I was inspired to write this by this blog that Charlotte a single mum of twins and my best friend’s old boss wrote: https://womeninfamilylaw.net/how-is-covid-19-affecting-women-in-family-law/
“I really feel for you Adele, I really do” – this is what a colleague said to me at the beginning of “this situation” and I think it summarises things quite well: you really feel the weight of “single parenting” during a time like this but you also feel the support, I do anyway. I just wrote “a time like this” as if any of us have ever been through anything that compares, this is clearly NOT the case!
The first day I worked from home my daughter was still at school so it was fine, that lasted 3 days and then on Monday 23rd of March the concept of “it’s just you and me kid” took on a WHOLE other meaning! The night before I attempted to write a timetable and simply had no idea how a school day is even structured, all I knew is they did phonics in the morning and something called “5 a day”.
My first “homeschooling” failure was the fact I couldn’t even find the right section on her school website with all the homework etc. I had to email them to ask! Since then I’ve probably been on that page 3 times. Just like Charlotte mentions in her blog I quickly decided/realised/was forced to remove the whole concept of “homeschooling” from my life basically. I didn’t know how to do it, for example I asked A “how do you learn mathematics” and she replied “we watch a video”, hmmm super helpful. I didn’t know how to make her do school work or how much she should be doing or anything! Thankfully social media (which yes I’m addicted to and heavily influenced by) started having many messages about surviving and not worrying too much about homeschooling, which made me feel better. 2 friends of mine who are teachers also made it clear it’s even hard for them! I’ll be blunt, the parents (and it seems to be mums more than dads) that are proudly telling the world how they are “bossing” homeschooling and how much their kids are doing ARE NOT MY PEOPLE! My people are the mums, whose main concern was the ability to stockpile wine. I hardly ever drink at home but now it’s definitely a daily event. So homeschooling is not happening, she’s 5, in Finland they don’t start school til 7 so that’s that. I nearly forgot to mention that for one day it was heaven. A’s dad works for a very big American bank and they sent me a nanny for a day and it was like Mary Poppins, she looked after A and at the end of the day cooked dinner for both of us, I nearly cried as nobody cooks me dinner. Sadly that night lockdown was announced and I had to tell her not to come back.
What does she do all day then? Scatter everything from her bedroom all over the flat and balcony, do some drawings and watch TV. That’s all and that’s fine. She’s made all sorts of things with her toys and teddies, WOMAD festival, a cinema, a hairdressers, a village etc. Her imagination is quite impressive, however an active brain does mean a LOT of questions all day every day! She has also participated in some work calls: “can they hear me mummy?”, “what’s a database?” Etc The work calls are the hard part as yes it’s cute when they make an appearance but you do have to concentrate and so I quickly came up with the “lollipop” technique. One call=one lollipop and sometimes I keep tv time for call time as well. On Thursday she spent 45mins on a FaceTime “play date” with her friend whilst I spoke to a client. When I have to be fully focused on work that’s when being a single mum is hard because there is nobody else to keep an eye on her, play with her etc. My cousin and his fiancée have a rota throughout the day of who looks after their daughter, I don’t have that so I’ve ordered an iPad. Technology and chupa chups are my co-parent.
However I’m lucky that she went to her dad’s the first week of the Easter holiday. I thought I’d miss her but I didn’t, I needed the break so much after 2 weeks of intense one on one time 24 hours a day. I’m usually a big outsourcer and have no shame in admitting it. I have a cleaner, Arabella has regular babysitters, I use Hello Fresh so hardly have to do food shopping, I don’t iron, I pay people if anything happens in my flat etc. Suddenly no cleaner and my dishwasher broke. There are only 2 of us but somehow this meant lots of washing up because like everybody we are eating at home 3 times a day. Talking of cleaning, when I explained to A that we had to do the cleaning now , she said we should “watch a video on YouTube on how to do it”. For her it was clear mummy had no idea how to clean anything as she’s never seen me do it! I’m not that bad but I still can’t work out how my cleaner gets so much done in a few hours. Getting a new dishwasher this week was like Christmas. I really appreciated the week I had off, I decluttered, did loads of online Barre classes, watched a load of episodes of Billions and worked uninterrupted. It was night and day compared to the weeks before.
I don’t often feel “different” being a single mum except for on a few occasions like last summer at a BBQ where I had to leave early to take A to her dad’s and it was a drama because she wouldn’t leave and I so wanted to just be there with my husband and be like everyone else. I know that will happen again in the future. Lockdown has definitely made me feel the single mum thing, before it even started I found it very stressful planning for it alone, what food to buy etc and I suddenly had a much stronger desire than usual to put an end to this living alone business.
Now I have to finish on a positive note. For the past 2 Fridays, I’ve been hosting “cocktail hour at The Ned” on Zoom for Frolo (a single parent app and community that all single parents need in their life!) and it’s been so nice to meet new people and bring a bit of joy into their lives for an hour by recounting some of my “stories”. Indeed some single parents are not speaking to ANY other adults at the moment so I’m really grateful to be able to do that, if it cheers one person up then I’m happy. Also the support I have felt is heart warming, colleagues and friends that call or check in with me daily, offers of help from so many people. Finally 2 things that have come out of this: music and love. I’ve never listened to so much music in my life, some tracks will forever be associated with lockdown for me. It keeps me sane, distracts me, makes me emotional and all the dancing in the kitchen with A will never be forgotten (I could do with her wanting to listen to something else that George Ezra though). Love is clearly all we need, nothing else matters. I miss the ones I love dearly and know that everything will be OK long term. Stay strong everybody !