365 days: Life & Parenting in a Pandemic.

The clock strikes midnight on 2019 and 2020 comes bouncing through the door, full of promise and potential. It’s a new decade, the 20’s have arrived and we have so much hope. BUT HOLD YOUR BLOOMING HORSES LOVE, 2020 has other ideas – it goes on to be a year we’ll never forget.

For our family, late 2019 brought us a wonderful new baby so 2020 was supposed to be full of firsts and a life adjustment to becoming a family of four, whilst sharing our beautiful boys with our family & friends. It is the year we would celebrated 10 years as a couple, 2 years as fiancés and we would be all set to get married in the October (spoiler alert: we still did!). The year of friends’ weddings, honeymoons and holidays, new opportunities and adventure. Obviously, this did not happen. 2020 threw a tonne of shit at us and change was the only path that lay ahead of us. 

Change is a struggle for many, and in these extreme circumstances, it has become a struggle for most. It appears the human race loves a good habit and each of us has our own set of habits – it’s what makes each of us who we are. Now, I’m sure some people love change, but I am just not one of them. I really hate change. I felt things getting overwhelming very quickly. You may have guessed it but I’m a die-hard creature of habit: I eat three meals a day and snack twice, I never miss dessert and always start the day with a coffee (decaf at a push!). I love to walk and could spend hours window shopping, pacing aisles of supermarkets and homeware stores, mindlessly imagining what interiors I could change or what craft I could (attempt to) take up next. I love knowing where I am or where I’m heading and uncertainty certainly sets off a string of anxieties. 

Many a walk…

Lockdown for us started at a funny time. We had this beautiful little newborn and a bouncy boy who’d just turned 3. Things were so good. I love the newborn stage with its scheduled day time naps, feeding round the clock and a fair few sleepless nights – tiring but nevertheless, a routine. Sadly, it wasn’t to last. As self-isolation & lockdown began, this flipped, was scrapped and has quite frankly vanished. Despite this, I had to remember our family was one of the lucky ones. Most importantly, no loved ones were lost. No jobs were lost, just routines disrupted and freedoms reduced. The toll of having your spouse at work at the office all day whilst you handled the children sounded like a small slice of normality for us and yet, not quite. I guess it really hit home when I read the backlash from a comment made by Justin Timberlake about parenting for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week being ‘unnatural’. My first thoughts were ‘oh shit, did he just say that out loud!?’ but as I started to mull it over, man alive he is not wrong. Even if we are stay-at-home parents, there are playgroups and coffee mornings or school where our kids (and we) get interaction with other human beings that may be an extension of our support network or all of our network. It’s vital communication with others that makes everyday life, well, a life. 

Our eldest, Rory had just turned 3 (he’ll be 4 on Friday!) and he was just coming into his own. He’s passionate and emotional, he’s euphoric one moment and downright inconsolable the next. He feels everything. He would tell you he loves you every day whilst poking you in the eye and stamping crisps into your carpet, all whilst having absolutely no problem doing it. His favourite phrases were ‘do you need me’ and ‘that’s not a good deal’ – both adorable and heart-breaking in many ways with his big brown eyes and wicked smile to match. 

We knew isolation would be challenging but unfortunately, it was evident quite early on that Rory requires a lot more from most days than I alone could give him. Now, usually Rory would attend nursery a few times week and head to my mother-in-law’s for a few days too. This would usually leave me one whole day of double parenting, which on some occasions had been more than plenty. Rory loves his friends, his nursery nurses and of course his Granny and it was a given that not seeing these core people in his life was going to be tricky for him. He’s incredibly bright and understands concepts way beyond that of a pre-schooler but trying to explain invisible coughs and colds keeping us inside was heart breaking.  

More family memories!

He’s always on the go and as a second-time-section-mama, I was not as fit as I once was. As Little Henry relied on me for enormous proportions of the day, times where I was breastfeeding proved to be challenging – turns out I physically can’t be chasing a toddler round the garden whilst I’m attached to a baby, a skill I never thought I’d be disappointed not to have. On the plus side, I certainly had a lot less time to worry about my weight or what I’m stuffing in my gob every five minutes, despite a lot of the media ramming ‘lockdown body goals’ down our throats – a topic for another day!

We often find ourselves capable of far more than we give ourselves credit for but mental and physical exhaustion can completely destroy this and sometimes it can be impossible to see the next step forwards. For me, there has been just two ways to handle this lockdown isolation: embrace it or switch on survival mode. Some days I used one of these, but most I needed both and there has definitely been days where it’s been battle after battle with little to no enjoyment to be found anywhere. Picture the kind of day where you’re stepping on Lego, being barfed on and spending 4 hours consoling an unknown tantrum whilst drowning in washing, dishes and sand from that ‘bloody sandpit’. The pandemic grew and our fears with it but we stayed strong and focused on what we could have now rather than what we once wanted. Our little Henry was robbed (if that’s the right word!) of his chance to make little friends, interact with others and learnt to socialise. This was the toughest to digest as we passed his first birthday and entered 2021 still unsure of when any of the ‘normal’ elements of life would return. All this began as the impossible task but as the days, weeks and eventually months rolled on, my ‘modes’ evolved. The sun started to shine and things appeared a lot less dark. 

