow for boredom, we now have hours and hours to fill – and have been forced to get creative. Faced with a threat to our health and livelihoods, we’re also reminded of those who matter most to us.

“Before this, we were both wrapped up in our own worlds except at the weekend,” says Wolf. “Lockdown has become three weeks of perpetual Sunday afternoons, with nowhere to go and nothing to do outside the home. So we’ve turned to each other for stimulation, motivation and inspiration.”

They’ve not had a single argument in three weeks, says Wolf, which would’ve been “unheard of” in normal times. “I think it’s partly to do with expectations too,” she says. “I understand how tough this is for Bella not being able to see friends, and therefore I’ve allowed her to let her room get messy, to not get up at fixed times and to just reacclimatise to this new normal.”

Malvika Sheth, 21, who lives in Orange County, California, has been hosting a daily games session with her family which has brought them closer together.

“My mother, on returning from her trip to India a few months back, insisted I order the game Sequence as she used to play it with her nieces there,” says Sheth. “She kept reminding all of us to set some time aside to play, and it wasn’t until quarantine began that we actually did.”

The family sit down pretty much every day at half four to play the card game, while listening to Bollywood songs. “Sometimes, if we’re feeling adventurous and not too lazy, we’ll venture onto the ping pong table,” she says.

Malvika Sheth (left) with her parents (centre) and brother (right)
Malvika Sheth
Malvika Sheth (left) with her parents (centre) and brother (right)

Sheth, who is a digital content creator, says if it weren’t for the daily rendez-vous, she would probably be keeping herself to herself, working all day.

“Due to this new game time, I’ve been able so see the ‘fun’ sides of each of my family members which is amazing, and makes me feel so much more at ease in discussing daily things with them and sharing or cracking more jokes in front of them. Things don’t always have to be super silent or serious anymore,” she says.

“I’m enjoying being able to not get too caught up with being on-the-go and spending time with the people that matter most.”

Friendship groups are also becoming tighter. Where once it was near-impossible to get people together for a meet-up, tools like Zoom and FaceTime, combined with the sudden abundance of free time, means socialising is easier in some respects than it’s ever been.

Andrew Rowley, who is 23 and from Leeds, says the lockdown has definitely brought him closer to his mates. “I’ve been friends with them since high school so, at one point, I spent pretty much all my time with them,” he says. “But over recent years we’ve all moved to different parts of the country, seen each other less and not been in touch as often as we should have.

“But when we were all put on lockdown, and the realisation of how big this was set in, we were quick to come together and check in on each other, making sure we were all safe and reiterating that we were all there for one another.”

From left to right: Jack, Robyn, Laura and Andrew.
Andrew Rowley
From left to right: Jack, Robyn, Laura and Andrew.

Rowley and his pals have been making use of the Houseparty app, a firm favourite thanks to its quizzes and games, while also reminiscing about pre-lockdown life. He admits the pandemic has “probably made us realise that we don’t see each other enough”.

“I’d say the four of us meet up a few times a year but we’ve definitely spoken more, as a group of four, in the past few weeks than we have in the past six months,” he adds.

For Rowley, this sense of reconnecting with those he cares about has kept the feelings of loneliness at bay. “It’s not even with friends, but family too – it seems like every other day there’s a virtual pub quiz happening or a Houseparty session taking place,” he says. “It’s a massive comfort during uncertain times.”

Another unexpected source of comfort during weeks of working from home, or even after being furloughed, has been colleagues. “Because of the lockdown, I’ve had time to connect with colleagues in a different way than before,” says Samantha Levene, 22, who works as a digital PR executive in Bolton.

“We’re in the lucky position of being able to work remotely and this has meant regular video calls, texting and tagging each other in memes for a bit of the same banter we’d have in the office.”

Levene says the people she works with are taking time out to catch up, speak about projects with fewer distractions, and just enjoying each other’s company.

Samantha Levine (left) and her two colleagues from The Audit Lab, Manchester.
Samantha Levene
Samantha Levine (left) and her two colleagues from The Audit Lab, Manchester.

“It’s more important than ever to stay connected to one another, especially if you feel your mental health slipping, whether it’s a work meeting on Google Hangouts or a virtual pub quiz on a Wednesday night,” says Levene. “Otherwise the cabin fever would have driven me up the wall by now.

“We’ve really been trying hard to keep each other positive and motivated during this strange and scary time. It can be easy to fall into an isolation bubble, scrolling through negative stories on social media and reading the news, feeling like you have little creativity in the bank, but I always feel so much better after having a supportive chat with my work friends.”

A lot of families are worrying for older members, some of whom face months of isolation due to the social distancing measures put in place to protect them.

Jenny Rae, 28, who’s usually based in Leeds but is spending lockdown in Teesside, has found herself calling her grandparents more often during the lockdown to check in on them.

“I’ve long felt like a terrible grandchild, rarely speaking to my nanna and grandad on my mum’s side,” says Rae. “While I see my granny on my dad’s side more regularly, since she lost my grandad – her husband of 70 years, I’ve had a constant feeling of guilt for not getting in touch as much as I should.”

Jenny Rae (right) and her Granny (left)
Jenny Rae
Jenny Rae (right) and her Granny (left)

Lack of time was the main barrier, says Rae, but since lockdown began, they’ve spoken far more regularly on the phone. “An amazing moment came when my 95-year-old granny joined my brothers, dad and I on HouseParty,” she says. “Needless to say, she found the app a little confusing – but so did I.”

Being indoors all day, there are no excuses for her not to reach out – and the conversations she’s ended up having have been surprisingly wonderful.

“Last week I called my 90-year-old grandad in Liverpool, after months of not speaking, and after he asked my advice on Amazon and how to get his phone working, we spoke about the upcoming nice weather, the efforts of their neighbours, and stargazing. With the lack of pollution and traffic, he told me, you can see the planets shining.”

It felt like a great connection, she says. “Despite seeming a world away, we’re all in this together.”

Will she continue these routines after lockdown lifts? “Absolutely. I think there’s nothing more valuable than giving our elders our time and our attention. I know I can be way better but this has really given me a kick to – as my granny would say – ‘just bloody well get on with it.’”