Self-isolation diary: Maternity leave during a global pandemic


Anna Francis, aged 41, is Associate Professor of Fine Art at Staffordshire University and a mum of two. Anna lives in Hanley with her partner Andrew Branscombe, 37, an art technician at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, and their daughters Rowan, six, and Vita, born during lockdown. Anna will be sharing her experience of having a newborn baby during the Coronavirus lockdown and home schooling a six-year-old.

In Anna’s own words:

My maternity leave was due to begin on March 17. This, I hoped, would give me around two weeks before the baby arrived to do the last few bits of shopping we needed, to get some jobs done around the house and to see friends.

On March 16 the first of the Government’s daily briefings took place, in response to the coronavirus outbreaks across the world. This recommended that ‘people over 70, pregnant women and those with some health conditions’ should avoid all unnecessary social contact.

Effectively then the first day of my maternity leave was spent in lockdown and, although schools were still open at that point, we took the decision as a family for our six-year-old daughter to remain at home with me.

My plans for lunches with friends, house organising and baby shopping became two weeks of home schooling, as we watched from within our four walls as the numbers of new cases in the UK grew by the day and quietly I began to worry more and more about the birth that I had been looking forward to for the past nine months.

In the first week of home schooling we were winging it. Rowan told me what the class schedule should be for each day, and we tried together to create an equivalent curriculum filled with baking, painting, history, maths and English. She told me what she wanted to learn about, and we worked from there – so our topics included The Titanic, The Crown Jewels, emotions and nature poetry.

On the whole it was fun, but my attempts to cover the limbic system with a six-year-old and a few other missteps revealed that I am certainly more suited to university level teaching than primary. Rowan was preoccupied with what her friends would be doing right now in school, and articulated a sense of missing out and being forgotten.

I was almost relieved when, by the end of the week, the school had announced it was closing and a pack was sent over for the next two weeks of lessons, somehow magically pulled together by the brilliant teachers in two days, on top of their usual workloads.

Week two of home schooling went much more smoothly, as we relaxed into our new regime.

Rowan enjoys a St Patrick’s day art lesson.

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The saddest thing for me as a mum over these first weeks of lockdown has been seeing the worry on my usually happy little girl’s face.

As much as we do our best to shield her from the deepening anxiety that daily life now holds, her day to day existence is now unrecognisable from life just a month ago, and with no sense of how long this will go on for, we are working hard to find a new normal, which though different, can still contain moments of joy and togetherness with those people that we are so sorely missing.

Family have rallied around to organise a bedtime story rota and our wonderful creative community has quickly set up diversionary sessions and activities to get involved in which are helping us to feel connected and supported.

The family painted a rainbow of hope on their window.

But still, I worry what long term impact all of this will be having on her – washing hands all day and the notion that ‘other people’ that we come across in our very few ventures outside are to be avoided must be having an effect on my usually sociable and friendly six-year-old.

The phrase ‘when things go back to normal’ is spoken regularly here, but in the back of my mind I wonder if ‘normal’ will ever be what it was.

We have started a jar, and when one of us talks about what we will do when we can go out again we write the idea down on a slip of paper to be carried out later. It is keeping us going for now.





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