We all knew that things were going to change dramatically – temporarily or otherwise – as the Coronavirus spread throughout the world. Fear and uncertainty crippled many of us – myself included – about what that would mean. The world has been united in the most unfortunate and unprecedented of ways. Thoughts spiralled, fears multiplied and panic set in for an endless list of reasons. One of those was coparenting and Coronavirus.
I didn’t know how coparenting and Coronavirus would work together – or even if they could work together. Millions of people just like me must have felt incredibly scared and unsure before the Government finally confirmed what it would mean. That families like ours could still be families, just like all those who happen to live under the same roof.
Like many, the thought of not seeing my little man for weeks on end through all of this was just too much to consider. However, I didn’t know that just around the corner was 10 solid days of coparenting and Coronavirus. It was to be just me and him after he had a high temperature and therefore couldn’t spend the planned time with his dad, who is classed as vulnerable.
It was quite the time.
We are all trying to use this time to take a step back, enjoy the (necessarily enforced) break from normality, cherish more time with the family that we can see and just relax at home as much as possible during these tricky times. It’s not quite as simple as all that when we’re quite literally fearing for our lives, the lives of the people we care about and the lives of people around the world though is it?
But some vital lessons about coparenting and Coronavirus have been learnt already – the good and the bad:
Kids are resilient
There’s no way to shield children of any age from what is happening in the world right now. Their change in routine demands explanation, the news is full of talk about it and they need to do their part to help too by maintaining social distancing and washing their hands. I didn’t hide it from TJ. Admittedly, I maybe didn’t tackle coparenting and Coronavirus in the best way possible. This was especially the case when he asked me if his family was going to die after he heard something about the ‘nasty bug’ which I probably should have turned off the radio.
But, he gets it. He gets it as much as a clever little kid of his age can get it. But, he’s still bouncing around the house smiling and enjoying the benefits of it including an endless supply of online classes and Disney+. He’s starting school in September so I am doing a bit of home schooling along the way but, meh, no pressure. Our mental health is more important than that right now.
Kids are relentless
Actually, TJ is bouncing around the house almost non-stop. It’s a little too much to be honest because I can’t keep up. I need to sit down sometimes – I can’t kick off every morning with Joe Wicks and then carry on until TJ finally goes to bed 11 hours later. As his (single) mum, I am the only one who is here for him in this house. I am used to the workload which being a single mum brings including cooking all the meals, cleaning, playing and wiping that little person’s bottom.
But, I am also used to leaving the house and paying people (like the amazing Drama Tots team) to do it for me so I can take a little break for myself. Cabin fever is also very real, especially when living in a flat and the sun is shining outside. Yes, we have been mostly taking our one exercise a day but that’s still not easy or relaxing when there’s the fear of what the outside world is brewing at the moment.
Sleep is magic
For as long as I can remember, TJ has been a big fan of sleeping in my bed (judge me, whatever). He’s been a little under the weather over the last week which is why he was staying with me longer than planned, just to be on the safe side. Two calls to 111 and six incredible NHS professionals on the phone confirmed as much as possible that it wasn’t the dreaded C causing the issue.
But, he still had a bug of some sort. So, he wanted – needed – his mummy more than normal. He slept in my bed and snored the place down. Small people make big noises. In the middle of what would have been a working week if I had not been furloughed, I was barely able to function. So, I asked TJ if he could sleep in his own bed for one night and, after some minor bribery, he did so.
It changed a lot. The bug I inevitably caught from him subsided a little and I woke up able to face a new day within four small walls a little easier. He rested too – I won’t know if it was better or worse than he normally would have done. But, I hugged him very tight that morning.
Teaching stuff is difficult
I like to think that TJ is picking up some good life skills from me, even way before all this horrific drama kicked off. He gets involved in the kitchen as much as possible. That little man enjoys helping with the laundry. Sometimes, he gives the surfaces a little wipe too. His play cleaning set comes out when I need to whip the vacuum around. Informal learning like that I think I can do. Formal learning as part of coparenting and Coronavirus is another ball game altogether.
As I said, home schooling isn’t the first order of the day for him right now but I have been trying some little things here and there. Some gentle Maths, a little English, learning to tell the time. It’s all there on the very loose daily schedule. But, so is dancing around the flat to Disney music after our trip to The Happiest Place on Earth this month was cancelled.
I have always had huge respect for anyone involved in childcare. Teachers do an amazing and underrated job. Like many parents, I think teachers will go up in people’s estimations by quite an amount in the wake of all this. Teaching is not easy, even when it’s our own offspring who are the pupils.
Emotions are heightened
As I muddle my way through coparenting and Coronavirus, I want TJ to learn from me about how to cope in a crisis. There’s a lot of talk online about how that means to show bravery and strength in the midst of all this. Well, sorry, but that’s not me. I am terrible in times of stress and this is the ultimate example. So, I have cried. I have cried in front of my boy and he has comforted me through it in a very poignant reversal of roles.
