We’ve been holed up for days. It seems like months. Even on day one, and after a long lie-in, the teens were claiming there was nothing to eat. By 8pm daughter one was desperate and wrapped herself in scarves to head out for the co-op – a half hour’s walk away. In fairness, we usually do the weekly shop on a Wednesday and we were down to a couple of potatoes and a can of chickpeas for the vegans in our midst. Only son did a dance-off with daughter one. There was a long session of watching Celebrities Go Dating back to back. Daughter three spent the day on the sofa sketching. Daughter two was glued to some Marlon Brando art film. Daughter one was watching Timothee Chalamet on a loop. I mentioned several times that the secondary school said there was work posted on the website. No-one paid any attention. My partner stumbled home around 4.30pm.
Secondary school announced it would be closed on Thursday. Primary school was more optimistic, despite the weather forecast. It would possibly open at 10.30am. That meant getting the World Book Day costume ready. Only son was going as Rodrick from Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I woke up on Thursday to 77 messages on the whatsapp parents group for only son’s class. School was closed. World Book Day was postponed. Reports suggested children were doing World Book Day at home.
My partner decided it was better to work from home. By 8am he and I were in bed on our laptops with only son in the middle with his teddy bears. It is at moments like these that you realise that your working pattern may be very different from your partner’s. I tend to work in a sort of manic silence – only the pounding of the keys can be heard apart from the odd expletive when technological problems are encountered – or I work in an intense bubble surrounded by chaos on all sides [kids screaming, cats miaowing, etc, etc] which I completely ignore until it gets to extreme levels where some kind of all-out war is threatening when I wade in as the diplomatic cavalry. My partner works with at least one radio station on – one British, one Catalan – and takes a number of breaks, eg, to catch up with Rick Stein. For him the central focus of the working day is lunch. For me it is a minor disturbance.
“I don’t think I could do working from home regularly,” he said, on his way to the kitchen to make his lunch. “I’m worried about food,” he added. He was contemplating a trek to the co-op later. To be fair, his work mostly involves reviews and he can’t get to them at the moment whereas my work is based at home so nothing will get in its way unless the house falls down. On the plus side, the fact that everyone is at home means the heating is on and I’m not sitting in my coat all day. It must be truly awful, scary even, sitting out this cold spell without being able to afford to put on the heating – or, worse, to be on the streets.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.