A Life Less Virtual

A year ago we were getting ready to exhibit at The Baby Show at Excel. Most of us were navigating London on public transport, only seeing the odd mask here or there – when they did still look odd. Who could have known that within weeks just leaving our own houses, let alone crossing London on a tube, would be subject to legal restrictions?!

And now here we are preparing to exhibit at the same show – only virtually this time around. No physical stand or marketing collateral. No need to get on a train, tube or even leave the house! No physical interaction required at all!

What a crazy time! It was only really after the first lockdown that it became obvious just how much life had changed as a result of Coronavirus. Going to classes and not being able to help someone with their buggy for fear of invading their space, or not being able to offer to pick up an unsettled baby for a cuddle. Not even providing mats for our fitness classes, or any equipment that wasn’t 100% wipe down-able (that’s a technical industry term right there!).

Many of our mums talked about how worried they were that their babies had or would become socially deprived – and how sad it was that they would miss all the smiles they were getting from strangers behind their masks.

But it’s also been amazing to see how much ingenuity has emerged in the face of adversity. A year ago as we chatted to potential customers at The Baby Show, online classes hadn’t even been considered. But within a week of lockdown being announced we had devised and rolled out a timetable of more than 20 weekly pregnancy, postnatal and baby classes – and reached out to many of our colleagues in the antenatal, new parent and baby space to create a range of talks and workshops from guest speakers on a range of relevant topics. It was definitely a sink or swim moment!

And the creation of our online service, Busylizzy Live, has actually meant that all those parents we met last February who lived in Essex, Birmingham and a range of other places where Busylizzy had not (yet) reached are now able to access our services during pregnancy and beyond. But not just that – we’ve seen members connecting with us from distant corners of the UK and even further afield as word spread amongst friends and people joined us from the likes of Dubai and Canada. Our family has become international!

Although we can’t physically be at The Baby Show, one of our wonderful pregnancy instructors, Lucy, will be delivering a Mums-to-Bee Yoga class for show ‘attendees’; delivering as close a taste of the Busylizzy experience as we can remotely.

So although I know that many of us are experiencing screen life ‘fatigue’, I don’t think the benefits of online interaction we have all experienced this past year can be overestimated. Social media to connect us with faraway friends, Zoom calls with grandparents, Google Classrooms, online shopping, Instagram inspiration for a spare 5 minutes.

For us as Busylizzy club owners, and for many of our members, Busylizzy Live has also offered a lifeline. We’ve been able to keep our businesses going through all the uncertainty, local tier restrictions and the swings in and out of lockdown. And our members have come to rely on it as a way of maintaining daily fitness goals, entertaining their little ones, seeking advice, and connecting with other like-minded parents. The online classes have cemented a place for themselves within our overall offering and it’s a brilliant thing to be able to offer even after Covid and lockdown life is (hopefully) a distant memory.

After all, we’ve all had days in pregnancy where making it out to a class after an exhausting day at work is the last thing we feel like doing. Or as a parent when your ‘schedule’ flies out of the window because your baby decides to have an impromptu nap or nappy explosion at exactly the time when you need to leave the house! Having a class on screen to turn to at home during those moments is a really valuable benefit.

At heart though I am a deeply sociable creature and, as much as I think online everything is brilliant, I for one will be very excited to get back to face to face chats, playdates, hugs and our local classes – to meet members and their little ones again. To see the excitement on babies’ faces when they hear their favourite song or experience something new in class. To watch the transformation of a new mum who is shy about coming to class into someone who is surrounded by mum friends and feels fresh confidence in her new life as a mum. To witness the power of real interaction and support for each other as mums and mums to be.