These are unprecedented times we live in right now. Never in our lifetime have we experienced such a global health pandemic, financial challenge or social distancing measures than we are currently facing.
When the urgency got real in Australia and our prime minister began regular media conferences, I found it unsettling and stressful. I’d start to wrap my head around one restriction, only for this to change several days or even hours later. I felt like everything I did, every decision I made was wrong somehow.
As a stay at home mother to two young children, I felt the isolation profoundly. I didn’t have an escape. All of our regular activities had been cancelled.
We couldn’t go to Mainly Music. Play dates. Library story time and borrowing. Toy library. Kindergym. MOPS. Nature playgroup. Church with crèche and children’s programs. This meant that my kids didn’t have any opportunity or socialize or interact with other children. I couldn’t have a vent or cry with my friends.
I wasn’t allowed to see extended family. I couldn’t have girls nights. I couldn’t play netball. Occasional care was cancelled. I wasn’t getting a break, and that was really hard.
We started going to playgrounds every day. It was a great excuse to escape the house and discover new playgrounds we often didn’t have time for. We were loving the fresh air and sunshine, and a new way of getting out.
Then they closed playgrounds. I was devastated. Honestly. This was the only thing left and now they were taking it away. Although I could logically understand their reasoning, it felt so cruel. I was angry. I was pretty sure that the person making this decision was not home with toddlers and preschoolers.
I felt trapped. What on earth were we meant to do now? Where could we go? How do you entertain children who can’t sit still long enough to do crafts saved on Instagram or seen on PlaySchool? Boys especially have lots of energy and need to explore.
Playgrounds are perfect to blow off energy, to climb, jump, spin, slide, swing, bounce and pretend. How was I meant to achieve this same level of gross motor skill development without these open? Bunnings and Kmart had sold out of slippery dips and most play equipment. Marketplace and Gumtree were the same. Us mums all had the same idea. Darnit.
We began spending more time outside. Our backyard was perfect for jumping on the trampoline, balancing on the wall, hiding behind the shed, jumping in muddy trenches, playing cars in the dirt and riding bikes. In the front yard they dug holes, threw balls, swung on the swing, drew with chalk and had picnics.
We started going for walks. Sometimes, twice a day. We just had to get out of the house and this made us happier. I left the double pram set up in the carport. The simple fact that I didn’t have to lug it out of the car every time encouraged me to use it more.
Our preschooler was super excited to go to the traffic lights and press the button, whilst our toddler squealed at seeing them change colour. We went for little hikes in the local conservation park and saw great views. We spotted koalas, kangaroos and kookaburras.
We went to forests and collected pine cones. We went to the beach and watched big machines cart sand. We chased seagulls and collected shells. We walked for kilometres along the foreshore. It filled my tank and made me so happy, and the kids were contented too.
We slept better. I had more time in the day. Less packing for the morning, rushing to get out of the house early, yelling to hurry up and get the shoes. Less time spent unpacking once we were home and rushing to get lunch organized. My hand which had been awfully painful for months, suddenly improved. I believe it was simply because I wasn’t using it as much.
We saved money on petrol because it was so cheap and we weren’t driving anywhere near as much. We didn’t have entry fees to pay for. We weren’t buying birthday presents or eating out or going on holidays.
I had more time in the day to play with my kids. They had more time to play too. I could get the washing done and put away. I could occasionally clean. I spent more time cooking and loved it.
I feel like our family has benefitted immensely from this enforced slower pace of life, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
So much so that now, with talk of easing restrictions, I feel stressed out. I’m not ready to face the world just yet. I’m not ready for my diary to be full again and events to be invited to. I’m not ready for parties and baby showers, for nights out, for having to ditch the trackies and ugg boots.
For having to trade my comfy bed and heat pack in the evenings for meetings and playing outdoor netball in the freezing cold. I’m sure many parents are dreading taking on the role of taxi driver again – to countless sport practices and games, concerts and recitals, birthdays, play dates, sleepovers, and youth group.
For all the things that we have lost and grieved, we have gained other things. More family life. More puzzles and board games. More walks and hikes. More fun in the simple and free.
I’m not ready for iso to end. But I’m already thinking about how I want things to look different when our new normal ends. I don’t want to go back to the way my life was.
My new normal will be a new beginning.
Will you join me?
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