Family Life Under UK's Lockdown
What really happens when we're all stuck indoors.
It's fair to say people don’t necessarily see me as the homely type. I am built like a stick insect with biceps. I never talk about my husband or kids in public. And through a recent short-haired phase of mine, I managed to convince most God-loving Americans I was a full-blown lesbian.
It is true in part. I have been a catastrophic failure at much of what mothering is supposed to be. My first marriage lasted less than a year, leaving me as a single mother with two children under the age of two and a job that spanned both sides of the Atlantic.
(The beady-eyed amongst you will have spotted that any notion of saving myself for the wedding night went out the window around the same time I learned to drive. According to my mother, you aren’t supposed to have a two-year-old when you have been married for less than a year).
I have never been asked to be a godmother, ever. None of my friends have thought me worthy or capable enough of being the person to care for their child if the worst should befall them. When you are looking for a safe, capable, and secure pair of hands, my name is not the first name on the list.
I tell you all this not out of self-pity (though the failure to be a godmother to any living thing is quite the indictment) but because lockdown has not impacted us all equally at all. And I recognize that cancer sufferers, COPD patients, and the very elderly have had a bit of a rough time with this flu.
But spare a thought for ball-breaking bitches like me. We were not designed to be at home. At no point did I gain 350lbs after my wedding and start home-baking meringue pie and wearing aprons with frills on. And I have zero interest in life hacks for cleaning the slats in my window blinds. If they see a vacuum cleaner once a year, they can consider themselves blessed.
I may have said “I do” to Lovely Mark (so nice he is called Lovely Mark by other women, in sympathy for what he has to endure with me). But I never said “I do” to spending life locked down together 24/7 when it becomes illegal to leave our damn home - or meet anyone more interesting than ourselves.
And it is true: he is lovely and far too nice for me. But I swear to my maker, if the first thing he does when he comes into the kitchen is rearrange the dishes drying on the rack for “optimum air exposure,” I may grab a blunt spoon out of the drawer and scoop out my own eyeballs.
I feel the same way about my three children. They are lovely too, by any reasonable measure. At 16, 15, and 12, they don’t smoke, drink, or take drugs. My eldest is far more sensible than I will ever be and as a grandchild he is much preferred by my mother and father to their errant daughter.
My middle daughter has a side-hustle as a milkmaid at the farm down the road and milks a herd of cows at 4 a.m. each Saturday, which is pretty impressive given most girls her age spend the day pouting on Snapchat.
And my cute son (nicknamed Golden Balls because he can do no wrong in his doting father’s eyes) must have been switched at birth as he is pretty darn perfect.
But even so.
There is a point in which children still get to keep that title and all the trappings that go with it — food put on the table, washing done and returned in ironed piles, bathrooms cleaned, and bedsteads polished — but are actually the size of fully grown adults. Their shoes are the size of small boats, and their coats inflate to fill my little utility room. They are massive. We are five massive people under one roof 24/7. Without the daily release of school, there is no escaping their sheer size.
My kitchen has become an industrial food-processing plant. One thing bored children do to pass the hours is to graze, endlessly, like the cows my middle daughter milks, with their heads down and their arses up.
Other mothers will understand.
I suggested to the Lovely Mark that we convert the end of our kitchen island table where we gather to feed the herd into a trough. We can just pump food into it, and the kids can suck it up with straws to cut out any unnecessary chinaware or cutlery.
Perhaps we could convert the kitchen windows into a kind of drive-through? The kids can walk around the outside, and we can fling food to them out of the windows, like McDonald's but without the uniforms or packaging.
On an altogether happier note, my sex life has bucked the lockdown trend and remained intact. Kate Moyle is a relationship psychotherapist — a job which sounds about as sexual as an instruction manual for a grabbed disposal unit. Regardless, she says: “The lack of context change can be a real dampener for couples unused to spending all their time together. They don’t see any change, novelty or excitement when working, living, parenting and coupling in the same space.”
What Kate has overlooked, of course, is that lockdown means we all have a lot more time on our hands stuck indoors. And luckily for Lovely Mark, it means that for the first time in a long time, I am actually bothering to shave my legs.