Charlie’s South African accent pours out of the speakers while her giant smile fills my laptop screen. I’m instantly relaxed. “My life in lockdown is the same as any other Kiwi family, I guess. Trying to stay positive, having fun with the kids, taking advantage of the time we have together. Keeping it as positive and relaxed as possible. Am I allowed to say I’ve found it fairly easy? And enjoyable?” I laugh. “You tell me,” I reply.
“I feel like there’s been so many positives that have come out of this experience which seems really sad because it’s a really sad experience and then you feel guilty for enjoying the time you have, you know? It’s weird.”
I tell her I’m pleased she seems to be loving lockdown. “I am. But the only thing about loving it is the guilt. There’s just…a guilt. I feel guilty I’m getting paid but not really working the amount I should. I feel guilty that I’m happy and really enjoying this time but there are people who are hurting and are sick and are worried for loved ones. So there’s all that guilt as well. This constant guilt that you’re not really allowed to say you’re liking it.”
She says it’s all about keeping busy and having fun. ”I’m able to take advantage of being able to knit and sew, and I’ve done some pottery. I’ve loved that.”
Charlie normally goes to a pottery class on a Tuesday night, although she tells me it’s more for chat and a catch up; a chance to have a night to herself, away from her role as mother and wife. “At home, I’ve been much more creative and really gotten into it more. I am absolutely loving it. I just love it. Is that weird to say?”
Not at all.
“I get to be creative as I want to. Even though they might be imperfect, to me it just doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to look at something and think, I made that, it’s so cool. I like being creative. I might not be good at it, but I don’t mind. It just makes me happy.” Her face lights up as she talks, and the smile grows wider.
“But keeping the kids happy has been my priority. At the beginning of lockdown I read this article that said this is something that children are going to carry with them, they’ll remember this, depending on their age so keep it happy, keep it light and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Her son isn’t missing school at all, and I tell her it’s because she’s created an amazing environment. On Instagram I’ve seen incredible inventive, creative ways of learning while having fun. She laughs. “It’s probably from Pinterest.” I laugh and tell her to take the credit.
They’re learning through creative and themed activities, and she takes the lead from them. “I take what the school sends us and work it into our day. But if they don’t want to do it, they don’t want to do it.”
I ask if they’re naturally creative children, if this is something they do a lot of? “Err, I would say not. If left to their own devices they’d be more likely to opt for imaginative play. But we need to educate them in all aspects of life, right?”
“So make them feel like they’re having fun but actually you’re teaching them something?” I offer.
“Ha, yeah, exactly,” she laughs.
I asked her if she’d learnt anything about herself over the last few weeks. “I’ve learnt I really love teaching. I really enjoy it. It’s something that has been nagging at me for a while now, like I’ve been thinking I want to go back and study.”
“Oh yeah? What would you study?”
“I’ve been questioning myself, should I be doing some one-year courses to build to a teaching degree? But I’ve always just thought, ooh, can I really? Do I want to? Can I do it? But now being at home, I’m having so much fun with it and so it just brought that up again.”
I ask her if she’ll pursue that and she pauses. “I don’t know. I’m a bit of a scaredy cat,” she laughs. “I’m scared of failure and so I’m a massive commitment-phobe because of that. That’s why I’ll never commit to anything unless I’m 100% positive I’m going to be OK.”
I question her about what the difference is between her pottery not being perfect and her fear of failure with studying. Isn’t it the same thing?
She pauses. “I guess it’s a very public thing, isn’t it? I mean, art is art, right? I can throw splatters of paint on a canvas and say this is my art and it’s as perfect as I want it to look. Art is personal isn’t it, but when it comes to academics, I don’t know, I always feel like I’m a bit of an imposter. Like maybe I’ll fall short, and I don’t want to know that. ”
I tell her I think she’d make a great teacher and ask what age she’d want to teach. “Five- and six-year olds. Where they still love you as a person and listen to you,” she laughs. “But also the psychology of watching kids that age is fascinating.”
She smiles that big smile again.
I really hope she doesn’t give up on it.