A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how coparenting in Coronavirus was going. I looked at the ups and downs of daily life with my four-year-old son through these most unusual of times. There had been trials, tribulations and plenty of tears – from both of us. However, there is, of course, another side to coparenting in Coronavirus. That’s what happens to me when the kid is with his dad.
I have been on my own for the last few days. It’s not the first time that I have spent some time solo and it also won’t be the last. But this time seems a little more noteworthy.
One-upmanship can do one
There’s a lot of funny little talk online about how parents and non-parents are experiencing lockdown differently. Parents or those coparenting in Coronavirus organise homeschooling and non-parents reorganise the herb cupboard. Whilst parents provide a constant supply of snacks for small people, non-parents can enjoy treating themselves. Parents try to keep up with the Joe Wicks exercises for kids and non-parents can go for a run if they fancy it. It paints the picture that non-parents have got it easy. I don’t think that’s true. There’s no one-upmanship required here. Actually, It’s just as tough for absolutely every one of us at the moment albeit in very different ways.
My little man got picked up by his (lovely) stepmum-to-be on Friday evening. TJ’s dad is high risk so he currently can’t do the 90 minute round trip which our handover requires. As they left, it felt weird to think that they would be the next humans I would see on Tuesday morning. Well, aside from the (amazing) staff at my local Tesco and maybe the handful of people I would pass at a safe distance on my daily trip out of the front door.
I was more than a little daunted about the days which spanned out in front of me. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Actually, I worried about endless days leading to endless nights where I couldn’t sleep because of missing the people I love, fear for the times we’re currently facing or just because I hadn’t done anything during the day to wear myself out enough to sleep again.
On the night before I collected TJ to bring him back here again for a few days, it did feel like that time on my own had been an eternity. But it hadn’t been the sobfest that I thought it would be. I cried once … maybe twice … on Friday evening. But then that was done. I got busy ticking other stuff off my self-inflicted to-do list instead.
So, I cleaned the flat. I went for a run in some beautiful countryside near my home which I hadn’t visited before. With the sun shining, I sat in the garden and read a book. I tidied my underwear drawer. The messy drawer is now somewhat neater too. I messaged my friends and family. Stuff was bagged up to take to the charity shop when it reopens. I devoured a Netflix series. Lastly, I wrote this blog.
I have a love-hate relationship with myself for being very ‘seize the day’ and self-righteous by signing up to a distance learning course a few weeks ago. I thought it would be a good thing to help keep me busy when not parenting and not working as I have been furloughed.
Although the subject matter is fascinating, doing stuff – of any kind – seems like a gargantuan effort at the moment. Our bodies and our minds are not used to functioning at such a reduced capacity. So, asking ourselves to do anything more demanding than choosing the next thing to binge watch can be a bit exhausting.
However, it does give me a great excuse to treat myself afterwards to a bit of leftover Easter egg chocolate or a glass of pink wine … which again fuels the need and/or desire to do those runs when I can.
Time to overthink
The time on my own was a good opportunity for self-reflection too. In the early days following my separation, on the weekends when TJ was with his dad, I could barely scrape myself off the sofa. Often, I had nowhere to go and frequently I didn’t want to see anyone anyway.
I would wallow in my pjs until the middle of the afternoon then berate myself for wasting my time by dwelling on the past. There was a small risk that this would happen this weekend too. But it didn’t.
Maybe it’s because I am in a better mental place now than I was back then. It’s also maybe because I am counting my blessings rather than berating my mistakes. It could also be because the sun was shining so it’s almost possible to feel normal if you stay away from the news and social media. Whatever made it happen, I am pleased that it did and to have had that chance to learn that about myself.
Coronavirus is a total and utter motherfucker. There is no doubt about that. But, in the midst of all this fear, uncertainty and total devastation, there’s a required necessity to stop. We’re not allowed to do stuff anymore. Yes, the isolation is hard – particularly for those who live alone some or all of the time. But, it’s not all bad … is it?
Unlike what happens in Contagion – a scarily accurate 2011 film about a global pandemic where the people riot and turn on each other – we’re all sitting at home doing virtual pub quizzes and drinking tea (OK, anything alcoholic). We are leaving care packages on the doorsteps of the people who are in our thoughts. We’re teaching our parents how to use Skype/Zoom so we can have virtual meet-ups, like we did for my dad’s 71st birthday earlier this month. We are smiling at people as we keep two metres away from them on our daily walks. We’re putting rainbow pictures in our windows for children to spot as they stroll past.
Break from normality
When do we normally get the chance to do this? Even if we do book some annual leave, how many of us just use that time to sit at home? Not many of us. We want to make the most of the break by doing even more stuff instead of having a break in the true essence of the word.
It is very difficult to see the positives in all of this as our lives are altered forever and millions of us lose loved ones to this terrible disease. But we have to try. We will all need the mental strength to get through to the other side of this and come out of it as unscathed as possible.
So, that’s what I am going to try and do. Whilst I am still not in the camp of people who think we should be cherishing 100% of this extra time with our children – or loving every minute of the ‘free time’ this all affords us – I am going to try and focus on the good stuff more. This goes for when I am coparenting in Coronavirus as well as when I am on my own. Because that good stuff is still there. Sometimes, it may not feel like it. Other times, we probably feel it more than ever. Importantly, we should be dishing it out to the people we’re missing so they know that we’re still thinking of them too.
That doesn’t mean denying that the difficult days still happen too though. I never believe in hiding my emotions from TJ because I want him to grow up knowing it’s OK to express whatever emotion he is feeling at any particular time. So, crying happens. Sitting on the sofa and not being able to stand up for a bit happens. But dancing around the house to Taylor Swift and screaming along to Disney singalongs also happens too. Authentic emotion at all times is the order of every day here and I think that’s OK for us both. Handling a crisis doesn’t mean painting on a smile 24/7 – it’s about honesty, connection and that good old ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality.
When this is all over, a new normal will be established. Life won’t be the same. But maybe that’s OK too. Maybe, just maybe, we will all miss these enforced days of laziness when the 7am on Monday morning alarm starts to go off again. Or maybe we will return to normality with new vigour for the privileged lives that we shall once again lead. Who knows … but I can’t wait to find out.