So, yesterday came the announcement that I’d been expecting for a little while: schools and nurseries are going to close to try to stop the spread of COVID-19. It’s sensible. It’s understandable. It’s the responsible thing to do. But it’s filling me with complete dread.
Of course there are all the usual caveats about how I love my son, how I’d do anything for him, how he’s the centre of my universe, and so on. He’s adorable. He’s hilarious. This morning, he woke me up with a kiss on the nose and a whisper of “my precious mummy” and I felt myself melt a little. (I solidified pretty quickly ten minutes later when he threw a book at me and refused to clean his teeth.) But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting, it’s that I’m much better at it when I get some time away from it, and it’s looking like that might not be possible for a while.
At the moment, of course, the reality hasn’t really hit. It hasn’t even started yet and it’s very unhelpful to catastrophise or panic, which is a shame, because my brain is very good at doing both of those things, and it’s currently excelling itself. I’ve seen a lot of talk about “Blitz spirit” and “keep calm and carry on.” Well, this is keep calm and be a mum, because I can’t not be, even if sometimes you have no idea how. The only way out is through. And the only way through is one day at a time, to whatever’s on the other side.
There’s another thing I’ve learned about parenting: I find that it’s more fun with friends, and in a variety of locations, often with slides or large foam-filled blocks and access to refreshments, especially caffeinated ones. It’s more of a challenge at home alone where the main source of entertainment is me. And while I’ve seen dozens of posts on Facebook suggesting fun activities to do at home with small children (some of which I will be trying, some of which appear to require a level of mothering and fine motor skills that I have yet to attain), plus a few jokey ones about how hard it’s going to be which suggests that I am definitely not alone in feeling the way I do, there’s nothing that says “help me, I am shortly going to be stuck predominantly indoors with only a smaller, more stubborn version of myself for company, what on earth am I going to do?”. I’ve always thought that one of the best things you can do as a mother is to find other mums you can connect with, and the prospect of losing that is one of the worst things I can think of. But while soft plays and cafés are out of the question, there are ways to keep the contact going with other mums even if we all have to stay at home.
We don’t know what to expect for the next few weeks and months, and it’s definitely going to be tough, but we’re doing what we can to keep our support going even if we can’t meet in person. We’re currently working to bring The Motherkind Café online in a number of ways so that we can still provide a space for mums to have an open, honest, and supportive conversation with someone who understands, even if you have to make the tea yourself. Help will be there, if you need it. Tomorrow we’ll have the first of our Facebook live sessions, we’re creating an online chat group, and we’ll try to keep our circle sessions going in some form. Keep watching us for updates, and remember: you’re not alone, and you don’t have to be. Just because we can’t see you in person doesn’t mean we can’t help, so please reach out to us. We’ll be listening.