Music and Mental Health (and a little bit of lockdown

I am writing this on the 9th week of the UK lockdown from the Covid-19 pandemic. It is my family’s 10th week of being at home as my daughter had a cold the week before it all began, so we self-isolated from then. If you had told me this time last year that we would be at home 99.99% of the time for 10 weeks I would not have believed you, and at the start of all of this I was quite horrified at the thought that this would continue as long as it has. But here we are!

I think everyone’s mental health is taking a bit of a battering at the moment. This situation is not easy for anyone. We are very lucky in so many ways. My husband is still working so we are not panicked about money – although he does not have as much work as he did before this all started. I have been furloughed from my job so am not working, so don’t have the problems of balancing work and the children that many people have. My children are of an age that I am not actually worried about the effect of a time away from school will have on their education, and we are lucky that my husband and I have both taught so can help them with their school work, when that old adage of familiarity breeding contempt is not at play (it is EVERY DAY!) We are so lucky so have a nice little garden that we can use every day. While we do not have a massive house, we have enough room to house 4 of us. We are all largely getting on. We are very lucky.

However, even for us it is not easy. My children are nearly 6 (in 2 weeks), and 3. They are lively, and despite our best efforts my son in particular is not quite getting enough stimulation. Our school have been setting plenty of work – more than we can do. For my son (the 5 year old) it has been very hard to concentrate at home. His sister does not have any school work (of course not, she is 3), and it always looks as though she has the more fun option of playing. He cannot get on with any of the school work on his own and without adult encouragement to do it, with the exception of maths which is lovely and easy – but not challenging him at the moment – and has to be cajoled into doing anything. We are doing the bare minimum of the work set by the school with him really, far less than he is capable of and that he does at school and even that can take hours to complete. Thankfully we have plenty of things to do at home and both my husband and I come up with a lot of things we can do with both children.

My daughter feels that my son gets more attention than her because we are helping him with school work and she has to wait for attention at times. She is 3, she does not understand why she can’t have our attention much more than she does. We have also been trying to potty train her thinking that we were at home so why not? It feels like no progress is being made with that. She has good days and bad days, and we cannot escape the accidents and the enormous piles of washing we have to do. It is dispiriting.

My husband has the pressure of having to keep working to feed us and pay our mortgage. He falls through all the cracks of the financial help available. He is getting less work than he used to, and he also has the pressure that he relieves me from being with the children for a couple of hours every day so I can have a break and do something else.

Before all of this started I had almost completed one year of being back at work leading music classes for babies/toddlers and their carers, and 3-4 years olds. I loved teaching them. While I have not yet been told that my job no longer exists, I cannot see how I can keep it once the furlough scheme has ended. I am sure my boss wants to keep us all on, but I just don’t see how she can.

The children are bloody hard work, being with them all the time. And they are our saving grace as well. They keep us busy. We are absolutely not bored. But we are very tired, and my god life can be frustrating with two small children!

There is a lot of pressure on everyone at the moment. I don’t think anyone is having an easy ride, and everyone’s struggles are the same and very different. We did not have a good day today. School work was incredibly slow, both children burst into tears a lot when we didn’t give them what they wanted (chocolate largely), and my daughter had 3 accidents in quick succession. I tried to rescue the day by taking some painting outside in the garden, which lasted for all of 5 minutes during which time my daughter threw paper all over the garden (the wind had caught one piece and she thought it was funny so wanted to recreate it), my son decided to try painting the flowers while I was collecting up the paper, and they while I was cleaning everything up they both tipped entire washing up bowl of water all over the Tuff Tray and garden. They were soaked, I was soaked and everything I had already cleared up was now covered in painty water!

So when the dust settled my husband took them out to the park for an hour while I stayed home waiting for our shopping. I put on my guilty pleasure music quite loud and sang away. Helped enormously I can tell you. Music has a profound effect on mental health. The other day on my instagram I shared the following quote from opera singer and neuroscientist Indre Viskontas:

Listening to music lets us work through our emotions in a safe environment and walk away if the feelings get too intense.

The quote goes on to say:

[Music] provides a lens through which we can examine our lives.

I think this is so important and relevant right now. We can’t use many of our usual outlets – we can’t drop the children off at their grandparents to have a well deserved break from them and them from us (it cuts both ways!). We can’t go to the gym or the pub or see friends to let off steam. But we could put some music on, and I always find that my guilty pleasure music is best served loud and sung along to at the top of my voice. It’s fun, the endorphins released by singing start flowing, I exercise my lungs, get more oxygen flowing around my body, and my mood is lifted. My children have a happier and far less frustrated mummy!

This is not me, but it’s like the photographer was there with me this afternoon…..

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