COVID-19-ways-to-roll-your-eyes-at-your-family fever has well and truly set in at the Mumlyfe household.* Like most families out there, we’ve moved through the first three stages of lockdown to emerge bleary-eyed into the sunlight. Just don’t go out into that good light unless you have an essential reason, of course.
The stages of iso are pretty simple, really. First we love, then we hate, then we just get on with our new normal. Of course, like anything to do with family life, it’s not quite that simple…
* Note, Mumlyfe used to be a workplace, but, like everything else in the entire world, it is now a household.
The three stages of lockdown
Stage one: I love my family
The initial early stages of lockdown brings a hot flush of true love for the amazing family we are so lucky to have.
“We get to spend quality time together,” we gleefully exclaim to each other during our online yoga class.
“We are bonding as a family unit more than ever!” we tell our mums via Facetime.
“We’re doing more together as a family and we’re all getting along so well,” we beam to the cashier at Woolies, who we have become quite chatty with lately.
“Life has slowed down and we’ve reconnected!” we tell the neighbour from 1.5 metres away. We think his name is Bob, but we’ve never actually met him before, despite living two houses away for ten years. Three years from now the postie will accidentally put Bob’s mail in our letterbox and we’ll discover his name is actually Phil.
“I hope life stays like this forever,” we yell to the careless postman from the balcony.
This is quite a short period.
Stage two: I hate my family
This is the part where reality sets in.
Sure, we love our family (“More than ever, Bob! More than ever!”), but we are also growing to loathe quite a lot about them too.
Let’s face it, we were robbed of the ‘self’ aspect of ‘self-isolation’ the minute they told us that families are exempt from the social distancing rules. Right now, social distancing just looks like being way more involved in our kids’ education than we ever thought possible. It’s still not possible – not possible at all.
More on this: The kids doing school from home is going to kill me
That, plus a lot more cleaning. So. much. cleaning. Our hands are raw from cleaning and excess use of hand sanitiser.
Now, combine the educating and the cleaning with becoming what is essentially our partner’s colleague. We never wanted to see that, not ever.
My work-guy husband is the kind of person who says things like “I’ll reach out to you in a couple of days” and “let’s circle back to Penny’s point”. Work-guy Husband has really boring meetings in the middle of the dining room and shushes everyone when he has to come off mute. Work-guy husband can’t believe how long a day at home actually is and how much shit kids pour into the day, every day.
“You put up with this every day?” he says in disbelief, somehow shocked that the couple of hours he sees the kids for in the evenings is pretty much what they’re like all day, every day. “They’re more exhausting than commuting!”
Exhausting and messy. If we have to pick one more wet towel off the bathroom floor. If we have to wash one more crusty cheese-laden dish left in the sink. If we have to straighten one more cushion on the sofa. If we have to empty one more sink drainer of bits of rotting vegetable. We. will. die.
Everyone is infected
It’s not just us, though. It’s fair to say stage two hits the entire family pretty hard.
Little kids don’t understand why we are keeping them prisoner. They tell Grandma via Facetime that the world is a dangerous place and no-one can go outside. In fact, we have been so diligent in our social-distance training with the under 5’s that it will actually be years before we are able to get our child to set foot outside the front door again without screaming.
Tweens hate us for cancelling sport and playdates. That is literally all they care about. They refuse to try any other at-home exercise except making TikTok videos. The first three bars of Renegade is enough to send chills down our spines.
Teenagers (who, it must be noted, bypass stage one of quarantine completely) are plotting to kill us all in our sleep for not closing the schools. So, really, it’s business as usual for them. They never liked leaving their bedrooms anyway and who sees people in person anymore, god you’re so old-fashioned, omg, just no, I can’t even, stop.
Everyone yells at each other a lot during this stage. Really loudly.
Stage three: Acceptance
Eventually, the loathing that settled over the household like dust begins to clear. Nobody is sure why or how this happens, but somehow it does. We’ve moved along the three stages of lockdown to rest gently at stage three.
We wake up one morning and the kids aren’t yelling at each other over who gets the last crumb of flour from the pantry.
The work-guy husband has moved his desk into the bedroom and is blissfully unseen for much of the day, just like old times.
We’ve built ourselves a blanket fort in the nook under our desk to hide out and eat the chocolate we hoarded when the media was falsely reporting that no-one was hoarding chocolate.
The kids have finally stopped threatening to “go out anyway, kids don’t die of it” and are doing cool things online.
- Start a coronaproject: 17 ways for kids to grow doing quarantine
- Online resources: How to support online learning while working from home
- Keep busy: 40+ free online activities for kids
We’ve got a list taped to the fridge of things to do instead of complain to Mum about being bored.
We managed to entice the entire family out for a walk, because at this point being seen in public with your family is less concerning than watching the four walls of your bedroom get ever closer to eating you.
In fact, the entire suburb seems to be out walking for exercise (“Margery, haven’t seen you in years,” we say, as we awkwardly try to manoeuvre around Margery on the footpath while keeping the requisite 1.5 metre distance.)
Breathe it all out
The pace of life slows and everyone breathes out. The family isn’t worryingly in each other’s pockets, but we’re not avoiding each other either. In fact, aside from the killer virus that lurks like an unseen assassin every time we leave the house, life is good.
“We’ll change,” we declare to the woman 1.5 metres behind us in the Coles checkout line. “We’ll never go back to how things were before COVID-19. We’ve all learned so much about slowing down and really focusing on what matters.”
“Do you need both those packs of 48-roll toilet paper?” she replies.
We hand one over, snap a photo and immediately start updating our status: “This is what kindness looks like… #kindness.” In that moment, we unwittingly move into stage four of quarantine: in danger of completely disappearing up our own arse (active stage four is demonstrated daily by many celebrity Instagrammers).
Beware of stage four.
Which one of the stages of lockdown are you up to?
All images by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash