Now before I start, I’d like to clarify that I have no problems adhering to lockdown for the greater good of the nation, for the NHS, to save lives. I was happy (well perhaps not happy but certainly willing) to home school and stay home for as long as required to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone in society. In my mind, I was in this routine until May, I was head down, slogging though, groundhog daying it all the way with emotional ups and downs and tears and laughter mixed in. But I was doing it and I was coping, just about.
But… throw in an end date and that all changes. Now I’m on countdown. Now I have a very specific hope, I have a plan for the 8th of March (bacon sarnie and a trashy film once the kids are in school). The kids are beyond excited to be able to see friends, to play and to not be with us 24/7. And this makes sense, when there’s an end in sight the struggle becomes a different struggle.
Did you hear the ‘Mums at breaking point’ podcast on Radio 4 Woman’s hour https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000s9tp? It was broadcast a week or so ago but I’m just catching up- as is both typical and ironic as I trying to juggle kids, work, home and everything else that life entails. It’s a recognition of the demands being placed on families during the pandemic. It talks about the realities of juggling working, home schooling, family life, self-care and all the mundane chores that keep our lives running. And it acknowledges that the majority of those who bear the brunt of this juggle are the working mothers. Not to say that it’s not hard for all parents, but the statistics show that it is working mothers who are experiencing high levels of negative impacts for career, health and wellbeing.
The podcast talks about the expectation that families just ‘get on with it’, often with little to no recognition that the decisions we made about family or work or lifestyle were made in very different circumstances and with very different expectation about daily routines and available childcare and support.
It also talks about the guilt that many people are feeling as we try to balance the sense of good fortune “we’re all healthy”, “at least I have work”, “other people are having a much harder time” with the reality that life under this pressure is unsustainable and we are functioning beyond our capacity and have been for almost a year.
So, now, with the 8th March as beaming beacon of hope for families on the edge, my biggest fear is the possibility of change. I’ve talked before about how hard it is to adapt to the changes that pandemic has brought. But there’s something about this that feels a bit different. And I think that the difference is hope. This time, it feels that there is change for the better, a ray of light in the distance. And the flipside of that is if that change is taken away, we are left in a worse position than we were in to begin with. Because if there is a backtrack, a change to the date that is symbolically a point of hope and respite for most families I know, there will be nothing left in reserve to adapt. No way of finding a way of coping with yet more expectation and demand to ‘just get on with it’. By giving us this date, the Government have allowed us to work towards a break, work towards hope, towards not being ground down by the demands of ‘doing it all’, all day, every day.
I don’t think I’m a particularly pessimistic person but I would say I’m pragmatic and can’t help but think back to January. Remember January? Remember that one day at school and the fall out the next day when there was no school?
I don’t follow the numbers or the science, I simply don’t have the headspace for it. I just hope that this time, there really is somebody sensible making the decisions. Someone who recognizes the longer term impact for our children of having no time outside the house and family, no time to play and just be kids. Someone who sees that the pressure of ‘doing it all’ really has been ‘doing it all’ this year not just some metaphorical description used to delineate between working parents (let’s face it, working mothers- nobody says that about men do they?) and the rest of society.
In all honesty, I struggle to trust the powers that be to stick to their word and this is the difficult bit for me at the moment: I’m pulled in two directions, one part of me pushing towards that hopeful date of 8th March, part of me wanting to hold back ‘just in case’, wanting to reserve some energy so that I can absorb and accommodate any changes to this expectation.
So, what to do about all this angst? Well, the first thing I did that really helped was stomp the long way around to the shops listening to the music of my youth at the highest volume my old lady ears could handle (Arcade Fire, Funeral, if you’re interested- all loud drums and triumphant strings; the perfect combo for my mood). This really helped, I had an angry internal rant about the state of the world and the pressures we’re all under. In my head I called for rebellion if the schools don’t open on the 8th; we stormed the gates, we shouted loud and the people in power listened.
I have now calmed a little and the anger that was a bit about the government, a bit about the circumstances out of my control and a lot about the frustrations of yet another day of juggling work, three children and home schooling when nobody is interested (least of all me) has dissipated.
I’m now in a space of acceptance: a balance between hope and expectation. A reflective midpoint looking at my need to be all the parts of who I am: mum, occupational therapist, friend, daughter, sister, wife and everything in between. A calmer space where I can see the possibility of finding ways to be all those things again but holding onto a reserve of energy for if and when we need to immerse once again into lockdown life; putting hope and balance on hold until there’s real, safe and sustained change to the circumstances that are entirely out of my control.
So, for today, I feel less agitated, less angst.
Nevertheless, if those school gates don’t open on the 8th, I am tempted to incite that school run to rebellion….
Thanks for reading, fingers crossed for the 8th!