Life At Home

When the UK’s lifesaving lockdown was announced, homes across the country transformed: into schools, workplaces and in many cases became the only place we spent any significant amount of time. Whether forced into close quarters with family members or being completely alone, our home environments and the relationships within them have had a profound impact on each of our experiences of the crisis. We asked people to think about whether they were eating differently, exercising more or less, and how their home lives had changed.

FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS

“For me, personally, having everyone at home has been great. I have two sons, one of whom is already away at college. To have both boys back “in the nest” has been lovely.”

Woman, 50s, London

“We are cooped up and argue a lot more. I want to see different people and have things to say. Nothing happens in my life so the only thing we can discuss is current affairs, that makes us anxious” 

Woman, 20s, South West

Our relationships with family members, especially those we live with, have had a profound effect on our experiences over lockdown. While many enjoyed the chance to spend more time with loved ones, for others, close quarters also brought new pressures.

40%

of respondents were living with their partner

31%

were living with children under 18 years old

15%

were living by themselves

“I feel the most positive thing that has come out of this lock down is that I have spent so much time with my husband. We have time to talk to each other, have been gardening together and had many lovely continental style lunches (and ) sitting outside in the garden, while enjoying the lovely sunshine. We know that we are lucky to be able to do this, and take each day as it comes. The main positive gift that this pandemic has given us is TIME; to think, to reflect and get into action.” 

Woman, 60s, South East England

“Being locked down with my wife has brought us closer together and given us time to explore home based hobbies. We miss socialising in person with friends, though have met some friends more often via Zoom.” 

Man, in his 60s, South West England

“It’s difficult not to feel resentful about how much more cleaning, tidying and organising lm doing for the household than my son. I have to prompt him about the bins, recycling and toilet/ bathrooms. He’s spot in with disinfecting the online shopping own hands etc but he’s very messy in the kitchen. So easy to be picky about it. I’ve evolved a late night shutdown routine for the kitchen so it looks tidy and us clean for when l wake up. I’m always awake at least two to three hours before he is. We used to wake  each other up with a cup of tea. That share has disappeared. He’s at his end of the flat on screens and lm in mine in screens.”

Woman, 60s

“My children had their own anxieties about loss of contact with friends and partners and work.  The uncertainty of when life would normalise, the raising numbers of daily deaths was worrying and the physical restrictions added to the tension and worry. One of my daughter’s also has mental health issues which were accentuated by the lockdown and this too added to the general tension in the house. We needed to make more effort to connect to family and friends. Moods were amplified during this time but eventually when we all established our own rhythms and routines of exercise, work and relaxation then we all calmed down a lot and enjoyed ourselves more.” 

Woman, 50s

“Stress, worry and anxiety has caused a number of arguments in the household. Being unable to socialize with friends or assist aging relatives that live a considerable distance away has added to worry. There are no opportunities resulting from the pandemic.” 

Man, 60s, West Midlands

ISOLATION AND LONELINESS

“Unable to touch children or grandchildren or meet all together in each other’s homes. Used to mind children while parents worked one or two days a week. Miss Close link with one year old previously seen weekly. Miss feeling useful.“

Woman, 60s, South West

At the same time, the national lockdown prevented all of us from meeting with friends and family outside of our households. Particularly difficult for those living alone, the inability to be physically close to others took a toll on many people’s mental health and wellbeing. We heard from many people struggling with feeling isolated and lonely, while others reflected on the relationships – particularly with grandchildren – they were missing out on.

Over one third of respondents (33%) said the pandemic had a damaging effect on their mental health. Young respondents to our survey were more likely to say this pandemic had a worsening impact on their mental health than the older respondents.

I feel depressed and lonely.  My life has little meaning without the company of friends and family.  My main pleasure in life was travelling and seeing the world and this has been taken from me.  I am very angry indeed as I believe the so called lockdown is an absurd and unnecessary overreaction that will do far more harm then good. This is a point of view that I am not even allowed to express as freedom of speech has also been taken away by censorship.  My Mother is 95 and lives alone 200 miles away.  It is entirely possible I will not see her again before she dies.” 

Woman, 60s, South East England

“I’ve not seen my significant other since the middle of January 2020 , I can’t remember when I last saw my elderly parents and godparents, my 20 year old cat (who had been at my side since she was 10 weeks old) was put to sleep here in my home on 20th March 2020 (i.e. just before lockdown formally started – although she had been unwell for a while, hence my staying in with her since the middle of February. “ 

Woman, 50s, South East England

“I am exercising much less as I am not able to go to the gym and this was the main form of exercise. I have lacked motivation to do exercise, eat healthily, or take up hobbies as my mental wellbeing had been negatively impacted by the pandemic and the associated restrictions. Not being able to attend funerals has been challenging and not being able to visit family who were in hospital was also challenging.”

Woman, 30s, North West

“My wife is immunosuppressed and and my daughter suffers from anxiety issues. Both will need my support as the lockdown ends if they are to integrate into society once again, whilst still feeling safe. That said, we have an opportunity to shape our lives as it has been in lockdown – in the sense of taking things more slowly, such that our to list does not feel as pressing as it used. As the world expands once more, providing us with more things we can do, I would like to hold onto the feeling that life can move at a slower pace.”

