by Katherine Jones
Here we are...day 4,657,346 of jail...I mean lockdown in Melbourne.
Want to know what life is like for a part time teacher, full time mother / servant / slave with a hubby and two kids? The REAL life, not that carefully curated, filtered, bulls#!t you see on Instagram.
Strap yourselves in bitches, you're in for a ride!
It begins at who-knows-what-fu@$ing time in the depths of the darkness when the youngest child (let's code name this kid, 4 years old, Banshee because he screams like a bloody Banshee CONSTANTLY) climbs into bed with me and proceeds to jump around like a fart in a jar, but I am too bloody tired to take him back to bed. I already have struggled to get to sleep from anxiety induced insomnia, so I'm already winning and my day hasn't even bloody started. Fun times.
6:30am Banshee is awake, touching my face and telling me he loves me which is lovely...until he starts demanding that I get up and put on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse because he is scared of Peter Rabbit, and how dare ABC kids have such a terrifying program that will lead to a lifetime of trauma equal to that of his mother being scarred for life from those orange dudes that took off their heads and threw them in the air in the Labyrinth...yeah Mum, you want me to end up fu@$ed up like you? No? Then get your lazy arse up and set up the TV!
Banshee begins screaming at me. Roll over and pray the bed just swallows me. It doesn't. F@$k you bed. He finally drags the doona off me and leaves the room. Peace. I pull the covers over.
Hubby has 'slept' through this whole exchange. Kids never come and lie on him at night. Why the hell is that?
Banshee goes to the lounge room where he discovers his older brother (let's code name him Taycan because he is like a Porshe Taycan - he only has two speeds: stop and go) is awake and watching ABC Kids and a screaming match begins. Roll over, put a pillow over my head. It doesn't work. Funny about that.
Screaming stops. Silence. Creaking door opens in pantry. SILENCE. The golden rule of children is that silence is BAD. They are either getting up to trouble or are in trouble. My innate mothering instinct launches me out of bed, ready to save their lives, only to find two guilty faces with the choc chip cookie jar in their hands. If I had a dollar for every time I thought the phrase 'What the F@$k?!' (or WTF)I would be swimming in a pool of greenbacks.
Do they know that this is the wrong thing to be doing? Yes.
Do they know that sneaking in the pantry and helping themselves to 'treats' pisses Mummy off? Yes.
Do they do it EVERY FREAKING MORNING regardless? Abso-f#@king-lutely.
As usual, I crack the s#!ts, give the standard lecture about breakfast and healthy eating blah blah blah... and take the jar. Wonder if I threw the jar against the wall if it would make a difference? Or go all Willy Wonka on their ass and just let them gorge themselves. Seriously doubt it.
Go back to bed. This is the denial phase. Denial that 12 hours of parenting lie ahead, 12 hours of being in lockdown, under curfew, no playgrounds, masks, pandemic fear, social distancing, remote schooling, guilt about my privilege when there are people dying in the world is going on...if I just go back to sleep it will all go away. Reach for my phone, scroll Facebook, am reminded of all the s#!t that rages outside my house and how I should be the perfect mother and be thriving during lockdown and that I am basically responsible for the world's problems.
Put the phone down. Good choice.
Hubby tires of listening to my passive aggressive sighing and rolls out of bed when Banshee begins screaming again that he wants a cookie. He gets breakfast going while I try to muster a shred of enthusiasm for the day ahead.
Nope, can't find it. Give up, get up.
Make a piece of toast and Hubby makes me a coffee. I literally cannot function without caffeine flowing through my veins. It is now only 7am.
Breakfast is abandoned by family and left strewn across the benchtop for the slave to clean up. I begin wiping up. I'd insist that they helped but I have fought that battle and given up...for now. Revenge will be sweet when they are teenagers.
Now the battle of clothes. Asking children to get dressed for the day is like sticking your head into a cage of hungry lions. They will roar and bite it off.
At this point it is helpful to point out that all the experts in the world (paediatricians, psychologists, animal tamers) would tell you to be REWARDING compliance for each thing a child does when you ask them to do it. Set up a sticker chart. Bribe them. Use your kindest earth mother voice.
All of which you have done. None of which have worked.
Probably because you haven't rewarded them correctly or given them the $10 a pack sticker or hit the correct note in your earth mother sing song voice. Who the f#@k knows.
Now you are just sick to death of telling your child to put on fresh clothes. EVERY. FU#@ING. DAY. Remind yourself that one day they will take 7 hours in the bathroom to preen themselves and crack the s#!ts because you haven't bought the outfit they wanted or the hair gel has run out. Whatever kid, wear your PJs all day.
Chuck some clothes on yourself. I gave up showering in the morning long ago, as it just added to my stress and resentment that I would have an audience of miniature humans demanding something at the door or pointing out all my wobbly bits or asking where my penis has gone? So now I shower at night. In silence. Forget regular hair washing...dry shampoo for the win. I wish I had shares in that s#!t.
Adorned in the stained tracksuit pants and hooded jumper I've had since 2005, looking like a magnificent combination of Mick Jagger on a good day and Bridget Jones on a bad one, I emerge from my chrysalis like the blemished, wrinkled, saggy, exhausted Queen that I am, only to realise remote learning (aka. torture time) begins in 10 minutes.
It is important to note here that I am a primary teacher, with 13 years experience. Taycar's Prep teacher is nothing short of amazing and nothing I am saying about remote learning is in any way her fault / responsibility / criticism of her talents. I do the gig too, two days a week with my own class of 24...I live it. Teachers are the absolute best. The circumstances that they are dealing with are insane. BUT this is not real school or real life or anything that is actually resembling normality.
