It has been just over 5 months since the schools closed, just over 5 months since the world as we have known it changed in a way that we have all struggled to grapple with.

While the restrictions have loosened and almost been completely lifted in some ways there is very much a new normal that still peaks our anxiety levels, means that we’re having to think more before we act and continues to cause rifts between families and friends as we all navigate our feelings and the rules.

As the rules began to loosen our family started to lean heavily on our neighbours and friends for our daily interactions. These people have helped us (and me especially) feel grounded when everything else was spiralling. We’ve had socially distanced front garden drinks, picnics and pavement chats and these meet ups have truly helped me survive. Just having real human connection after weeks of zoom quizzes, Facetime chats and having no one but each other to stare at all day, was soul enriching.

We have indulged in the benefits of the relaxing of the rules but we haven’t gone crazy. We’re very aware that the virus is still a huge problem and has the potential to overwhelm the NHS again in the coming Winter months. We are also constantly concerned about our more elderly relatives, ones who we have been unable to see all this time and are among the more vulnerable groups when it comes to complications from Covid19. Due to these concerns and our respect for those in our community who fall into other vulnerable groups we continue to wear masks in shops and one public transport, we’re not engaging in large group activities and most of our outings have been to playgrounds. We have been to playgrounds every day for two weeks – if you’re a parent you’ll know how arduous a playground outing can be. This is what feels right for us and we have no judgement of the choices others are making so please understand that I write this as nothing more than our own experience.

In a week’s time the kids will be returning to full time school, this will mark the start of truly getting back to a normal that we recognise. It won’t be exactly like pre-covid as the school is still following Government guidelines but it will be bursting the bubble of lockdown in a way that we haven’t done yet and in a way that I’m not sure I’m quite ready for. The last few months have been challenging, they’ve been scary and they’ve left my nerves completely shaken but they’ve also been really positive in some very unexpected ways. Nick has been, and continues to be, working from home, the kids are around all the time and although I desperately miss my ‘me’ time, there are many things that I am truly loving. My kids have such a strong bond. Rufus and Eloise have had to be each other’s best friends, playing, exploring and coping together. As Martha has grown more independent and self-sufficient she has very much become their third amigo and follows them everywhere. When the older two fight Martha will come and find me to get my help, when Martha’s upset the older two come to her aid. If nothing else, this time has made my kids into a tightly bonded unity which I am so proud of. As for Nick and I, we have become closer. We’ve had our moments, as I’m sure everyone has, but I think we’ve become better at communicating and responding to each other. Nick has always been my best friend since we started dating but now it feels like we can get through anything and still come out holding hands on the other side. We’ve also become closer to the kids. Instead of me being the primary care giver and Nick always being one step behind in knowing the kids’ personalities, it feels much more like we’re in this whole parenting thing together. When talking to Eloise about going back to school her main concern was that she was going to miss being with me all day. I’m really going to miss her too. We have become such a strong family unit this year, we’ve learned that we don’t actually need other people in the way we once thought. We have learned that we’re pretty tough, pretty resilient and pretty handy with plumbing (don’t ask). I feel genuine anxiety now about bursting this bubble we’ve created. We’ve stretched it at times but this breakage is going to be tough and I am scared we won’t be able to sustain this feeling that’s been created, this feeling of home.

Bursting the bubble is necessary, important and inevitable but it’s going to take a lot for me to be brave enough to do it.