As lockdown starts to ease in full and life starts to bear some semblance of normality I have to confess I feel a little sad about it. What was a massive adjustment and life as we had never known before, has become my normal. I have two children at home from school and nursery, my husband working from home, and we are in a rhythm.
But more importantly, my business seems to have evolved and thrived from the situation. Having said that I had to stop all Aquanatal classes and we are still waiting for the green light from the government to get back into the pool. I absolutely love teaching Aquanatal and it was devastating to have to contact all my lovely pregnant clients to terminate their classes. So many months have now passed that the pregnant clients are no longer pregnant (with the exception of 2 who we look forward to hearing their exciting news over the coming weeks!). The client base that I had worked so hard to build up has dwindled as the nature of my antenatal clients is transitional, as mums-to-be become mums with babes in arms!
So why do I say my business has thrived? Well, because I've had time. Without pressure.
When we entered in to lock down I could see Cocoon & Bloom shrinking away before my eyes. No Aquanatal to offer. No baby massage classes. No photos of mums in class lovingly massaging their babies to share as part of my social media promotional posts. No classes to advertise in local groups.
But then I saw what many around me were doing. They were offering online classes. This was not me. Completely out of my comfort zone. I don't do 'lives', I don't like to be in the photo, I am the one in the background. Then I had some messages from my mums asking if I could do it. So I did. I tested the waters. I chose to offer two shorter classes per week rather than just the one longer one. I thought about what challenges I was facing as a mum at home. Older children asking for snacks, online deliveries being dropped at the door, prescription runs for dependent members of the family. To have two reasons per week to just drop everything and check in with others. Not about Covid, just to talk and connect and support each other. And the mums did. I have been running for 11 weeks now and I have had mums and babies return month after month. They know the massage routine by now. But it is the structure, support and connection that keeps them coming back.
Are online classes better than in-person classes? Well, controversially I have to say, I think they could be. For me as an instructor, I can see mums all in one eye shot. They are all right in front of me on screen and I know that they can all see me perfectly. If their baby cries they can mute the call, not because they need to, we all know babies cry, but because they can if they want to, removing the stress they may feel about disrupting the class (not that they are at all because that is what babies do!) If they would like some privacy to feed, they can turn the video off, and not miss a thing.
I cannot take away the human touch, the human connection of actually having someone physically sitting next to you. And it may take a little longer online for the barrier to fall and chats to start between mums. However, imagine you're a new mum, or take yourself back to when you were. There is no rush to get out of the house with the change bag, nappies, milk, wipes etc. There is no stress of sitting in a traffic jam knowing you're going to be late. There is no pressure to wake your baby up to get out of the car for class, as, if your baby is asleep at home, that's fine. Let them sleep in their bed. Just watch from the comfort of your own home. Drink tea. Have time out. Older siblings don't have to go to childcare or the grandparents so you can attend a class with your newborn. They can join in. And there is something remarkably 'humanising' about seeing someone in their own surroundings. It can give you the confidence and courage to join in, be you. I say this with total truth as that is me; I'm an introvert. Put me in a conference room with a group of people and I won't say a word. Put me on Zoom, in my own home, in my comfort space, I feel able to contribute. Not to mention the 'normalising' of what life is like as a parent. I am technically at work when I host these online classes. But I am also a mum...and my children, do, on occasion disturb the class. I apologise to anyone on the course who gets disturbed, but the reality is, that this is life. Little people work to their own rules. And it reassures every single parent that perfection is not attainable.
So what will happen in the future? Will the current 'new' way of life become a thing of the past? I'm not so sure. I've been toying with the option of a half-way house. The option for online classes with in-person social meet ups, where siblings could come too. We long for the human connection and I absolutely cannot wait to hold a social meet up for all the mums and babies who have joined my online classes. I know these ladies and their babies, I have seen them regularly on screen. But you never really feel like you have 'met' until it is in person. And oh, will it be a party. We've been through so much, and we've been on the journey together. I hope I've supported the mums on their parenting-newborns-in-covid journey, but I cannot take away the impact they've had on me. They've driven me to work hard, get up and study, arrange case studies to be able to provide more classes to more mums and mums-to-be.
All the while mums keep booking on my online classes I will continue to host them. I will adapt to in-person classes as and when it looks feasible. But I don't think they'll be the same. Maybe classes with laptops on mats on certain spaces for the mums that I've been reaching in Scotland and Bristol, miles away from Kent!
To be able to support mums who feel aligned with my offerings, my information, my teaching style, is something I do not take for granted. Distance no longer feels that far away thanks to lock down.