parent opinion

OPINION: "Please, stop telling me to 'just enjoy this time' in lockdown with my kids."

The other day a friend of mine posted something about the extended Victorian Lockdown. 

Not back at school until the end of October!’ she wrote, with a little emoji displaying her shock. There were a few comments of support and some more emojis displaying frustration and tears.

And then: ‘Treat it as a wonderful opportunity to spend time with your children. They will grow up fast! Just enjoy it!’

Um. With all due respect, f*ck off.

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Because here’s the thing - I love spending time with our kids. We’ve watched our twins in prep learning to read and write. We’ve watched our Grade 2 child develop the independence to keep track of all his live lessons. We’ve seen our Grade 4 child write poetry and walk the dog by himself. 

It has been a wonderful opportunity and one that has sent us to bed in wide-eyed wonder and appreciation for everything we have. 

But there have also been moments where all four kids needed printing at the same time. Urgently. And there’s a paper jam. And times where all four needed help understanding something and to locate a missing sheet and to bake a cake and to do a science experiment using ingredients and objects we didn’t actually have. And all these times coincided with trying to get work finished by a deadline and a pandemic puppy who had just peed on the floor.

There have been moments where we said ‘just a minute’ to our kids so many times that they stopped asking for help and the guilt was impossible to bear. 

And snacks. All of the snacks. All of the time.

There have been WiFi crashes and frustrated tears from both children and parents (and no doubt teachers on the other end).

There have been moments that the business implications of lockdown have left us unable to sleep for fear of what the future will hold. 

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So no, I don’t want to just enjoy it, complete stranger on the internet. Because in the history of people feeling anxiety and stress, I doubt any sentence that starts with the word ‘Just...’ has ever done anything to ease the burden.

I love eating ice cream. I love swimming in the ocean. But licking a scoop of chocolate in a waffle cone while submerged under salt water and trying to breaststroke? Nope, I don’t want to do these two things simultaneously. It just doesn’t work. 

That’s what these last few months have been like.

Just because lockdown has been filled with so many things I enjoy (Kids! Puppies! Work! Cooking!) trying to do all these things at the exact same time has severely impacted my enjoyment levels. 

So please don’t tell me to ‘just enjoy it’ when my nerves are so frazzled that the sound of another pencil dropping to the floor brings me to tears. Don’t tell me to ‘just enjoy it’ when I can’t complete a full sentence without multiple interruptions. When every flat surface in the house is filled with school work. When there is never not the distorted sound of a voice coming through a screen.

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When I was a first-time mum, our newborn would not sleep. Ever. I read the books, I did the routine, I restricted dairy and cut out coffee and still….no luck. 

My next door neighbour popped over once to hand me some mail that had been delivered to the wrong house. 

I opened the door, unwashed hair, spit up down my top, baby over my shoulder, with a look on my face that clearly demonstrated I had not slept in the six weeks since his birth. 

‘Enjoy this time!’ she said. ‘They grow up so fast.’ Again, not helpful. 

Did I enjoy that phase? Absolutely. Was it also terrifying and exhausting and overwhelming? One hundred per cent. 

It was once I knew that everything would be ok - that he would sleep eventually, that we would find our groove - that I could breathe again. 

One day I will have the privilege of looking back at this time with nostalgia. But nostalgia only exists with the benefit of separation in space and time. And we’re still too knee-deep in it to be able to look back. 

And that’s ok. It doesn’t make us any less grateful or appreciative, it makes us human.

Feature Image: Getty

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