He’s seen me cry before – I see no harm in that – and I am always honest about the reasons why. That’s not changed. I have told him that this is a difficult time with the lack of normal routine and the importance of keeping safe. He knows that not seeing our loved ones is tricky to say the least. I have said that I miss the things we would normally be doing at this beautiful time of year. Handling a crisis isn’t about pretending it’s all OK – it’s about acknowledging what’s wrong and getting through it together. And celebrating when normality is returned to us.
Full time parenting solo is hard
I say all this knowing that there’s so many parents out there who will have experienced similar emotions as they manage single or coparenting and Coronavirus too. Some parents may have felt them in a less severe manner, some may have experienced them more acutely. Families with both parents living under the same roof may well have found it more difficult than I have. Maybe, if TJ’s dad and I were still together, it would have been a very difficult time for us too. Every ripple or crack at home will be heightened under these exceptional times. It will be interesting, if also sad, to see what impact the Coronavirus has on divorce rates in a few months’ time.
Within the single parenting community, there’s groups of us who have claimed this status for a variety of reasons. But, one thing is for sure. Those who parent solo, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year are amazing. I had a taste of full-time caregiving as coparenting and Coronavirus came together and it nearly broke me. No one finds parenting easy but some find it more tricky than others. We’re all doing our best and that’s all we can hope for. Our kids will get that too, if we’re honest with them.
There’s good in people
I have been amazed by how people have offered and actually gone out of their way to provide me with help and assistance, whether that’s of the practical or emotional kind.
In the last few weeks, I have been in virtual contact with people I may never have spoken to so regularly otherwise. A new WhatsApp group of single mums, created by a lovely mum who I met on Frolo, is a source of solidarity and proof that isolation doesn’t have to mean that you’re alone.
Other people have come out of the woodwork and done something, no matter how big or small, to ensure that I have and feel the support of others. A friend from a choir I used to be part of searched for some books she thought TJ would enjoy after her daughter did. She bought them, refused money from me and ensured that they would reach me safely.
Many prearranged video calls may not have happened exactly when planned because we’re all so tired and broken when the evening finally arrives. But, the thought has been there many times over and that’s just as important. Providing love, care and compassion from a distance eases the emotional turmoil that times like this inevitably bring.
I have also tried to reach out to people who I thought may be struggling too, such as my friend who works for Virgin Atlantic or my friend who is a mental health nurse for the NHS. That’s because I want people to know that I am there for them too, in whatever way I can be. Sometimes, that may only be a text. Maybe that is enough at the moment.
… as well as bad
Yet, some people who I thought would be there for me when life got tough haven’t been – but maybe I haven’t been there for them either. Friendships change over time and that’s OK. Also, I didn’t welcome the looks from a few people when I took TJ to our local Tesco when we didn’t have enough food in the house. I am not sure the alternatives would have been a better solution as he’s not quite old enough to be left home alone just yet.
Isolation is so difficult for so many of us but realising that the connections are there, either through the invisible cord which links us or through the connection afforded by WiFi, can be priceless at times like this.
We’re all struggling in our own ways
Parenting during Coronavirus is tough. Caring for loved ones of any age during Coronavirus is tough. Living through Coronavirus is tough. That’s not even acknowledging the millions worldwide who have been directly affected by this killer virus. I can’t even imagine. My older (they would hate me for saying elderly) parents are isolating. I know that’s a challenge for them both. My sister has seen her two businesses struggle and her work significantly curtailed. TJ’s dad is vulnerable so he’s stuck at home trying to keep his job in the travel industry going. My lovely boyfriend lives alone and is feeling every inch of cabin fever.
It’s not just people with kids who are finding this tough. People in dysfunctional relationships, especially those in violent relationships, are trapped inside with the people who hurt them. Countless people are losing their jobs and have real and significant fear over how to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. The NHS workers keep putting their lives at risk to save the people who need them. Almost every single industry out there has been negatively touched by this – ones you may not even consider – and they will struggle to recover.
But, all we have to do is stay indoors. Enjoy the sunshine from your gardens or balconies if you have them. Watch TV. Play board games. Do virtual pub quizzes. Dance around your living room. Take part in Zoom meetings for business or pleasure. Work your way through Disney+. Do the Joe Wicks workouts or don’t do the Joe Wicks workouts. Survive. Know that, by staying safe, this will end. And we hopefully will be living in a better world when all of this is over.
Finding parenting or coparenting and Coronavirus difficult is no reflection of how much we love our children. I fucking adore TJ but I still find things tough right now. Battling with your own emotions and then functioning at 200% of capacity in a seemingly relentless cycle is hard. But, it will soon be over if we all do the right things.
Until then, I will enjoy the break from work which furlough allows me. I will try and use some of the time alone wisely and will spend some of it working through pointless box sets. And I will enjoy the time with my boy whether that’s helping him to write numbers or watching The Lion King for the 50th time. Then, sometime soon, life will be like the rainbows that fill people’s windows at the moment. When the storm is over, we will hold onto what really matters for a glorious future of happiness and health.