Man, 50s, North West

A grandmother in her 60s from London, expressed her desire to see her grandchildren:

“I have six kids and seven grandchildren so – very sad to not see them. We talk regularly but – it’s not the same. Heart-breaking – I only realised how much I’d been affected when I read a Radio Times article – Alison Steadman saying that she had had a very cavalier attitude until her son told her – no. That happened to me too and – reading about it made me cry!! I miss them all. One daughter visits with two grandchildren once in a while so – better than nothing but – the rest….. Sad.”

A woman in her 60s from South West England, said: 

“Unable to touch children or grandchildren or meet all together in each other’s homes. Used to mind children while parents worked one or two days a week. Miss Close link with one year old previously seen weekly. Miss feeling useful.“ 

This woman in her 70s from East Midlands agreed.

“I have not seen my grandchildren since Christmas and this separation is likely to last for some time more. They live over 200 miles away and while i hear the government now proclaim how wonderful it is that families can meet up they forget we are a mobile society and there are plenty of people in my situation. Unless this virus is brought properly under control i shall never see them again.”

This woman, also a grandmother in her 60s, from South West England told us her experience:

“I have found it incredibly hard to not see my family. I have 4 Grandchildren & am very much a part of their lives. My 6 year old Grandson understands to a point but when we have see him at a socially acceptable distance he desperately wants to hug us we are a very tactile family. I then have twin 3 year old Grandchildren a boy & a girl. We have always looked after them one day a week, my daughter in law is an OT so a key worker. However we have not done so since lockdown started…We have noticed changes in both of the twins, they are finding it hard not seeing us & keep asking when they can.“

NEW ROUTINES

“I am exercising more and I intend to keep this up. I have also learned how to plait my daughters’ hair, a skill I have been promising I’d learn for about seven years.”

Man, 40s, South East

Being stuck at home also forced people to spend their time differently. Without the ability to socialise, and often with time on their hands, people told us that they’d started new routines and picked up new hobbies. People cooked more, some started new exercise routines, others took the time to work on their gardens and homes. Yet again, experiences were far from universal. For some, abandoning old routines meant losing essential structure from their lives.

40% of respondents to our survey said they had been exercising more. 36% of respondents said they had been exercising less.

31% of respondents to our survey said they had been eating more healthily during lockdown.

Staying at home allowed some people to cook more healthy food. This respondent, a woman in her 30s, from South East England said: 

“I think I am eating healthier food but more of it! Because I’ve been home. We are living our new veg box. We’ve starting growing strawberries and herbs. I started the couch to 5k app and during lockdown I really had the chance to boost my exercise time and started the 5-10K app. I try and jog three times a week. We also go on more family walks in the evening and bike rides. I would love to keep doing our evening family walk and hope to continue the jogging. I would love to go swimming again when it is open. I might join up to the gym now.” 

Another respondent in her 30s from South West England had also been cooking and baking: 

“I’m cooking more and baking. Weeks go by so quickly and i don’t know what i have done with my time, had to keep lists on phone of what i have done as it feels like nothing in a week. Partner washes up and I do rest of housework which is about equal time as there is so much washing up eating 3 meals at home. Partner works in living room and is often on phone so i can’t have washer on or make noise. Spend my time in spare bedroom instead.” 

Another respondent said:

“I’ve found my life has slowed down considerably. I was working 7 days a week setting up my business so I’ve found I’ve got some time on my hands & started cooking again for my family, more meals are freshly  made, I’ve more time for my children, I’ve re-decorated my house, started doing crafty things with my daughter again. I feel I’ve had the time to re-engage with family and friends. I appreciate small things so much more. I am worried that I’m starting to enjoy this way of life a little to much but i am trying to think of it as time off that I’ll never get off again so to embrace it whilst I can. I’m sure I’ll be back at work full time again soon enough.” 

Woman, 40s, North West England

“My garden has never been tidier. I’ve caught up on lots of jobs I needed to do. I’ve e mailed old friends previously neglected. I’ve done a lot of family history research online. I’ve learnt to watch TikTok and become very good friends with my rescue hens. I’ve had the time to read the paper from cover to cover and listen to audiobooks.” 

Man, 60s, North West England

“Exercise and diet is a big challenge for me. We have fallen into a routine of very little exercise and of having more takeaways and unhealthy food, more so as lockdown has gone on. It will take some effort to lift myself out of this.” 

Woman, 40s, South East England

“From a personal point of view we’re still all getting on but the stress of trying to home-school a (now) 10 year old who is dyslexic has been VERY challenging. He normally has TA support in the classroom. His school have been providing an on-line lesson every morning for n hour or so, then a show-and-tell session in the afternoon…We have had huge rows, lots of shouting, lots of us leaving the house to cool down before things got more serious. Getting him out of the house for exercise is a battle and a fight – if he had his way he’s watch TV and play computer games all day… As a couple we’re ok…but desire some ‘peace’; some down time from constantly being with our child and having no escape to hobbies.”

Woman, 40s

“Neither my husband or I have any new hobbies… We just don’t know where we would fit the time in.  As a family we have been trying to have one day a week all together with no work or school, this does not always happen.  In reality one of us is always working, and often when I am working out of the home once I come in in the evening my husband will then start to work.  Our children are 4 and 6 and between them need a lot of interaction…But this then means there is less time for us adults. Life like this is exhausting and I think it is time to get back to normal.  My household is tired, my extended family is tired.”  

Woman, 30s, South West England