The first lockdown was 3 months long. The second barely a month. This third one is not yet a month old though already feels the hardest and there’s little end in sight.
For us the single biggest difference between each lockdown is the kids’ circumstances. During lockdown 1 they were both of nursery age, and both at home. In lockdown 2, schools and nurseries remained open. This time the nursery is open for our youngest to attend the three days a week she goes, however our 4 year old has now started school, and it is shut. We are home-schooling her with the excellent programme her teachers put together every week.
Juggling childcare and work extends our ‘on’ hours each day and reduces our time to relax and recharge. And when the youngest is also home, trying to entertain her whilst also providing the support and environment for the eldest to learn is a constant battle, one that frays everyone’s nerves.
Both my wife and I are fortunate enough to have worked from home since the outbreak of the pandemic last March. We’re financially stable.
And we have our health. We’re particularly lucky that we haven’t lost anyone to the virus, though some of my wife’s colleagues have been ill no-one was hospitalised.
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In the grand scheme of things we are absolutely fine and have no cause to complain given the difficulties many people are facing. However, this only adds guilt to the emotional stress I find myself experiencing.
Throughout 2020 the added time with the children was one of the few positives to come of the restrictions the pandemic brought. Yet the accumulation of their ever-presence is exhausting. There is no easy age for children, be they 2 or 16, they are dependent upon parents for a multitude of needs and support.
In ‘normal’ times there were natural breaks that provided space, time, peace, from being a parent. In lockdown that does not exist.
This is compounded by the absence of in-person interaction with other adults. Web chats are not the same, and I think I speak for everyone when saying I am over them. I miss seeing people, really hearing their voice – not a digital recreation of it, and the physical contact. I long to hug my Mum, embrace my best friend, high five colleagues.
I love my wife dearly, she’s my best friend, most of the time we make a good team keeping house and parenting, and we enjoy unwinding in each other’s company. However, we’ve always been quite independent people and pursue quite different interests. We aren’t a couple who has ever lived in each other’s pockets. Until now.
Any relationship has peaks and troughs, and lockdown is a constant test of ours. When it is under strain and tension, which parenting 24/7 creates and exacerbates, and you’re unable to find space for release, then your partner is, temporarily, not a source of solace. Lockdown in a family of 4 has been extremely lonely at times.
I long for space from the kids to be a couple once more, and time for ourselves, to be just ourselves, not the amorphous family-being we have become.
And I know we are not alone. The recent snow-day brought a welcome relief. Something new to do!! Getting outdoors without it being wet and miserable for once. And yet we lamented the kids couldn’t play with others. When we went to the local fields in search of bigger snowmen others had made we saw a number of other families, some we knew, some we didn’t. We exchanged ‘Hello’s, smiles and waves. But all the parents wore the same look on our way back home. Resignation.
Everyone is in different situations and everyone is fighting different battles. I cannot fathom how tough it is for those living alone, or those at University, or those who have lost their job, or those in care homes where family can’t visit. There are plenty in worse situations. Yet, just because you’re fortunate enough not to need to worry about bills or food or companionship doesn’t mean these aren’t stressful times.
Find people to acknowledge that with, and if you are bottling it all up then you are entitled to release. Vent, get angry, be upset, whatever works to help reset you. We’re human, it’s normal. In case you need it, I give you permission.
We’re all in separate boats trying to navigate the same waters. Life is hard, even if it seems it shouldn’t be. It’s ok not to feel great about it. You’re not alone.
Stay safe. Persist. There are brighter times ahead.
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This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Barrie Robertson ( Author)