How to Survive Lockdown with My Family

The answer? I probably won’t.

A tin of Scottish Breakfast tea sits on a counter beside a mug with a Loch Ness monster tea strainer poking out
In this house, “tea” is a euphemism for “whatever is in Mommy’s mug.” (Image credit: author’s  own)

Well first, don’t ask me. Right now, I’m planning on taking them all with me.

I knew this experience would be challenging, but it has been awful so far, even though:

  • we are locked up in our (admittedly big) flat
  • we are easy walking distance to groceries (wine) and corner stores (wine)
  • we were granted special permission to use the courtyard (which up until now has been referred to as the “visual feature only — no access allowed” in any and all flat correspondence)
  • I work from home most of the time anyway
  • I have lots of creative ideas for staying active inside
  • we are living in the most connected time in all of human history, as far as being able to talk to, see, share with your friends*, coworkers, gyms, drinking buddies, etc.

It should be easier.

When the lockdown was threatened, when the governments were “just” closing borders, I bravely and humbly and civic-dutily declared that all these cancellations were just inconveniences, that anything that I lost (my half marathon weekend in Prague, a trip to Halifax to visit my grandmother, a weekend in the Sherwood Forest, and a week on a farm with the kids and dog in Wales**) was just me being selfishly disappointed.

I was fine with the kids still being at school, yelling after the bus, “Don’t forget to wash your hands!” every morning like a crazy person. This replaced my usual mantra, “Don’t forget to drink all your water!” Like a crazy person.

But now they’re at home. And so is Fis.

This has ruined my life.

I went from being a writer, editor, copywriter and fitness instructor with two bootcamps to being an unqualified home teacher with no patience or coping skills who cries a lot. Luckily, the uniform is the same: sweatpants and a generally dishevelled air.

I went from running five to nine miles, three times a week, to one thirteen-miler once a week, because I can’t go out for runs during the day, and somehow, running for two whole hours feels like a better option than spending that same two hours with my family. I’ve been able to do my 30-minute P90X3 workouts at the end of each school day. The kids are told to leave me alone for 30 minutes. Obviously and of course, they don’t.

I’m just trying to make it to Friday at 5:00, when I open the wine.

My WhatsApp groups went from six active ones (two running groups, two bootcamp groups, two silly friend groups) to twelve (acquaintances, fitness groups, school groups), three of which I muted immediately, two of which I quit this morning.

I love the entertaining gifs, the songs, the skits that people do when they’re home and bored. I don’t love that they have time to be bored. I don’t love the home schooling and what-to-do-with-your-kids discussions and links. I hate the well-meaning advice of people that don’t have kids or whose kids have left home or who do have kids but not in my kids’ school to “just take it easy” and “try less academic activities with the kids for now.” Just…don’t.

The school groups aren’t helping me. I put out a desperate cry at the end of the first week for commiseration — the six hours I am spending at the dining room table every day, between three children’s scheduled zoom meetings, assignments, and breaks that don’t match up, coming up with recess fitness routines, and the constant checking that the kid in Year 3, 5 and 6 was at least sort of doing what they were supposed to do — that this was hard for everyone.

Apparently, for those with only children or whose youngest is in Year 6, everything is going great. Good. For. Them. I’m so glad they’re able to fit in a full workday while their children do their schoolwork independently.

I can’t run my bootcamps from home. I mean, I could set up zoom sessions, but then the children would be feral and unsupervised and I’d be interrupted nonstop anyway. I’m doing most of my writing work after the kids go to bed, so no, this is not an “opportunity” for me to finish my novel or grow my coaching business. This is survival mode. I’m just trying to make it to Friday at 5:00, when I open the wine.

I know — I know — that we are lucky to have our health, supportive friends, this space, this structure to our days. I know that my frustrations are petty and that my kids’ behaviour is apparently normal, even though they are objectively the worst children on the planet, unkind and disrespectful and without manners and probably changelings.*** I know that millions of people are in worse situations with more fear and uncertainty.

And I also know that all I’m doing to help is to stay inside; I’m not actively helping.

I am sitting at the dining room table, being interrupted every 90 seconds by a question, a comment, an argument, an… hang on…

Update: Tamsin has found her pencil. It was under a piece of paper. And yes, I agree, Ziggy is very fuzzy.

*and former coworkers
**boy, look at me. That’s a whole lot of travel in a month. Unusual, but it hurt more because I have stuck Fis with the kids for a total of TEN DAYS since they were born, and this was the year that I was going to turn that number into TWENTY. Yeah.
***with terrible breath

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