Cooped-up families across Scotland and the world are finding new ways to rub along together during the global lockdown.
Thrown together, they are fumbling towards a new normal, where makeshift offices have been jemmied into bedrooms while living rooms have become activity centres, classrooms, games rooms and a million other venues for indoor fun.
But spare a special thought for Emma Hann, with 13 children, a husband working nights in the hospital and no toilet roll in the shops.
“It’s a little bit crazy, a little bit chaotic and a little bit scary, but it’s actually nice to get back to being a family,” she told The Sunday Post. “Sometimes life just happens, but what we are doing these last few weeks is putting more structure into that happening life.
“Usually everyone is in and out at different times for work and school but now we are all stuck at home, we are getting back to a routine and it’s mad, but in a lot of ways not such a bad thing.
“I spent 28 years at home with the kids, but a few years ago I opened a café so I’ve got used to being out of the house working and having a bit of a break from them.
“With us all back home, we’re going back to how it used to be, and it is pretty strange. Of course, we’ve had to adjust with introducing rules and a bit more routine and activity, but we’re surviving and working well together. It just shows you how strong the family bond can be.”
The Hanns, of Dundee, have gone back to basics, putting house rules in place, splitting up the chores and encouraging the children to exercise more independence and teamwork.
“Usually I ask the children to help and they all self-isolate in their rooms, but the last week has been different,” said Emma. “We now have some conditions, like no TV if the house isn’t tidy, and the kids need to clear away their own dishes after meals and take turns helping prepare dinner for the rest of the family.
“I’m pretty lax about when everyone gets up because there is no real urgency.
“We aren’t really doing home-schooling. We have a few learning apps and homework packs, so are working through those a little every day, although the schedule isn’t rigid. It would be too hard to keep that many kids in check all day long!
“But we are finding the older children are using their strengths to help the younger ones. Like Alice is really good at maths, so she has been helping the high schoolers. That novelty may wear off in a few weeks, but for now it’s working.”
Roy, an advanced nurse practitioner at Ninewells, added: “We’ve been trying to give them little things to do, things that we wouldn’t necessarily ask them to do when we are all busy with school and work. And they seem keen to do it.
“There’s a novelty in taking turns to walk the dog, Buster, so we’re making the most of it while it lasts. The hardest thing is stopping them from spending all day on phones, tablets and watching TV.
“We’ve introduced things like PE sessions with Joe Wicks, and doing 100 jumps on the trampoline. And we’re going back to things we have done before, like bringing back a tuck shop so the kids can spend their pocket money, and they can earn more for helping out.”
Emma added: “We’re trying to get a bit of home décor done, like painting and little projects to make our home somewhere we enjoy being – because we are all going to be here for a little while. I’m even thinking about introducing a little vegetable patch in the garden.”
However, the 50-year-old admits to feelings of guilt. “In the last week, I’ve been showing them how to cook and bake and knit and crochet – all the things I used to teach them but, with our busy lives, it can be hard to find the time to factor these in.
“It has made me feel bad about no longer being a stay-at-home mum – and about the future. I’m not saying we will be living on beans and toast and avoiding takeaways once all this is over, but we are trying to use the opportunity to get back to home life in any way we possibly can.
“And to prepare for the next few weeks, when Roy is so busy at work we might not see him. I’m desperate for a bit of structure for when I’m home alone with the kids.”
Since the pandemic unfolded in Scotland, Roy has faced a busy few weeks at Ninewells, with an even more difficult period on the horizon. “I’m managing the out-of-hours service at the hospital and we’ve had to redesign the team to cope with Covid-19,” he said.
“I work nightshift and, if I’m not in the hospital, I’m busy with emails and phone calls, trying to prepare for what is coming. So it’s challenging not only at home, but at work too.
“The worry of infection is obviously greater when you have a bigger family. I am trying to steer clear of people who are high risk, but I have to be in the hospital for work.
“The saving grace for us is that it isn’t thought to be as severe for children – and they make up the greatest proportion of our household.”
Roy and Emma’s daughter Alice, 21, who is employed in a retail warehouse, is still out working, as is Sophia, 27, a carer for a visually impaired woman and her family.
But everyone else – aside from Rachel, 28, Polly, 26, and Charlotte, 24, who have flown the nest – remains in lockdown, including Annabelle, 19, Jennifer, 17, Isabella, 16, Jonas, 14, Enos, 12, Eva, 10, Posy, 8, and five-year-old Meg.
“Just feeding everyone three meals a day is a challenge, but we’re managing,” said Emma. “I was loosely prepared. We have two Italians working in the cafe and, as they filled me in on what was happening back home, I realised what was coming.
“We didn’t stockpile food as we always have plenty in the cupboards anyway. And, because I had to shut down the café, we had plenty to pop in the freezer. I’ve been using the local butcher and greengrocer to top up, trying to support local businesses.
“But I have popped to Tesco a few times and did wonder what happens if we need more of something that’s restricted, because there are so many of us? The rations don’t account for families as big as ours! The staff know us, but if it’s a problem we will need to find a way round it.
“The one thing we have a healthy stock of is toilet roll. We’ve been buying that in bulk from the wholesalers for a long time.”
Roy added: “We just have to roll with it. It’s about finding ways of adjusting to the ‘new normal’.
“Being stuck together inevitably means rows and on a couple of occasions has left us wondering if divorce rates will be high when all of this is over – or the birth rate. We’re too old to think about any more now, but I’m sure others will have different ideas!”
Emma added: “All we are asked to do is stay at home. It isn’t going to be easy but it isn’t beyond anyone’s capabilities either. If we all help each other, that will see us through.”
The Hann family’s top tips for lockdown
Get Netflix…if you don’t already have it, sign up. We’re normally quite strict about TV time, but this really could be your saving grace, kids or not!
Don’t stress about screen time. Whether the kids are doing learning activities, or keeping in touch with their friends on social media, it’s all beneficial just now.
Create a craft corner. If you don’t already have one, create a space. Kids young and old will enjoy messing around with card and glue. It’s a no-brainer.
Go outdoors. Having a garden has never been so appealing. Get the kids out to play, and make the most of the opportunity to get it ready for summer. You’ll be amazed at how therapeutic it feels.
Do some DIY. Spending so long in your house makes you see the bits that need some TLC. Make it a nicer place to be – as you might be stuck here for a while!
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