Parenting during lockdown: ‘Surviving continues to be the name of the game’
In any given day, there are 3 million questions to answer, 6,328 rows to break up and one restriction-complying walk
Will I be the only one to emerge from the pandemic, without having learned a new language or newfound limberness and flexibility? Photograph: iStock
“You’re not like other mums” is something my eldest has told me for years now. I’m not sure she means it as a compliment. I’m not even sure she means it as a wind up. All I’m sure of, is that she means it. Even the mug she gave me on Mother’s Day, stifling her laughter as I opened it, reiterated her assertion. “A mother like no other,” it read. There was a similar message inside the card.
It makes me feel a little like Bruce Banner in the Incredible Hulk as he warns others that he’s different – we all see how different when he gets angry. Well either that or it’s Michael Jackson’s Thriller video that resonates. “I’m not like other guys,” he tells his poor unsuspecting date, before transforming into a werewolf and impressive dancing zombie.
It’s not my temper that she’s referring to, or even dancing skills altered by the moon, but rather my lack of domesticity. I never cared much for it as a girl, objecting vociferously to the fact that the boys in my year didn’t have to learn to make their own jumpers and skirts in class, but the girls did. It wasn’t the feminist in me roaring from a young age – more the realisation that I was brutal at these things and had no inclination or desire to improve. Now, looking back, I have a firm sense of what was good for the goose should have been good for the gander, but then it was all about avoiding the task in hand.
I’m very different to my own mother in this regard. Among many other things, she is a talented cook and a whizz with the sewing machine. I consider threading a needle an achievement, although I’ve been known to sew the odd button back on in an emergency. Cooking, rather than a pleasurable pastime, is a necessity for survival. My sisters have mostly taken after her – but the gene completely bypassed me.
It has come back to bite me on the behind during lockdown.
Parents: How do you think your kids are coping with lockdown?
While the rest of the country bakes and cooks its way through the pandemic, I’m struggling to keep my head above water. My inbox is flooded with suggestions of new skills, classes and exercises I could take up to fill my “spare time”. My social media is flooded with recipes, and achievements, and “before and afters” of gleaming rooms and houses that have been subjected to a Covid-19 clear-out.
Here, I feel confident if a burglar was to break in, he’d break back out again certain that the place had already been done over.
It’s all led to me sometimes feeling totally and utterly inadequate.
Surviving has and continues to be the name of the game here. In any given day, there are three million questions to be answered, 6,328 rows to break up, 102 snacks a day to provide and one restriction-complying walk to fit in. Add in homeschooling, working from home, and the usual day-to-day monotonous but necessary daily chores to complete and there’s not much time left over for anything else.
I’m not sure whether it’s the mountainous workload or the lack of domestic goddess skills that prevents me from keeping on top of it all. Where there’s a will, mum guilt will find a way, so more often than not, I settle on the latter option. Will I be the only one to emerge from the pandemic, without having learned a new language or newfound limberness and flexibility? Will my kids look back nostalgically on all the cakes we didn’t manage to make? Or will that little voice always be there reminding me I have a socially unacceptable number of children that is really not conducive to coping with pandemic measures?
All has stayed the same the last few weeks and yet so much has also changed. Groundhog Day quickly became Groundhog Month in terms of our routine, but the emotional states of all who live here are ever-changing. Excitement at the unexpected closure of schools has been replaced, for some, by a missing of friends and routine. There are some who are content with the new norm – particularly the one who informed me he never liked the sandwiches that were part of his school lunch anyhow. And there are those, who like their mother, are unsettled by the uncertainty of it all.
Managing so many emotional states at once has proven to be quite the challenge.
It’s a skill in the learning – the irony of which reminds me, that maybe I need to cut myself a little slack.