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Family life under lockdown

Michael McVeigh  |  18 May 2020

The coronavirus has had an impact on families across the globe. While social and work activities might be curtailed, many families have found living in close quarters has helped fuel creativity and strengthen relationships. We asked the Rich family in Brisbane what life under lockdown has been like for them.

Q How have the shutdowns affected relationships in your family?

Kerrigan Rich (Dad, aged 52): We have a small house and six people living in it. We erected the family tent in the backyard at the start of the school holidays, and it’s been in use ever since with the kids sleeping in it for a few days at a time – till they need the comfort of their bedrooms.

We have been playing lots of board games – rotating through Scrabble, Risk, Articulate and Pictionary mostly, and there’s always a jigsaw on the dining table.

Our youngest got a keyboard for her birthday last week, and all four kids have been learning how to play piano with it. Their Mum’s been having a go too.

The first week back at school was a deep learning experience for everyone in the house. My stress levels only settled down after a few days, but the kids all took it in stride from day one.

Q How are you still connecting with extended family or other friends?

Helen Carmody (Mum, 50): As a mum of four children who works full time, I think Covid-19 has improved my social life.

Lockdown has meant that friends and family have used Zoom to connect more often. I have 10 older siblings who live mostly in NSW, with two sisters in Perth. Previously we would see them at Easter and Christmas.

Now we catch up on video every Sunday afternoon.

It is great to see and chat with familiar faces and hear how everyone is coping. Many of them are missing their grandkids, which makes me more grateful I am in lockdown with those dear to me.

Q What have you seen in the community that has inspired you at this time?

Helen: I have loved seeing how businesses have adapted to the restrictions and we are doing our best to support our local community by ordering takeout more frequently and checking on neighbours. I have also enjoyed the memes on social media, and it has become a regular family event to stream the most popular ones on TV of an evening. 

Q Your family has put together a ‘Colour Club’ bringing together children from families in your parish at St Ignatius’ Toowong in Brisbane for online activities. Can you tell us a bit about that.

Kerrigan: The Colour Club was envisioned well before Covid-19 hit. It was planned to help children learn and express their thoughts about life and Jesus through art, craft and song. The sessions coincided with Lent. At the first session, held before the strict social distancing

laws, each child was given a visual journal which they would work in during the sessions and at home during the days of Lent.

We thought after the restrictions the meetings might be cancelled, but Zoom was suggested. While not every child at the first session was able to attend, it was a good session. Children (and parents) were happy with the extra activities to keep them busy. I think the children (and parents) were also happy just to have some contact with the community during this time.

Q How has the lockdown affected other celebrations of family life?

Lucille Rich (Daughter, 11): The pandemic does not stop us from continuing our happy celebrations, like my sister Adele’s ninth birthday, Easter and ANZAC Day.

For Adele’s birthday we didn’t go out for dinner as we would usually do. Instead we had take-away. It still tasted delicious.

For Easter Mass we set up our own altar. It contained flowers, candles, statues of Mary and Rosary beads. We also dimmed the lights in the room so that we could see the candles. Although having Mass at home is fun, I still miss the friendly church community that we would visit once a week. The Easter bunny still came and gave us an egg hunt, except it was in the backyard instead of at Newcastle where we would visit our relatives for the holidays.

On ANZAC Day, at six in the morning, our whole street stood outside their doors as Kerry from across the road gave a lovely speech and played the Last Post through a speaker. At the end of the ceremony, Sharon (Kerry’s wife) gave us all individually wrapped ANZAC biscuits.

Q How has this time as a family changed your view of life, and what it means to live together in community?

Evelyn Rich (Oldest daughter, 15): Seeing the Colour Club kids learn and laugh together even through a computer, we could feel their beaming joy. During the sessions, all the kids from all five families joined in with colouring-in drawings, and creating cut-outs to better understand that Jesus is asking us to do and why. These moments have brought a small but bright light to our lives, and we are very grateful that this was possible.

This whole experience has brought an understanding of how fortunate our family was in having all kinds of opportunities each day, but also how rich we are now in love and belonging.


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