A Juggling Act
Date: April 8, 2020
Author: LUCY MCEVOY, Research Assistant, Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health
2019 was tough. The drought was relentless. I had forgotten what rain-filled clouds looked like and I started to wonder if it would actually ever rain again. Then came the persistent dust storms. Stubborn red dust that got into every nook and cranny. But there was much worse on the way. First it was the days and days of debilitating heat, followed by choking smoke from the bushfires. Sometimes it was even a morning dust storm followed by lingering smoke. Roads closed. Christmas was almost cancelled and we spent the break virtually housebound trying to escape the elements.
As the heat eased and the air cleared, we played storm lotto. So often we missed out, but ever so slowly, the rain gauge filled and I was grateful for every precious drop. I had forgotten how striking a blue sky can be in contrast to the fluorescent green tinge that was re-appearing.
Fast forward a couple of months, the air is cool and clear and the garden is thriving, but that anxious feeling has returned for the fear of an invisible threat – COVID-19.
I move to work from home and pull the kids out of school. Life as we know it has changed, seemingly forever. That dreaded feeling in the pit of my stomach lingers. I feel completely vulnerable and out of control. Lockdown is upon us.
Now, I’m a planner, so to combat these feelings I focus on drawing up a pretty, detailed schedule. I also start a list of jobs and activities we’ll do whilst confined to home – gardening, pretend library visits, spring cleaning, virtual zoo excursions, baking, craft projects etc.
So, with high hopes and lunchboxes at the ready, we embarked on day 1 of our new routine with schoolwork interspersed with outdoor play, baking, puzzles and family walks. A routine that would likely be fine if I didn’t also have a job to carry on with in amongst it all. I had my Mum, Cook, Mediator, Teacher and Researcher hats on all at once, 24/7. It was overwhelming to say the least.
And my two new work colleagues (Mr 6 and Mr 4) had constant complaints and demands:
‘When are we going somewhere?’
‘I need another snack’
‘This is the worst day ever’
‘Please sit with me’
The tipping point for me was dialling into a Zoom meeting (having just applied band aids to Mr 6s knees after falling off his bike in the driveway) and hearing from those without young children to care for talk about all of the time they now had for hobbies and personal pursuits. I promptly left the meeting and burst into tears, wondering how on earth we were going to get through this.
It was time to reset. A new day and new rules. No lunchboxes for a start and generally just taking the pressure off the juggling act. I figured it was time for some reflection…
I am appreciative for the space we have around us so that my kids can kick a footy, ride their bikes and we can go for walks.
I take comfort in the fact that every other parent with young children, also trying to work from home are also tearing their hair out in despair.
I am grateful my husband and I both have jobs in these uncertain times.
I am proud of all the local businesses making the switch to online and delivery just to survive and I feel compelled to support them.
I feel indebted to those working in the front line, whether that be our health care workers, childcare workers, teachers and other staff in essential services.
For now, I am finding peace wherever and whenever I can – a quiet cuppa, time on a jigsaw puzzle, a game of Jungle Bingo with my boys or flying our kite. And giving myself permission just to take each day, each hour, as it comes.