24/7 lockdown. It’s a lot to take in, isn’t it? And when couples with kids are thrust into isolation the D word can crop up. Did you know that in Wuhan, as ‘normal’ life starts to resume, divorce rates soar to an all time high?
These unprecedented times certainly put a sudden strain on family life – our rhythm and routine completely upended; swept aside by a tornado of new and relentless responsibilities. Overnight, some parents have become teachers, all the while navigating toddler tantrums, sibling squabbles and newborn neediness. Many juggling all this whilst working from home or supporting a partner trying to get some work done, too. This really tests the confines of the home – the kitchen table taking on a whole new identity as a shared working space. But whilst many in Wuhan leap to ‘opt out’, for me – and many others – this might just be the best thing to have happened to my marriage…
I didn’t return to work after my firstborn. In truth, there wasn’t much to return to. I’d been freelancing as a yoga instructor and there aren’t many students prepared to wait around for a teacher who goes on mat leave. So, I’ve been a stay-at-home parent now for the best part of five years. And by stay-at-home, I mean I rule the roost. I am, quite frankly, the boss of our babies, making every parenting decision when it comes to our children.
From sleep routines and pram pushing to get them to actually nap, to weaning, cooking and feeding them to get them to actually eat; from policing an at-all-times-fully-stocked changing bag to clamouring around soft plays and running around playgrounds; from clearing up vomit, dragging them to the doctor and holding them down for vaccinations, to potty training, packing for holidays and dealing with mounds of their washing when we get back… This list is non-exhaustive. And it is also endless.
Over the past five years, I have sacrificed months of sleep tending to them through the nights (they are God awful sleepers) and I can count on one hand the number of bath times they’ve had without me. All the while never once has there not been food in the fridge, on the table, or a dry, bare cupboard in the house. So guess what? The balance in mine and my husband’s relationship shifted.
Here’s the thing with us; we have always been a great partnership. A real team. We’ve had to overcome some difficult life events but we’ve always come through stronger. Yet no moment has dynamically changed our relationship as much as the arrival of our much wanted and longed for children.
It certainly wasn’t my fault. Nor in any way was it his. It was just the way it had to be in our family. His pressurised job often demanded long hours and, since moving out of London, he endures over an hour of commute – each way, each day. I am, of course, not a single parent but, wow, can I relate to the intensity of what that life must be like after daily, back-to-back 14 hour shifts solo parenting all week long.
Yet these past couple of weeks, with my husband working from home, we’ve discovered a renewed balance to our hectic life as a family of four. Don’t get me wrong, the night wakings are still my domain, but there is a little less pressure for me to get up after a bad night because there is no mad dash for the 7.07 train that morning.
PLUS there’s an extra pair of hands around to pick up the washing, make the beds, take down the water glasses and feed the cat! There’s also somebody else here at bath time. Every. Single. Night. And someone to hoover and tidy up whilst the other reads bedtime stories and dries wet hair. I’ve even had lunch made for me this week, twice… Between you and me, I could really get used to this!
The atmosphere outside our noisy, chaotic homes is an unfamiliar one, and one of fear. We’re anxious and unsettled because we have been forced into lifestyle changes overnight, and who dares hazard a guess at for how long… But as I sit here supping a cuppa that my husband made me whilst taking a break from his work, I remember these wise words: “Don’t be afraid of change. You might end up losing something good, but you may gain something better”.
I hope you all stay home, safe and well. And far from lawyers like us!