These Parents Went To Desperate Lengths To Cope During Lockdown

From hiring a family member as a "secret" nanny, to shipping the kids off to their grandparents – three families reveal the lengths they went to.
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I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve felt like banging my head against the wall through lockdown. Being in quarantine with two young children – who are both missing school, their grandparents and their friends – has been tough.

I’m lucky I’m not doing it alone, and their father is fully involved, but it’s still the hardest period of parenting I’ve ever known – harder than those fractured nights of little sleep when they were newborn, harder than dealing with the onset of temper tantrums, harder than settling them into school and nursery.

It’s easy, then, to understand why some people have been tempted to bend the rules. Doing so is anything but straightforward – and is likely to be shrouded in secrecy.

The row over Dominic Cummings has proven just how controversial the issue can be. Before the Cummings controversy broke, HuffPost UK spoke to three families to find out how, and why, they bent the rules.

‘My mental health was taking a significant hit’

*Samantha, 31, from Devon, works full-time. She has a five-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son.

“I have a full-time, senior level marketing role and I was given the choice of taking furlough or continuing to work at a 30% pay cut. I chose to work, because marketing is essential to our business at this time. And most of my team are still working from home and need managing.

“I have a five-year-old daughter who hasn’t been able to go to school and a one-year-old son who’s usually cared for by my 68-year-old mum and a childminder.

“I did the first seven weeks of lockdown trying to work, while attempting home schooling, and then working from 7pm until the early hours. My mental health was taking a significant hit: lack of sleep, dealing with the kids and contending with messages, emails and meetings was taking its toll.

“Then the rules changed, and childminders and nannies were allowed to go back to work, as long as they were being paid. We thought hard about it and decided that having my mum come take care of the kids again was by far the best option. Our childminder wasn’t going to open, so we couldn’t send the kids there. And when we weighed it up, we thought that my childminder has other family in her home, so surely it’s safer to be with my mum who lives alone?

“Mum has been helping me now for a week or so and it’s heaven. It’s better for the kids and so much better for me. My mental health is back on track and everyone is happier – even if she does have to creep through the side gate!”

‘I’m an NHS key worker and couldn’t cope’

*Jane, 37, is a doctor in a London hospital. She has a one-year-old son.

“I’m a key worker in the NHS, right at the epicentre of the Covid pandemic. I’ve seen some terrible things and I know first-hand how awful the effects of this virus can be.

“But I’m also a mother to a one-year-old boy. When nurseries announced they were shutting, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I don’t get a choice about going into work, I have to. I can’t say the risk is too great, that I don’t think it’s safe to go in. I just wouldn’t get paid.

“My husband works from home and does what he can, but it’s impossible to look after a toddler properly and do your job effectively. So, we asked my sister if she would do childcare for us.

“She hasn’t moved in, but she’s been furloughed and is only travelling between us and her house. She lives alone, so the risks are small enough to make it feel worth it. I couldn’t cope without her.”

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‘Sometimes you have to make tough decisions’

*Alan, 61, is married to *Jenny, 60. The couple, who live in London, have been looking after their two grandchildren, aged two and eight.

“My wife is high risk as she has severe illnesses and received the letter saying she must stay at home. But our son and daughter-in-law work for the same supermarket, and had to both go to work at the same time. They needed childcare.

“So, we’ve had both of our grandchildren – aged two and eight – at our home. Sometimes you just have to make tough decisions.

“Before this, my wife had only left our home four times, and we hadn’t had anybody in. We took our cat to the vets twice, but she never got out the car. The other day, we fed the ducks opposite the local cemetery.

“We run a fish and chip shop, usually, but we’re closed at the moment, due to the health issues. We’ve furloughed our four staff and hope to reopen at the end of June, but it does feel like very tough times, at the moment.”

*Names have been changed