We learnt our alphabet, we watched our entire Disney+ bucket list in a month, we bought a 10ft swimming pool, we walked hundreds of Bear Hunts and we bought all the Lego Duplo we could get our hands on. Rory eventually returned to nursery in July and he slotted back in like he’d never been away. We instantly looked back over those months and realised we’d learnt to enjoy the days for what they were: borrowed time. We then spent hours longing for some of our old life back and more hours praying the work/life balance we once had will never show its ugly face again. As a nation, we know now what life balance we were all missing.

Busing ourselves with Lego, Alphabet & Disney.

As 2020 took most things from us, we were adamant to regain control of one thing, our wedding. Planned for 28 months, we were crushed on multiple occasions as the finish line & goal posts were continuously moved and shrunk. Many tears were shed, many plans were changed but one thing remained: we were absolutely going to do all we could to be married on 10th October, in any capacity as long as it was allowed. We downsized our guests, changed our venue and amended most of our supplier packages to fit the new rules and with amazing family, a wing & a prayer, we pulled everything together for our long-awaited day.

Looking back, we loved every minute. We were just 14 which was quite a downsize from 120 but it didn’t matter. We wanted to be husband & wife and to have our nearest and dearest around meant the world to us. Yes, there were some that couldn’t be there but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Zoom helped them tune in to see it all. We danced & sang, raised our glasses and for a brief white lace & tartan clad moment, forgot everything else – it was absolute bliss. 

Newlyweds!

As you can imagine, our honeymoon (well ‘familymoon’ at that stage) options were slim and international travel of any kind was off the cards so we packed up and left for somewhere near the sea and full of things to do: Brighton! A place we’d never been, now a place close to our hearts. It’s amazing how different you feel once you’ve seen the sea, had a classic bag of fish & chips and a walk for miles & miles putting the world to right. It’s a bag full of core memories I’ll treasure forever and a place we’ll definitely be visiting in 2021.

Before we knew it, Christmas was upon us and things began to look shaky. Vaccines filled the news briefings and panic was instilled once more. Were we going to be locked down for Christmas? Were we going to risk getting sick shopping for presents? Were we even going to be allowed to see our family? As I said – panic instilled. We had a normal-ish Christmas but the first one without my grandparents since I can remember. They stayed home shielded and safe but nonetheless I am sad that we’d be apart for what should be a time for celebration. We used FaceTime & Zoom and connected as much as we could, making virtual Christmas, the new Christmas. A past time I now pray won’t be necessary this year. 

2021 arrived with a bump as we were thrust into Lockdown 3.0 but for us by now, we’d formulated a way to cope with the normal we craved being ever so slightly out of reach. A daily walk still is our go-to. It’s breathing in the fresh air being we regularly take for granted, freedom of movement to run (or sledge) across a field and we now know we have to keep on top of this to survive this without crashing. Nights got shorter and as the snow phase passed over, we entered what is now beginning to look and feel a lot like Spring: The season of growth & hope. 

We’ve been under this Covid spell for 365 days and I can only pray as the governments path to re-opening begins to flower, we are able to regain control over our lives in the ways we’ve always wanted. There’s no doubt we’ve had regrets; we didn’t travel enough or go on the adventures we’d planned, didn’t see people we’d wished we’d seen, missed out on events… the list goes on as our lives have been on hold. It’s a process of grief, but just like all grief, there comes a time to move on and move forwards. This becomes a fresh start which you can use for banishing toxic work habits or wasting time doing activities you don’t want to, planning getaways or making bucket lists – there’s no reason to hold back. As a family, we made a jar of wishes a year ago and can’t wait to open it when life picks back up (y’all know there’s a Disney holiday or two in there!). Why not make a list and see where it takes you?

There has been so much to learn from the last 365 days, it’s a time that will never be forgotten and sure to be a story we tell for generations. We’ve faced things we never imagined and witnessed things we never thought we’d see. Things are still feeling rough but whilst looking back, however you have handled isolation/lockdown and/or parenting during these times, please try your best to remember this is not your new normal, these were and still are not normal times. Your reaction to it all and your lifestyle now doesn’t reflect the life you will lead be going forwards. This is temporary and it was more than ok to go into survival mode – it might have been the only way to get by. You’ve done all you can and you should be proud of yourself.

Just hold on tight. We’re nearly there… 

One Curious Mother .xo

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