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Time, family, work – and bored zombies. New Zealanders open up about life in coronavirus lockdown

We all remember the lockdown, but not all our memories are the same. Some say they miss the tranquillity. Others don’t miss being stuck at home at all – especially those with young children. Some found new ways of working. Others just lost work.

New Zealand’s lockdown was ranked as one of the strictest in the world, and we wanted to find out how people felt about it. So we ran a “life under lockdown” survey in the third week of alert level 4 to examine general well-being, family resilience and employment.

We also asked people an optional question: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your experiences of lockdown, positive or negative?

Of the 2002 people surveyed, 894 (45%) gave a usable response. In survey terms, this was a surprisingly good result, and provided a rich historical record of the thoughts of many ordinary New Zealanders during lockdown.

The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Time and quality of life

Overall, there were more positive responses (43%) than negative (35%), with 23% neutral or mixed. We mapped the most commonly used significant words, as shown in the word cloud above and the graphs below – and “time” was the most frequently used word, often in relation to family.

It’s been a good way to focus on what’s important in my life. Personally for me it’s been a good time […] to connect with my two year old and enjoy having time with my husband and parents. On the flip side it’s highlighted what I’ve missed due to working.

For some lockdown was a chance for growth; for others, like these three people, it was a novelty:

Have enjoyed the time off to renew myself.

I’ve enjoyed a holiday from work as I have never had longer than a week off. Could never afford it.

Home life has not posed any stress in our bubble during lockdown, we have found many things to keep busy and are enjoying our time together.

Others, such as these four, expressed mixed or negative emotions:

I quite enjoy working from home (warm, comfortable, quiet) but I am lucky that I can work from home. It does get lonely though but I manage it.

Lots of productive time wasted.

Very bored a lot of the time.

It sux big time.

Read more: Coronavirus: an architect on how the pandemic could change our homes forever

Work and worry

As expected, employment and money worries came up often. Many people, like these individuals, reported losing jobs or general concern about income:

I’m just worried/depressed that I won’t have a job and be able to help out my family with finances. That’s what’s making me feel worthless because I got laid off. It’s not fair that I’m the youngest and I can’t help out.

The most distressing and stressful thing has been dealing with my job and disputes re hours and pay. It has basically been the whole cause of my angst during lockdown.

Zero income in house. Frustration applying for support on internet. We give up. WINZ [Work and Income NZ] suck. Really suck. It feels like their working life based on trying to find a reason to decline supporting people has left them as the worst place for the public to need to go to for support.

I cry all the time. I’m worried about money and the long term effects of this situation on our household and our finances. I am hanging on by a thread.

Separation and grief

And for some it was the hardest time of all:

I felt really bad not being able to take flowers to the cemetery on the anniversary of my husband’s death.

Very sad because I can’t visit my kids’ grandkids or elderly mother plus a close friend who’s dying of cancer. All are about five hours’ drive away. I get upset at times and cry a lot.

My husband passed away […] I need my kids and family here, but they live out of town, it’s going to be a while and that’s so, so sad.

Read more: New Zealand's pandemic budget is all about saving and creating jobs. Now the hard work begins

Family, home and school

Not surprisingly, “family” and “home” (and related terms) were mentioned a lot. While the majority of family references were positive, for some – like these two – lockdown was a challenge, if not the last straw:

After lockdown my partner and I will separate!!! Being in lockdown emphasised the difficulties with our relationship. Nonetheless I think that the lockdown was important and necessary and that it saved many NZ lives.

Men that are home on full pay while wife works thinking, yeah it’s holiday time, sleep when they want, do bugger all round home to catch up, drink when should be doing chores that needed doing, not considering […] oh I should cook, give partner that’s working a break – plain annoying.

Many reported struggling with children and home schooling while working from home:

Definitely finding it hard to help three kids, all at different levels, complete their school work, especially with a toddler running around.

It’s so difficult trying to manage schooling for the kids while also making time to work from home. Very stressful.

Bubbles and zombies

And finally, some people just wanted to get things off their chests:

Stop using that bloody word “bubble”. God I hate that word to describe home. Hang whoever decided to use it.

This is the closest I’m ever going to get to a zombie apocalypse, and it’s all just so boring. This is not at all what I was expecting.

Zombies or not, people were more positive than we’d expected. Their answers tell us about human resilience, humour, hardship and tragedy. While everyone’s lockdown was unique, we also shared many experiences. We want to thank everyone who shared theirs with us.

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