It’s been a while. Months, actually, since I last put the mechanical version of pen to paper and write something to post here. It’s been both the most hectic of times and also the quietest of times thanks to the bloody pandemic. Also, I blame homeschooling.

It feels like the world has barely stopped recently to allow any of us to take a deep breath from behind a face mask. Yet, in so many ways, things have come to a halt completely and altogether at the same time.

Everything feels different on this side of the incredible and emotive display which lit up the London sky on New Year’s Eve. Just a few (long) weeks ago, we were all buoyed up on optimism and too much Prosecco. 2020 could well and truly do one and I don’t think any of us have ever been so glad to see the back of a year. 2021 could only be better.

We were wrong … weren’t we?

Festive fun

Let’s go back a little bit further. Just before those fireworks, it was my fourth co-parenting Christmas. This year, five-year-old TJ was spending the big day with me and my family. I couldn’t wait to pick him up at 10.30am on Christmas morning from daddy’s house with my boyfriend Ben by my side.

Plans had been made for the three of us to go to my parent’s house for the usual drill of merriment and mince pies. That all fucked up a bit so, in the name of Tier 4, Ben had to spend much of the day solo, aside from a walk with one of his best friends. Still, we woke up together and then went to bed together with TJ in the next bedroom. So it wasn’t so bad, really. In fact, it was one of my favourite festive days for a good while.

We’re getting into the swing of the co-parenting Christmas stuff now. OK, I had the good end of the deal this year – I lost the time with TJ on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning but I got the rest. I set out a carrot for Rudolph and a drink for Santa by myself on 24 December. Then, I enjoyed the look on TJ’s face when we briefly stopped at my place to see if Santa had been.

I followed my now usual mantra of not letting the date on the calendar dictate when festive fun should take place. It really does take the sting out of it all – we still do all of the stuff, it’s just us who say when and how exactly that happens. I like it. It’s most definitely preferable to the alternative should the separation from TJ’s dad not have happened.

Calling time on 2020

The hours with my family went by in a happy flash and then it was back on the road for a few lazy days with Ben – my support bubble – which were spent both with and without TJ. It was ace. TJ came back for NYE and we set up a fire pit, swapped stories, danced with sparklers and stuffed our faces with toasted marshmallows. It was the ideal way to watch the last hours of a difficult year tick by. Never a thought was given to the possibility of spending January homeschooling.

Lockdown Part 2 and 3

Then, before we knew it, the jubilation of the dawning of a new year was smashed to shit. The schools closed and I was thankful to be furloughed to allow time to focus on homeschooling. Life became a less predictable routine once again. We were so fortunate that the schools stayed open for that first term after TJ first stepped into the classroom in September. I guess it was due not to last given the horrific state of affairs because of the Coronavirus.

When the pandemic first took hold back in Spring last year, TJ was at home instead of preschool. I dicked around with homeschooling him a little – we mastered the art of writing the number 8 even if he didn’t quite grasp what it meant at the time. It was for something to do if nothing else. We also spent a lot of time painting and listening to Roald Dahl audiobooks, which was pretty nice really.

The second lockdown didn’t really change much of that ‘new normal’ as I worked from home, ran instead of hit the gym and  – vitally – the schools stayed open. Not this time though. Now, homeschooling is serious business. His brilliant school have sent through loads of great stuff and I know that I am fortunate that TJ responds well to most – if not all – of the learning. It makes it a little easier to stomach. But that doesn’t mean that homeschooling is not hard going for us both.

Counting down the days

Swapping the classroom for our two-bedroom flat has its benefits and drawbacks. The drawback is obviously the lack of space. We spend many – too many – hours in one room through lack of an alternative. The benefit is that we’re well cocooned away from the real world. Being located near a busy road means that we do regularly see the all-too-familiar flash of blue lights from the other side of the lounge window. Weirdly, it’s almost like white noise now.

The news and social media are always and solely bearers of bad news. Doom scrolling is a thing and I need to put my phone down more. But, it’s really my only form of escapism when homeschooling actually means trying to make the number 5 interesting. That will soon be over, won’t it? Let’s see what early March brings.

Learning lessons

My life has been put on pause so that I can focus on teaching my little TJ Jolly Phonics. That has its benefits and drawbacks too. The obvious drawback is that Jolly Phonics were named ironically. They are, of course, total shit to teach and also to learn. Poor kids. The benefit is that I can look back on this in years to come and remember the part – however small it is – I played in getting TJ’s education underway. Let’s hope that my homeschooling doesn’t fuck him up too much.

Millions of parents like me are having to handle their own lives in the gaps which are left around the periphery of an exhaustive home life. We are sort of used to that but Covid has cranked that up a notch. Is that a good thing?

Unarguably, it is not when trying to contribute to a Zoom call with a kid/some kids screaming in the background. But, maybe it is when the video calls have finished for the day. We all know that 2020 brought our lives to pieces all around us. Maybe, as we pick up those pieces, we can reorder them a little.

I will always be a working mum and I wear that like a badge of honour. It goes alongside my other badge which proclaims that single parents rock. Working parent life isn’t for everyone but it is the one for me and I am committed to that. But I have barely worked in the last year and I only started a new job just before Christmas 2019. I have been furloughed for months for all of the right reasons and I’m grateful for that.

But all this utter chaos, loss of life, shit show from the Government and lack of compliance from fuckers who won’t stop going to house parties has given me – and others – a new perspective. Maybe it’s time that we indulged in that.

Pause for thought

By involuntarily hitting the pause button, we now all have a little more time to think. Not all of those thoughts will be happy ones. With an unfathomable death toll, the miserable, depressing and despairing thoughts about what is happening outside of our front doors are acceptable and inevitable. Maybe they should even be encouraged so we can process it all, especially if you have lost someone through this. Sending so much heartfelt love to you if so.

But time to think it is. Time to think about what is important. It’s time to think about how ridiculous our language is when you have to explain it to a five-year-old. Time to think about what life could look like in the future when we don’t have to social distance. Maybe it’s just time to consider the possibility that you may just complete Netflix. Or, time to just stare at the wall as we think about what we’re missing out on as we exist instead of live. Use that time to berate it all but also to make mental plans on how to make up for lost time as soon as we’re able to do so. We get to stare at cool stuff again soon and it’s all waiting for us. It’s time to figure out that we can and should make the most of it all – when we’re allowed to.

So, embrace the pause – wherever it comes alongside the juggling of all of the stuff. Office life, gym classes, early mornings de-icing the car and packed school lunches have been exchanged for working from home in pjs, lunches at home and workouts in the living room. Covid did fuck us all up … but there’s some Covid benefits which will last longer than those face masks. So, until we can leave the house again, take stock, soak it up, browse on Amazon Prime instead and enjoy the time off the hamster wheel – and pray we never have to do this again.