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Image / Editorial

The 10 stages of surviving being stuck home with the kids (and himself)

by Amanda Cassidy
16th Mar 2020

It’s no exaggeration to say that our world has changed dramatically. There is also the small matter of severe social proximity to our children and partners and all that brings. Amanda Cassidy looks at the lighter side of where we find ourselves and how to stay sane

Day 1. The children arrive home and dump their schoolbags chattering excitedly about NO SCHOOL! Ever again, my son tells me earnestly, as shivers run down my spine.

We wash our hands and discuss the coming weeks. I mention timetables and they laugh in my face. I explain that screentime will continue to be weekend only and their giggles get louder.

They begin to make their way through the emergency snacks and my own work deadline looms. Coronapocalypse has indeed arrived.

Stage one – Oblivion

How tough can this be really though? I work from home. The children are used to our routine — you know the one where I bribe their behaviour with lollipops and flap my arms at them for silence when I take a work call. Let’s just keep calm and carry on, I decide. My future self face-palms.

Stage two – Panic

While others are panic-buying toilet roll and pasta, I am laden down with bags of markers, card-games, arts and crafts, glue, glitter (momentarily, until I come to my senses), board games, skipping ropes, hula hoops, chalk, gin.

Stage three – Naivety

I manage to get them to agree to design a timetable of sorts. We include fun things like baking and glitter-free crafts as well as the schoolwork they’ve been assigned. We will keep things as normal as possible, I explain to my partner who sets up his home office next to us at the kitchen table. We last 35 seconds.

Stage three – Fear of the unknown

Today I have a little cry. Behind sunglasses as we drive to the mountains for some fresh air. It is overwhelming how the bottom has fallen out of all our lives — and although it is short-term, the impact is gruelling on so many people we know. My fear manifests via nags. No one is safe from the waggy finger. The more anxious I am, the more chores I dole out. I can’t go on like this.

Stage four – Wine

The memes come flowing in faster than the scary friend-of-a-friend fake news. It helps. Time to manage my news consumption, time to let a couple of things slide with the kids, time for a giant glass of wine. Perspective.

Stage five – Rallying the troops

It’s four days in and we need a project. I toy with the idea of writing a children’s book with the children and then look at the ironing pile. Life has to go on in all its unspectacular glory. Twitter informs me of all the amazing things people did while on lockdown during the wars. My war effort is making sure teeth still get brushed and cutting sandwiches into triangles without crusts. Not all heroes wear capes.

Stage six -Mediation

My tongue is sore from holding it as we all try to get used to being together ALL OF THE TIME. I know we are lucky to have each other and be together and my husband is a wonderful getter-of-things, but dishwasher wars escalate. In a bizarre turn of events, he decides to offer input into things like the children’s meals, our wardrobe organisational system… the way I breathe.

Stage seven – Scooter jousting

Things slide, rapidly. The timetable is crumpled under the kitchen table. Bedtime is erratic, meals repetitive. The children spend their days jousting in the garden on their wheeled toys, Barbies get hair cuts and we no longer have room on the art wall for the multiples of art-work they produce every hour. Knots multiply. I consider getting out the paddling pool for hygiene purposes.

Stage eight – company

In fairness, I haven’t talked as much on the phone as this since I was 17. I manage to get out for a solo walk for an hour which keeps me relatively sane. I check in with friends, we lament the situation together. We try to steer away from talking about the public health emergency. We uplift, we sympathise, we suggest ways of remaining positive. We discuss how Matt Damon was shooting a movie here and might be in lockdown close by. It sustains us.

Stage nine – The unanswered questions

Should I paint the front of the house? I muse. What should we do about our roots? Should I bulk buy L’oreal hair dye if the hairdressers close? Thank God I never went down the Botox route. How much time is too much screen time? How wrecked are the neighbours’ heads by the noise generated by my family? Will the Communion be cancelled? I also take time to think of all those who heard overnight that their jobs were gone. My worries seem trivial in comparison but it is all relative. Who knows what we will all have to face in the coming weeks? Are the children happy? Is my little epicenter secure?

Stage ten – Realisation

It hit me this morning, that this might just be our new normal. I take comfort in the ways humans have had to adapt through historic crises. I try not to think about things like work drying up, the challenges that come with having the children out of school, our immunocompromised grandparents.

I start mentally preparing for months instead of weeks. I try to come to terms with how our lives just got turned upsidedown. With everything stripped back, there are some parts in all of this that we cherish more than others. I’m trying to focus on those. And the name of my hypothetical children’s book. We will prevail.

Image via Unsplash.com