Part 2-My lockdown life as a mother
I’ve never cried so much in the past few days. My despair would undoubtedly rival some of the most challenging days with my eating disorder. These days, the tears keep flowing as the life I’ve had to leave behind becomes more a distant memory.
Before having children, I believed motherhood would be beautiful; I would be the chosen one, lucky enough to have a baby who slept a lot. A happy baby with days packed full of moments to cherish and, in due course, I’d have children to show off to the world. Then, the children would go off to school to flourish and begin their transition to adolescence. During school hours, as a mother I would have time to work, look after myself or prepare for witching hour when the children returned home. This routine would work well, allowing for the juggling of various commitments.
Unfortunately, due to the situation surrounding the pandemic, motherhood doesn’t come close to what I envisaged all those years ago. I did not know what “lockdowns” meant back then. Even if I did know, I would never expect a lockdown to be a reality, not here in beautiful Australia; long been regarded as the lucky country. Yet here we are in 2021, familiar with lockdowns enforced at a rapid and unpredictable pace. The harsh reality is that mothers and fathers are now expected to wear many hats, with each hat representative of the additional roles we’ve had to take on. The pressure has become intense as we are:
- Responsible for the education of our children
- Our children’s primary source of social interaction
- Counsellor to our children
- The wise person with all the answers for our children
- Keeping our children’s heads above water
- And doing everything else we already do (far too many things to list here)
I would’ve laughed at what would seem an impressive exaggeration nine years ago. Not that I expected motherhood to be a walk in the park, but weeks on end behind locked doors with no visitors and no one to visit are no fun for anyone. Most of us now have no choice but to simultaneously take on a trio of responsibilities (worker, parenting, home educator). It’s little wonder the feeling of failure lingers deep within us every day; how can we be expected to perform any of these roles to even a reasonable standard?
I admit I’ve failed at achieving a workable balance. Everything but the education of my children has taken a back seat. That includes The Picture Healer, where I struggle to find the time to write blogs regularly. My mind is in a constant race against itself to figure out, “What more can I do to achieve everything I did before the pandemic?” I’m filled with frustration at myself as I forget EVERYTHING I’ve been thinking about. I live each day in fear of the virus and I’m filled with rage at the rule breakers who act so blatantly recklessly. I’m overwhelmed and out of my league; my head is barely above water. I cry a lot.
Gone are the days of finding time to do the simplest tasks for me. Whether that be self-care, work or quiet time, all have taken a back seat and don’t seem to matter anymore. Deep down, I know they do, but this doesn’t matter when my children are missing out on so much. As I sit here writing this blog, all my hard work has gone out the window as I realise something: I’m edging close to breaking point, and I have no idea how to pull back and stop it.
Before the pandemic, being a mother of young children was never a straightforward task. Fraught with conflict, motherhood is exhausting and time-consuming, even on the best of days. Likened to the thrill of riding the bumpiest of emotional rollercoasters, one never knows what peaks or calamities each day will bring. Life is unpredictable. One minute, we can be filled with a sense of total adoration and delight. The next, this can be tipped upside down, revealing the opposite of emotions, utter frustration, and maddened exasperation towards these little individuals we brought into this world. This is parenthood in its intensity, vigour and rawness.
I would love to go back to those times. Lockdowns feel like what I imagine prison life is like. The playing field of daily life has dramatically changed, throwing the role of parenting upside down, inside out and making it completely unhinged.
From the onset of COVID -19, life with children changed. Every emotion has been magnified times by one hundred. My two children are rebelling. They’ve had enough of home, home learning and each other; they argue and yell, this never seems to stop. And here I am witnessing the chaos that surrounds me, feeling useless and obsolete. Just as I thought I’d got the hang of keeping my children happy, COVID-19 steps in and ruins everything. I don’t even get to sit on my couch, binge-watching Netflix. Resentment sets in, as does guilt and anger.
