The Lockdown Diaries
As we begin a period of social distancing and isolation, we've asked three writers to document their experiences. Today, it's the turn of Sophie White, mother to three small children. Follow her journey in the Irish Independent in the days and weeks ahead
When news of the school and creche closures hit last week, I was already in a quarantine of sorts having just given birth to my third baby two weeks before. Sitting in my car, parked at the seafront, typing against a deadline and willing the newborn to stay asleep for a few more minutes (maternity leave freelance-style is a buzz), the announcement came first via a WhatsApp group I'm in called Balding Mini Man Club - established when myself and two friends all had baby boys within months of each other. As three women, whose lives, careers and sanity are made possible by schools and childcare and partners being suitably occupied by work, the mood of the group was instantly nihilistic as it dawned on each of us just what a lockdown would mean.
"Routine is key" harps social media posts and experts on the radio and already, just days in, we are stringently adhering to blocks of time designated to breakfast, yard time (very prison movie-esque), family adventure time (drive somewhere, walk for two hours, drive back), home school time, family craft corner and family movie time (aka praise be! - the TV will parent them for a bit).
From 6am on - goddammit our kids start early - the day feels like an uphill trudge to the glorious family movie time when my eldest's near-constant monologuing might abate for an hour or so. I love him but my god it is relentless, it's like living with a cold-caller. I'd say he's averaging about 80,000 words a day so, ya know, a good sized novel.
We are now on day five of this strange new world and already a new normal of sorts has emerged. I'm acutely aware that there are people in far graver situations right now, so I've decided to ration my self-pity to just bite-sized moments of the day. For this, technology has proved an essential pressure valve. The group chat could now well be called "scenes from the end of our marriages".
"What does get the f**k out of the kitchen mean to you people?" I write rhetorically into the WhatsApp group regarding my husband and three children who all follow me from room to room maintaining a minimum of one metre's distance at all times in a trying reversal of the recommended social distancing.
"If daddy doesn't bring chocolate home from the shops I'm divorcing him," writes my friend. "Actual sentence I just said to the three-year-old," she continues.
Beyond medicinal bitching, the WhatsApp video call function is providing company to my friends who are self-isolating in even smaller groups. Last night, we hosted our first Covid-19 dinner party - not to be confused with a Donner Party. Being a single parent with vulnerable people in her immediate family, my pal has heroically opted to self-isolate alone with her six-year-old. Her six-year-old is of course a dote but we all know we'd probably prefer to be in enforced lockdown with cannibalistic frontiers people than alone with a six-year-old.
During my allotted pockets of indulgent self-pity time, I muse on what age kid is the worst to be in indefinite lockdown with. I have a six-year-old, a three-year-old and a three-week-old and I'd say whoever's eroding my tolerance most at any given moment changes depending on the time of day. Being with the six-year-old is like being trapped in a conversational hostage situation, but then he's helpful and quite funny. The three-year-old spat in my mouth this morning but is very, very cuddly. Meanwhile, the baby is relatively sound as long as there is a boob stuffed into his mouth.
Maybe of everyone, it's my 35-year-old - the husband - I'm feeling most ambivalent towards right now. We live in a small house - a house that is also now doubling as a school, a creche and an office for two adults and no matter where I happen to be in the small house, I can, at all times, hear him compulsively drumming and tapping, on surfaces, the table, the floor, his own body, everywhere. And all I can say is his colleagues are saints. While we've yet to go full Donner Party, looking at him during family movie time yesterday, I did catch myself musing on the life insurance policy we took out on him years ago for our first mortgage.
Tomorrow: Life on campus