Life in Lockdown at ToyDrop Towers

23rd June 2020

Words by Anna Whitaker // Photos by Thom & Anna Whitaker

Three months in and what a ride. You may have noticed I’ve been laying low for a while now, trying to juggle life in lockdown, including the day job, the boys, some 50s housewifery and ToyDrop, which inevitably took the hit. But as of a few weeks ago, things started to change. 

First, we got our nanny back, which was by far the most amazing thing that could have happened at that point. We were totally broken. It’s been amazing spending this time with the boys but my God, when you’re both working parents, up against it with deadlines and about ten million ZOOM calls a day, it’s just relentless (of course, you know this). I don’t know who was happier the first day our beloved Stacy took them off our hands. They’ve come home every day since, so much brighter, sweeter and happier, knowing they’re getting someone’s full attention. It’s also helped us to improve just about everything we’re doing, including our parenting. 

A few weeks after that, however, I was furloughed. We considered cutting our nanny costs out for about three seconds, before deciding just to reduce her hours a bit. She’s now doing 9-2 Monday to Thursday so I can have a bit of a breather, get back into my ToyDrop headspace…and of course, do some more housewifery.  

But instead of talking about how things are right now, I want to go back to the start. To March 2020, just before lockdown began. To the time when we thought it would all blow over in a few weeks then life would go back to normal. Oh, how wrong we were. If anything, this is an exercise in catharsis for me, to take a moment to reflect over the last few months; what we’ve experienced, what we’ve missed, what we’ve learnt and how we’ve grown. It’s something I hope to look back on fondly and talk to the kids, and maybe the grandkids, about when I’m on my rocking chair in the fresh air reminiscing for the 700th time about how “we weren’t allowed outside in our day”.

We watched Boris give his speech on March 22nd. My Dad’s birthday. “Stay home. Save lives.” chimed out with a kind of Orwellian alarm that left us silent, anxious, weirdly calm. For hubs and I, I mean. The boys were bouncing off the walls as per usual, shouting, screaming, smashing stuff.

The first week of trying to manage them (and the insane home-preschool schedule) alongside two full-time jobs took some getting used to. We worked out a routine pretty quickly, with days split into three-hour chunks starting at 7 am so we could have six hours to work and six with the boys. We’d finish off after they were asleep, making up the deficit when needed. Aside from a few teething problems, it was fine for a few weeks. Our employers were super supportive and doing everything they could to keep us happy at home in these ‘unprecedented times’. We were hyper-aware of how lucky we were.

And then the reality of working in advertising started to rear its head again. Clients were making more demands, changing deadlines, putting in meetings when you couldn’t have meetings. The wheels were starting to fall off.

I think before I had kids, I definitely thought you could just sit them in front of the TV while you worked. Turns out I was very wrong. One early lesson was that little boys are basically labrador puppies. They need constant food, constant exercise and constant love and attention. None of these are possible when you’re on a work call. In fact, most work calls were ZOOM-bombed by these (often naked) children, who were either trying to throw each other down the stairs or doing a poo on the floor somewhere. My professional career, as I knew it, was tanking hard. 

But we got through it for a full seven weeks and as far as we know, didn’t get sick. Touch wood. I had a week of needing to breathe extra deeply, which was weird and might have been it, and Stacy is convinced she had it back in February so perhaps we have. Who knows? It’s just mad to think that up to 80% of cases could be totally asymptomatic. By my calculations, that means everyone should have had it by now. Especially if you were travelling on the rush hour tubes in February or March.  

As difficult as the whole thing’s been (I realise that’s putting it VERY mildly for a lot of people and only reinforces my privilege), I’ve been doing my best to stay calm and remain optimistic. In many ways, the lockdown has been exactly what we, as a family, needed. We were due to be taking a three-month sabbatical to do some travelling before Arlo started school, mainly to make the most of the last time we’d be able to go outside of school holidays but also to step back from the daily grind and reconnect as a unit. I think in many ways, this time has given us that. 

We’ve learnt more about each other and how we tick, what kind of approach to take with a difficult conversation, exactly the point we need to get out of the house before all hell breaks loose. We’ve learnt that pasta is okay for four days in a row if it means they’ll sleep through the night. We’ve learnt how to share better, how to shop better, how to express ourselves more openly and when it’s okay to stop and let Peppa Pig take over. We’ve celebrated birthdays, written quizzes, laughed A LOT with friends online. We’ve clapped for our carers, met our neighbours, supported our locals, shopped for those shielding and printed things off for just about everyone on NextDoor.  

I’ve also learnt more about British society in the last few months than I think I have done in my whole adult life. It’s really made me wake up. I mean, I’ve always leaned to the left and perhaps living in London and the fact that I’m only ever a stone’s throw away from poverty means I’m more aware of its presence but I’m genuinely devastated to think about the people this is affecting the most. Yes, people are dying from COVID19 but its repercussions will be so much more damaging. It’s political and I don’t know enough to get into this properly but I do know we need to help. We need to support our food banks now more than ever and donate financially wherever we can. We need to campaign for better. We need to BE MORE MARCUS.      

And then there’s the Black Lives Matter movement. To be honest, I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with my personal ignorance to the systematic racism and injustices that black people face in our country. I thought that because I’m not “a racist” I’m not the problem but that’s just not true. I live in a wonderful, racially diverse city, send the boys to a wonderful, racially diverse nursery and have wonderful, racially diverse neighbours. But up until about two weeks ago, I had no idea about most of the Black British history I’ve since read about in ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’. That’s part of the problem. I had no idea that my tax money was still paying off slave owners just a few years ago, or the Notting Hill race riots or the Bristol Bus Boycott. But perhaps what’s worse is that I had no idea about some of the racist experiences one of my very best (mixed race) friends had been through. 

I wonder if the world wasn’t in lockdown we’d have fought back in force like this? We’d have committed to becoming real allies? We’d have learnt all we have in the last few weeks? My guess is probably not. So maybe we’ve got COVID to thank for something?  

I’ve been calling lockdown a marathon for the mind. There have been rough bits, great bits, hurdles, tears and more chocolate hobnobs than is good for anyone (you have those in marathons, right?). And at the moment I’m riding on a little wave of hope that when all of this is over, there will be so much to be thankful for. 

Like knowing how to shop local without breaking the bank, where to find the best parts of the forest for den building, how to cheer up a toddler without bribery. But perhaps most of all will be that first hug from the ones we love, safe, sound and ready to start life in a post-COVID world. 

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