Alex is a mother to two children under six, and living in Barcelona.
As current predictions stand, we will soon be slowly transitioning into what governments are labelling “The New Norm”. We know the “how” of the New Norm will be different; how we work, how or if we travel, how we look after our elderly, how we organise our healthcare system, how we allocate value to the spectrum of jobs available, and their intrinsic value to our communities.
This “how” within individual houses will likely be very different too. Many working parents I have spoken with have vehemently rejected the idea of returning to their long working hours and commutes. With the clarity of hindsight, they see how exhausting their old norm was and how it took its toll on their health, happiness and family.
The reality of being confined to the house and within the nuclear family has, for my family at least, flipped the perspective from what can be achieved working harder and longer away from the home, to how more time can be invested inside the home. When the old norm collapsed and we were all forced to retreat inwards to our homes, our families and most terrifyingly, to ourselves, I think many of us realised how neglected our internal world had become. We realised how much we had ignored or put on the back foot the things that would bring happiness to ourselves and our families without proving anything to others or creating gain in our financial lives.
There are many, many recommendations available as to what we could or should be doing during this time to improve ourselves before entering the New Norm; perfecting banana bread, reorganising my kitchen, losing weight, doing yoga, reading all the books I have sworn to read since my last maternity leave 2 years ago. By this narrative, we should all enter the New Norm as Delia Smith/Maria Montessori/Maria Kondo hybrids, like some sort of dystopian nightmare of activity and efficiency and achievement. Surely these are not the people we now aim to become?
Wishlist for the future
They want to feel the love of their grandparents in that first overly tight hug, the one that happens upon meeting after time away
If you talk to my children, their wishlist for the future is short and succinct. Visit their Grandparents, go to climbing class, go to the pool, to the sea, eat ice cream, play with their friends. What they crave is the tangible, the sensorial. They want to feel the love of their grandparents in that first overly tight hug, the one that happens upon meeting after time away. The exhilaration of throwing their hot little bodies into the wet, blue, cool of water. They want the sweet taste of sticky, drippy ice cream running down their chins, clinging in the hollow of their throats. The happiness and drama of competing with and confiding in friends. They want to feel.
It’s not a coincidence that our children have the ability to savour the small things – they have not yet lost the ability to live in the now
Perhaps my goal for the “New Norm” is less about creating a life that looks good, for example, in Instagram squares and more about creating day-to-day experiences and habits that feel good. It’s not a coincidence that our children have the ability to savour the small things – they have not yet lost the ability to live in the now, to enjoy each moment as it comes. They are still fully connected to their own inner worlds. They are not bystanders in their lives, in fact, they actively and often aggressively demand what they want, when they want it with little regard for time or place or reasonability.
Not that I suggest we all abandon the wisdom of our age and succumb to the whims of each moment – the new norm can’t be a total free for all – but perhaps there is room to appreciate the incredible number of opportunities we have to enjoy our bodies and senses every day.
In the moment
Far too often I find myself becoming this bystander in my own life
How many of us have days where we flop onto the sofa and binge on Netflix because we are tired, bored, overworked, and under-stimulated? What if instead of arriving to the point of collapse or mental exhaustion, we spent some time actively planning our rest and plotted out moments of peace.
And imagine if this wasn’t considered “self-care” or “mindfulness” or any other label that has been spun by the media and marketing industries into obscenity. What if it was just the New Norm. Far too often I find myself becoming this bystander in my own life, passively participating in the day-to-day activities of motherhood and marriage and being a human being. But what I am learning is that being present, focusing on the fewer actives and paying more attention to things that build an inner sense of strength and satisfaction, that this is more valuable than creating images or scenarios that look good to the outside perspective.
I’m sure I will still take staged pictures of my children enjoying ice cream, preferably before it has dripped all over their dresses and permanently stained their socks, but after the picture I will savour the taste of the moment, knowing the that the real value is found in actively living the moment, not in the shared photo of it.
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