Updated: Jan 19
1. Our reserves are empty – Or there is only so much shit we can take. Humans are very resilient, if fragile, little things. We adapt amazingly well to whatever new and hard environment we find ourselves in. We cope. Yes, those coping strategies might cause us problems further down the line, but in the short-term we endure. The real problem comes when we are pushed through cycle after cycle of difficulty. We are running on emotional empty. For mums of young children it’s like you’re attempting to push a boulder up to the top of a hill, only just as you think you are getting somewhere a landslide sweeps you right back to base-camp. It is tough for everybody, but parenting in isolation is so so hard. We evolved such needy offspring precisely because we shared the burden of childcare. In parallel our financial reserves are also empty. Businesses are limping through, wage cuts and furlough mean we have started searching the sofa for coins.
2. We thought things were getting better – Even if we didn’t articulate it, we were surrounded by messages of improvement, of rules relaxing, a new normal and eating out to help out. Everywhere the message was one of hope and improvement not crisis and deterioration. Now we have been spun backwards, down the proverbial snake when we thought we had a ladder.
3. The novelty and adrenaline have gone – oh for those heady days of April, May and June when Joe Wicks was bouncing cheerily into our sun-soaked living rooms and we drew rainbows and planned doorstep barbecues and socially distant street parties. When “furlough” and “r-number” were exotic terms, heralding a brave new world. Partly it’s the icy weather and long nights, partly it’s the repetition.
4. Time is passing – For mums with babies, they have now often gone through a pregnancy and maternity leave all in Covid times. They have never built those vital connections with other parents at a similar stage. Every time they thought something would structure their days, it was cancelled. They are now back at work or without an income and their babies are hurtling headlong into toddler-hood. They won’t get that time again. They are struggling sending their little ones to nursery for the first time, when they have had virtually no interaction with anyone outside their parents.
5. Our children are getting older – Many children are coming up to a second birthday in lockdown. It might sound trite and silly but they will never be 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 again. Many children are so used to living in a pandemic they don’t remember what it was like before.
6. Everyone is struggling – Time and again women in our groups preface their experiences with “I know I’m lucky compared to many” and suffuse their worries with guilt, when others are grieving or struggling even more. But far from giving us a comparative sense of contentment, the fact that everyone is struggling just means we are running out of people to turn to. Our collective store of support is dwindling – and the need is greater than ever.
7. The end is sort of in sight – A bit like when you’ve been desperate for a wee for ages and just as you’re in sight of the toilet it becomes impossible to hold it in (well for me anyway!), it feels like we can see a light at the end of a long dark tunnel but don’t know if we have the strength left to
Some tips for getting through
Happy Mums Covid shared experience group - Tuesday at 1.30, every week during lockdown, for women who've been pregnant or have small children during these strange times. Sign up online and read more https://www.happymums.org.uk/covid-groups
Samaritans - Their 24 hour free helpline is on 116 123, they also have email support at firstname.lastname@example.org - offering emotional support to people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including suicidal thoughts
Sane - Another support and information service for anyone affected by mental illness, including families, friends and carers. Check their website for the latest as COVID has changed things a bit. They have a really good resource page on suicide and email as well email@example.com.
Shout - Their national, free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service is for anyone who is struggling to cope. Text 85258 for round the clock support from a crisis volunteer.
Mindline Cumbria - Local charity branch who you can call on 0300 561 0000 (12pm to 11pm Mon - Fri, 5pm to 11pm Sat - Sun) or text 'Mind' to 81066 followed by your question (12pm to 11pm Mon - Fri, 5pm to 11pm Sat - Sun) or webchat is available from 12pm to 11pm Mon - Fri, 5pm to 11pm Sat - Sun.