Marriage or relationship breakdown is a stressful and uncertain time. Emotions run high and you…
This lockdown got me good.
I wrote about resilience during the last lockdown in the ACT, and my experience then (and that, I’m sure, of many others) certainly had me thinking I was prepped for this next one.
Not that I didn’t panic. Not that I didn’t call my Mum again, in tears. But I recovered quickly, picked myself up of the kitchen floor and told myself I could do this.
And I was right. I have been ‘doing’ it. But the doing, well, it’s really starting to get to me.
I write from the perspective of a single mother with a couple of small children and one teenager, and while I know many of my day-to-day struggles relate to the pressure cooker that is parenting during lockdown, I reckon the triggers, reactions and daily emotional flip outs are being played in households of all shapes right across the region (and the country).
So, why did I think it would be easier this time?
For a start, I wasn’t going through an intense personal crisis at the same time (as I was last year). My little ones are a bit older now, and my teen is more adjusted to high school.
I’m living closer to my support networks (although locky-d does make some of those those tricky to access), my employer is amazingly flexible and I already work remotely so no great adjustment there.
I stocked the pantry with snacks, the fridge with wine and strapped my coffee machine in for a workout.
The first few weeks were okay. Sure, I was juggling the little ones at home in a pretty small house but I’m amazing at this, remember? I’ve got my list of fun, lockdown activities for children and even invented a couple of new ones (moving the car out of the garage and creating a daily dance party by turning off the light, handing out glow sticks and cranking 90s dance music was a parenting career highlight. Feel free to use it. You’re welcome).
But after the water play, trips to the park, drawing and colouring with brand new markers, and Netflix, Netflix and Netflix started to wear thin, I was back in the exact same place as I was last year.
Absolutely exhausted and bored yet run off my feet all at once.
I’ve started waking up with a heavy feeling in my chest. The tears sometimes arrive before I even pulled back the covers. The TV goes on at breakfast time and I’m not even guilty about it.
Sometimes I go to bed as soon as my kids fall asleep because I just can’t handle any more of the day.
Did I learn a bunch from the last lockdown? Yes. Am I buoyed each day by the (mostly) amazing community spirit in Canberra that we will get through this together? Yes. Am I utterly defeated again? Also yes.
Because you know what? THIS IS REALLY HARD. And it doesn’t matter how we prep, how we flip our mindsets and practice gratitude that we haven’t been as hard hit as other parts of the country, this is still really hard, guys.
My mistake was expectation. That because I’d done this hard thing before it would somehow be less hard this time. I expected myself to be better. To do better. To be a better mother, employee, friend, sister and daughter this time.
But I’m not. I’m just me, doing the best I can and trying to accept that sometimes (most of the time) that version of ‘best’ is not going to come close to what I think I should be right now.
It’s taken me five weeks of lockdown to work this out. I had to hit rock bottom before I realised it was time to acknowledge that thing I know but seem to always, conveniently, forget in moments when it’s hardest to apply—that expectation is the cause of all suffering.
And, as a mother, the expectations we put on ourselves at the best of times are generally pretty outrageous. So, there’s absolutely no logical reason why I should hold on to those—even elevate them! Madness during a territory-wide lockdown.
Here’s the thing. My expectations of myself don’t need to be lower—they need to be re-categorised. Because you know what? These hard things are actually amazing things.
Getting everyone out of bed in the morning? Amazing, everyone is alive! Noodles for lunch three days in a row? Amazing, your family is fed! PJs all day? Amazing, less washing!
And we are all doing amazing, sweetie.
So, next time that internal voice tells you that you really should be providing a more nutritious dinner than nuggets and chips (again), or that the TV has been on for way too long, or that your children’s behaviour is really going downhill and oh my god WHAT DID YOU DO to fail them so terribly, please know that you are amazing and doing very hard but very amazing things right now. And we will all be okay.
But until then, please know that I, for one, am with you.