Carolyn describes a week in her family's lockdown
Woken by cat meowing desperately due to an empty bowl. We’re trying to make the weekends feel noticeably different to weekdays, so the four of us cuddle up in our jammies to play Animal Crossing, a Nintendo Switch game with which my elder daughter is obsessed. Eventually I sneak off and have breakfast by myself while reading a book - I don’t get much time to myself, but I cherish it when I do. I order fish and veg online, plan next week’s takeaway, and order a ridiculously large new cat scratcher from a local pet shop. Food deliveries have been a real upside to this otherwise awful situation: living in Glasgow means we have access to lots of small companies who are now doing veg boxes and other deliveries, and our takeaway options are legion.
Have another go at my baking nemesis, carrot cake: this time it collapses in the middle, so I make it into a doughnut cake. Feel frustrated that everyone is inside on iPads despite it being a beautiful day, but decide it’s too exhausting to try to shepherd them all outside and anyway it’s the weekend so who cares?
Cat ends the day by killing a mouse and delivering it to the kitchen. Thanks, cat.
Woken by younger daughter announcing she is itchy, seems to have got sunburned despite spending most of yesterday indoors. Speak to my dad in Edinburgh and brother in Australia: we have set up a weekly Zoom call while we’re all in lockdown.
Spend some time playing silly games with younger daughter. The importance of this was an early lockdown lesson: at first, we didn’t pay proper attention to her pleas to play with her, and she became noticeably more emotionally volatile. Turns out when you’re four and used to spending three days a week at nursery, having no-one to play with is a big deal. So now we try to play with her as much as we can, though it can be tricky: there are only so many times I can re-enact a Paw Patrol rescue mission without getting rather emotional myself.
I am feeling a bit pursued today. It’s hard to find a space where someone doesn’t want to show me their great new dance steps, ask where a toy is, request a snack etc. I’m even avoiding the bedroom because the cat sleeps there in the day and jumps up as soon as I enter, wanting a cuddle. Ridiculous, I know. I feel resentful at the lack of my own space, but I also weirdly feel compelled to tell everyone where I’m going in case, they need me. I must learn to fly under the radar. At least we have a house with a garden, and enough space that we can all be apart from each other sometimes: this must be so much more difficult for families living in flats.
Cat brings in another dead mouse. Perform emergency repairs to younger daughter’s most beloved bunny, whose stuffing is falling out yet again. Finally get time to paint front doorstep, a job I have been trying to do for months. Finish the job, walk away, and hear an anguished howl as younger daughter steps straight into the paint...
Woken at 5am by younger daughter coming for a cuddle. This is Mummy Monday: my day off work, and normally a day when littlest and I drop my elder daughter off at school and then wander about having coffees and trips to the play park. Today my elder daughter doesn’t get up till almost 9, which scuppers my carefully written school timetable. But I know I’m lucky my kids don’t often get up at the crack of dawn - apart from anything else, it means we don’t have so many hours to fill in the day. Some of my friends’ kids get up at 6am every day, which must be really hard.
I stick the girls in the bath, which buys me time to clear the breakfast dishes and do laundry. We do a fun 3D shape hunt together, then they have playtime while I do an online fitness class. After lunch we go for our Daily Mile, which ends badly when elder daughter falls and bangs her nose badly, leading to an alarming quantity of blood. Call my dad, who lives by himself and is finding lockdown lonely and dull. Chat about his gardening service, which has been suspended. Feel guilty that I live too far away to nip round and cut his grass.
First day of the week when both husband and I work. At first, we divided the day into four shifts and took turns doing parenting and working, but that felt quite frantic. So, we’re now doing half days each, which is more manageable. Today I’m on the morning parenting shift. Do some schoolwork and play yet more four-year-old games. Finding it difficult to accept that this is not wasted time: I like tangible outcomes and feeling like I’ve achieved something with my day. I have to keep reminding myself that playing is vital for kids and isn’t a waste of time.
Find myself getting frustrated as the time approaches for me to start work: my head is already drifting into my to-do list, which I know isn’t fair on the kids. Have lots of Teams and Zoom calls this afternoon: for an organisation that wasn’t especially digital before all this, we have certainly embraced it now! Elder daughter helps me clean up after tea, then we have a little disco while younger daughter goes for a walk with her dad. Speak to my dad and try to figure out why Netflix won’t run on his telly.
Day off. Today I feel a bit like an air traffic controller, with requests constantly stacking up and needing managed. Empty the potty, find child’s slippers, play with other child, blow up some balloons, administer snacks, sort out schoolwork problem. Younger daughter has recently developed a habit of scribbling on walls and other inappropriate surfaces: this morning I notice she has been colouring in her bedsheets. I know this is probably related to lockdown stress, so I try not to blow up about it, muttering “All behaviour is communication” as I change the bedding. Get a break mid-morning when I announce it’s playtime and throw the girls out into the garden with a snack: a brilliant tip I got from a schoolteacher friend, who calls it “Teacher’s Coffee Time”. Later we go for a walk past school and nursery, which prompts some sad chat about missing friends. Stay up too late in evening: I’m tired but I resent going to bed too early as then I don’t get any time to myself.
On the morning work shift, manage to squeeze in a fitness class before I start. Finish at 1pm and try to keep an eye on emails for the rest of the day, even though I know nobody is expecting me to. Very lucky that my work understands that you can’t both work and parent small children at the same time. Spend the afternoon out for a walk, having lightsabre fights and failing to persuade the girls to do some baking. Struggling to come up with meals that we all want to eat: when I’m at the office I get to have whatever I like for lunch, which makes up for the constant pasta and pesto/fish fingers at teatime.
Fridays are my easiest workday because it’s my husband’s day off, so I get a full day of work done. Have a Zoom quiz in the evening with friends, which involves too many cocktails: who knew Zoom hangovers would ever be a thing?
Cycle to local shop and wear a scarf over my face for the first time: feels weird, and a bit scary. Cat kills a mouse mid-afternoon - normally she confines her murderous instincts to the evening. Do some weeding while husband builds a treehouse for the kids, something he’s been threatening to do for months. They are delighted. I feel frustrated as I can’t seem to get anything done today. I know I need to relax and let some things go, but it can feel like I’m just watching the day slip away from me. Kids have a “sleepover”: at the weekends they like to sleep in the same room, which is sweet and cuts bedtime in half.
I make beds, tidy garden and eventually manage some yoga and a G&T. Helpfully, cat brings mouse into bedroom just as I’m about to go to bed. Cannot find mouse, but luckily am too tired to worry. I don’t care if it scampers over my face at night, as long as it doesn’t wake me up.
Woken up by child with nosebleed. Start the day with some laundry and an Amazon purchase of humane mousetraps.