My husband and I had a huge fight this week.
And by fight, I mean the kind of yelling match that lingers in the air for days after, leaving everyone feeling raw, exhausted and regretful of their behaviour. The kind of fight that only happens once every few years.
I knew we were due to crack, tensions had been rising for days. It was just a matter of when it would finally come to a head.
There’s been nothing normal about our lives over the past 3 weeks in isolation. We’ve both been trying to keep up our busy full-time jobs from home, while still caring for our 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. Our days have been spent feverishly typing away on our computers during any spare moments that aren’t spent preparing snacks, breaking up bickering siblings or consoling their boredom tantrums.
They’ve spent hours each day zombied-out in front of a screen. It’s the only way we can get a moment of quiet to join conference calls or write critical emails. Sometimes 2pm hits and I realize I haven’t even fed them lunch and, because they’re deep into their 10th episode of Blippi, they haven’t even bothered to ask.
Online learning? Virtual classrooms? Pffff. My son has a 5-minute attention span and my daughter’s kindergarten assignments involve about 20 minutes of reading and writing practice, all of which are met with resistance and a battle that I just don’t have the emotional capacity for these days.
On top of that, the tension and stress in the house is palpable. The kids are more nervous, more sensitive than ever before. And how could I blame them? They’ve seen more crying and yelling in the last 3 weeks than they have their entire life. My husband and I are in a constant muttering-under-our-breath battle over whose turn it is to be “on” with the kids and who’s getting more quality working hours. Everyone’s nerves are frayed.
Believe me, I know we’re SO privileged to still have full-time work and a roof over our heads in this time when millions of people are losing their jobs and facing financial ruin. We’re lucky that we’re healthy and that we don’t have medical conditions that would make us high risk if we got sick. We’re all at home safe and our struggles are nothing compared to so many, but that doesn’t change the reality that this is hard as hell.
As a parent, it feels downright abusive to have to spend every day saying ‘no’ to each innocent request from my daughter who, in this time of uncertainty, is desperate for some normalcy. It feels wrong to be staring at my computer screen, ignoring my toddler’s presence, instead of making eye contact with him and giving him the loving form of reassurance he needs.
And as an employee I’m also failing. By the end of each day, my to-do list and email inbox have grown and I’m no further ahead. “Work unusual hours!” online articles suggest, but by 8pm when the house is finally quiet, my brain wants a break (no, NEEDS a break) so that I’m capable of continuing on the next day. The world needs to stop trying to find a solution to this and just admit what everyone who’s living it already knows: This can’t be fixed by working unusual hours or following a strict family schedule.
The reality of all this is that it’s not going to get easier. Sure, we may eventually become a little more complacent and our kids may get somewhat used to this new ‘normal’, but it’s never going to feel right. Parenting and working are two separate full-time jobs and it’s impossible to succeed at both simultaneously.
And that’s exactly why my husband and I blew up. There’s no solution, so we blamed each other. But the morning after our fight we did what we always do as parents. We smiled, we put our brave faces on and we pretended everything was alright.