When COVID-19 abruptly entered our lives, it also shut the front door, firmly, to the freshness and vitality of the outside world. We live with an expectation that we will carry on with minimal support systems in place. With no one to turn to, no parks, no playdates and little therapeutic help. The home resembles a battle zone, somewhere I’m sick spending my days with no possible escape insight. My body has resorted to “fight and flight mode”, as it identifies a distinct sense of danger, and threshold has shorted. My eating disorder is talking to me once again, it tells me I’m fat and disgusting, and the aversion towards my wardrobe of clothes is returning. Eating disorder-related behaviours, particularly body checking, is forcing my hand, and I am too weak to fight back. I feel a solid need to get the hell out of here as soon as humanly possible. But where will I go?
A brief look at a day in my life as a mum during COVID-19 lockdown
Like a song that plays on repeat, over and over, every lockdown has followed the same routine. It begins as I drag myself reluctantly out of the comfort of my bed. On most days, I’d prefer to pull the covers over my head and pretend this day doesn’t exist. When I manage to drag myself away from the solace of my bedroom, I’m welcomed by the sound of kids’ TV shows playing loudly in the background as the nagging and arguments begin for another day. “Turn the TV down, get dressed, make your bed.” And when the children don’t listen, I hear the words again, over and over, until one of two things happen. The children either reciprocate or continue to stare into the TV screen as if I hadn’t entered the room. I’ve become invisible!
The children snack all day and refuse to eat meals. Our days are filled with home learning as I spend the remainder of the day bouncing from one child to the other, logging them into Zoom and telehealth appointments. I’ll eat something small, that is, when I remember. To be honest, I’m not sure how I’m still standing; I must be running on pure adrenaline. What I miss the most are a moment of solace and complete quietness, but that is a thing of the past, as is the routine of nourishing my body with the food I know I should be eating.
We keep going until dinner time, when I no longer have the stamina to cook. Instead, I’ve stocked the fridge with a supply of ready-made meals that my children will eat. Don’t me; I judge myself harshly enough. Then it’s bedtime; and the struggle to get them settled starts all over again. I ask them to be quiet and go to sleep despite experiencing my own problematic sleeping patterns. I should know better than to lecture.
Put yourself first, they say!
I’m willing to admit, lockdowns have brought out a sense of wanting to escape everyday life, of wishing I could run for dear life and preferably AWAY from children. Every day I yearn for time alone, either at home or somewhere surrounded by green, with my camera in hand and the pleasant sounds of nature. But this is nothing more than a pleasant dream. If I could make my children disappear for a few hours a day, I wouldn’t hesitate. Again, please no judgment when I say, if it can happen, just tell me when.
Before people jump up and down in judgment, I’m not proud of feeling this way, nor do I believe that deep down, I’m a horrible mother. I’m forever second-guessing myself, questioning why everyone else seems to be coping, yet I am in a world full of struggle. Each day, I put myself last, and if I can push myself any further down the list of priorities, I’ll do it in a heartbeat because, as far as I’m concerned, my children shouldn’t have to suffer as a result of my struggle to survive this new way of living.
Oh Sam, you are way too hard on yourself. I have cried 3 times today once when talking about Dad, second time reading my niece’s journey with her child who has a disability and then when reading your blog. You are not alone, not hopeless, useless, or clueless as you seem to feel. We are all travelling the same journey some of us have more handicaps than others and some are coping better than others, but I have yet to meet anyone who is coping really well. Do not feel alone and discouraged, many times I have not got out of bed until midday, waiting for all the numbers, outlooks and press conferences and trying to living a life by this stuff. We will most probably nearly all of us get Covid 19 before we are done, but those of us that are double vaxxed may not even know we have it. You have accomplished some absolutely wonderful things during this terrible time so now is not the time to drop the ball with regards your eating disorder. We WILL GET PAST THIS even though hard yards yet and you will smile, photograph and be happy as will your family again. Thinking of you and I am sure I will see a far more positive post in the near future. Written with love and care Julie xxx
Thank you for the support, Julie. I’m sorry this blog gave you one of three reasons to cry. Definitely not my intention.