Dr Norah Fogarty
This blog was first published as part of the Lockdown Stories series on the WattLab blog and reproduced here with the authors permission as a submission to #KingsReflectingTogether
In the wake of Covid-19, the lives of people around the world have been turned upside down. Researchers at the CSCRM are no exception, and all our staff are experiencing lockdowns very differently. The Lockdown Stories series aims to share the unique stories of individuals from across the Centre; what they are finding tough, positive, inspiring or even scary; and how each person is facing different challenges which are impacting their lives and work, and how they think their lives will be changed when the worlds opens up again...
For this entry, Dr Norah Fogarty shares her story of joining the CSCRM as a Group Leader during lockdown, and juggling this strange transition with childcare for her two year old son...
At the end of March, as the news was coming in from other European countries, I was coming to the end of my seven-year postdoc position at the Francis Crick Institute. What usually would be a celebratory time with leaving drinks and saying farewell to colleagues turned out to be a bit frantic as everyone trying to organise themselves for working from home. My official first day at the CSCRM was unusual to say the least! Normally you would have a bit of excitement with a new commute, new faces and settling into your new desk. Instead I was sitting down at my kitchen table to begin my new role, and I was introduced to people by email. Despite the virtual introductions, everyone has been very welcoming and many have reached out personally to me.
My husband and I are both working from home now and have our two-year-old boy with us. We have settled into a routine pretty quickly. On Sundays we discuss what we both have coming up that week in terms of meetings and deadlines. We divide up our day and work in shifts around our son’s naps. Usually we work on into the night and on bank holidays.
I am viewing the timing of lockdown at the start of my independent career as a positive thing. Usually this time comes with a lot of administration, so I am working through that. I am spending most of my time writing grant applications and licence applications. I am reading a lot, especially into areas I wouldn’t normally have time to delve into. I am also taking this time to plan future projects and to really think about where I envisage myself being in the future and strategically plan what I need to achieve that. I try not to beat myself for not being as productive as I was before lockdown. It is impossible to be on the same level! Before this situation came around, I was very efficient. I had a set number of hours in the lab to get everything done before I dash off to do the nursery pick up. I also really miss my commute on the tube. I used to love sitting down and having 30 mins to myself to read a book or listen to a podcast and have a bit of headspace before getting into work. But this situation is very different – you go from singing nursery rhymes and playing dinosaurs to “right, now time for science”. When I am working quite often it won’t be until the last couple of hours that I am really getting a good head of steam up and then it’s time to take over and do bathtime.
It hasn’t been difficult for us to follow the lockdown rules. As parents of a young child without regular babysitters, we rarely go anywhere anyway! In the beginning it was concerning me that there was very little leadership in the UK and that things would get very bad here. My family are in Ireland and went into lockdown well before the UK. I was stressed about what would happen here and how many people would suffer. Now I try not to read the news too much and just get on with my day. In terms of keeping busy I have been baking a lot. I find it therapeutic and it switches my mind off. I have been following online lessons from a bakery that is located near the CSCRM and I am looking forward to visiting it when we are allowed to!
Obviously, this lockdown is hitting lots of people really hard. Friends of mine have lost parents. People close to me have lost jobs and have uncertain employment situations. The worst part for me is being away from family. I’m very aware of how much my son’s grandparents miss him. We video call often and they can see how much he is growing. The best part of lockdown is getting to spend so much time with my husband and son. Before this we would have an hour in the morning and evening with our boy. He was also so tired from being at nursery all day and would often be grumpy in the evening. Now we eat all our meals together and he is learning so much from seeing us everyday. My husband and I speak often about what we need to do to ensure a better work/life balance when this is all over. I wish I had kept a diary from the beginning of lockdown. It will be fascinating to look back at this time and to see how it changed the way we live.