Having to teach your own child, regardless of your qualification in teaching, is crossing a boundary and wearing another 'hat' that mothers just should not have to bear. Nothing good can come from this. I'm currently working well below standard in my mothering, how could I possibly be home school Teacher of the Year?
Take a breath, brace yourself for the inevitable crying, defiance, "I hate remote learning" tantrum to begin in 3...2...1
Yep, right on schedule.
From said child, and then from me. The harder I insist that he must do the work, the harder he fights me. Haven't even logged on yet, and already it has begun. We are really kicking goals today! Argument escalates to the point where the Exorcist's head spinning scene would be an understatement and Hubby rides in like a knight in shining armour to save us. Except by then I have flipped my lid and turn on him with a tirade of resentment. F#@k you and the horse you rode in on buddy. Totally unfair, totally unreasonable and total regression back to childish tantrum on my part.
Screw up my relationship with my child - check.
Fail at home-schooling and thereby ensure that said child does not reach academic standards - check.
Destroy my marriage - double check.
All in the space of 10 minutes! Must be a new world record. I really am living my best life right now...Coleman Medallist 2021 for sure!
Retreat to the one place that I am almost guaranteed at this point not to be disturbed...the toilet. Here I can bawl my eyes out without running out of tissues; Who Gives A Crap really does come through with the goods for length and thickness, but I have to say it is pretty scratchy on my face. My bum tends to agree with this assessment.
The moment of solitude is ruined when Banshee opens the toilet door (remember, I said I was 'almost' guaranteed to have a moment alone!) dressed as Batman. Now he is crying because he wants to fly, and he has a cape...so why can't he fly? At this point I figure that an explanation of Newton's laws of gravity would fall on deaf ears, so I opt for the simple "because humans don't have wings". Which apparently was not a good enough response because he is now sobbing hysterically that I didn't grow him wings when he was "in my tummy". He leaves, bumping into the wall on his way out because his mask is too big for his face and he can't see properly, leaving the toilet door wide open and me with my tears and trackie-dacks around my ankles. The crying continues in earnest from us both.
It is only 9:15am.
I get my s#!t together (metaphorically speaking), wash my hands and face and storm back out to log Taycar onto his Google Meet, careful to avoid my face popping up on the camera. Hubby has calmed him enough that he is willing to sit and see his classmates. Normally I would sit next to him for the next two hours and go to war with an unwilling child who uses every trick he knows to avoid completing the most basic task. Not because he is incapable or it is beyond him, but because he would rather be playing with his lego or watching endless episodes of Pokemon until his eyes turn square.
It never ceases to amaze me how I can deal with twenty four individuals in a classroom on my own with an abundance of patience, energy and enthusiasm, but sitting with one child (who I grew and birthed myself) while he insists on ignoring everything I say is beyond me. Again, some experts would point to this scenario and argue that he has a 'secure attachment' to me, which is why he can be so testing in his behaviour. "You are his safe place. He feels comfortable dumping all his s#!t on you because he knows you will love him unconditionally", they say. Or something to that effect. Right now stabbing myself in the eye with a fork seems by far the more pleasant option.
Today, I wave the white flag and leave him to it, retreating to another room where I am far enough away to just take a breath but close enough to hear him turn on his microphone and announce to the entire class that he "had an argument with Mummy, and Mummy and Daddy are fighting". Mortified, I hear my phone pinging in the next room within seconds. My Mummy mates heard every word from the comfort of their living rooms and quickly the group chat is lit.
"Honestly also very relatable"
You heard that. Oh God.
"Don't stress! Babe, that's it, no more school today"
"You don't need to stress, it was so innocent"
"Take the bloody day off woman!"
I quit. I quit mumming.
"Just gotta cut yourself some slack. Things are stressful at the moment. It's ok not to be ok all the time."
"Is 9am too early for a cocktail?"
FML. I am done. This is killing me.
"Fair enough. Shall we run away?"
That would be amazing. But stay within our 5km radius.
"If it makes you feel better, I have to spend my day collecting a stool sample from one of mine. It's a diarrhoea fest over here."
It is at this point that I am reminded that good things do come out of the most awful of circumstances. These mum friends that I have made have seen me at my most raw - both in physical appearance and emotional state. They hold me up when things get hard, they don't judge me, they are honest and genuine, they love my children and want the best for me and my family just as I do for them. We celebrate our parenting wins, commiserate our epic fails, laugh over a virtual chat and send the most inappropriate memes at the most appropriate times. See, we all have our own s#!t going on. My girl gang has my back though. My village may be locked in their houses but they are only a text message away.
They are laughing WITH me, and breathing a sigh of relief because my child gave them the permission to see that they are not alone. Tear the roof off any home that has a family with children and you will hear the same cacophony of remote learning battles raging through each set of lockdowns.
It is lockdown #mumlife united in all its blood, sweat, tears and joy.
Are you exhausted yet? I am. And it is only about 9:30 in the morning.
I did say that I would give you a day in the life of home schooling, but I feel that if you have made it this far you probably get the picture. It pretty much continues like this all day. Just add in 75,000 snacks, a walk to the park to attempt to wear the kids out, a few hours of iPads (because, let's be honest, it's the only way to get a moment of peace or to be able to actually get any housework or paid work completed...oh back off Karen...you're doing it too!) and the occasional Maccas run for the $1 Slurpee so you can actually remember what driving a car feels like.
Just at that moment when your tank is completely empty and you are all 'mummed-out' for the day, you watch those beautiful sleeping babes and know that all this, at some point, will be worth it. And tomorrow you get another chance to do better, to give them the teddy bears and rainbows that these lockdowns have provided.
When Banshee announces at kinder tomorrow that "this virus is f#@ked!" at least you can say he is above standard for context.