It’s not that I’m bored especially, it’s just the relentlessness of it all. It’s all the meals, so many meals. And yet at lunchtime I make Giles get his own and the kids only ever have some variation of hummus, pita, cheese, bread, cucumber, carrots, hummus… but it all makes a mess that needs to be cleared up.
Maybe it’s not the making of the food, it’s the aftercare.
Perhaps it’s the sound of the running of the tap, tschhhh, every ten seconds or so as I get the cloth and rinse it under the water and squeeze it out and repeat and squeeze and then tap off *muted thump* and then off I go to wipe something else down, wipe, wipe, wipe. Endless wiping. Who said that? I can’t remember now. The endless wiping. That’s supposed to be thing dementing thing about babies, but actually it’s just the dementing thing about housework.
Or is it not dementing?
There is actually a huge amount of joy to be had from managing to keep – against all one’s natural personality and all the odds – the house tidy and reasonably organised. It’s especially true when we are captive and have so little control over our lives, over what happens next.
Coming down in the morning, again, another morning exactly like the one yesterday and the day before, to a spotless kitchen with the kettle full and my best mug there with the teabag already in is nice. Nighttime me was thinking about Daytime me – for a change. (Nighttime me is usually to be found lazing about in piles of dirty laundry and old dishes with her feet up, picking her cuticles and shouting “FUCK daytime me – let’s open another bottle!”)
Returning the kitchen after every meal to a blank slate takes my mind off the fact that some creative side projects I was working on Before have now, of course, completely hit the wall. They hit the wall at 80mph, sideways, with the rotor blades still turning and then blew up. But, god, I know I’m lucky – it doesn’t matter whether or not I ever work again.
I obsessively speculate about when (if??) the schools will re-open and then feel sad – because my children are having a whale of a time. They are behaving better and fighting less and actually finding non-screen things to do, though not so reliably that I can ever get any work done. Sam, who I thought might go completely loopy during a lockdown, is coping with this new normal with considerably fewer pyrotechnics than he gives off on a normal school day.
It’s the relentlessness, though. It’s the all the time. Although part of me is rejoicing in the all-the-time, too. I know! I cannot believe this exists within me – perhaps it is Stockholm syndrome – but I know that somewhere I relish knowing where my children are and what they are doing all the time. And no you can’t go out and no they can’t come for a playdate. Just sit there, sit there and find something to do while I sit here and make sure the sky doesn’t fall in.
It is the different side of the same feeling coin as the one that occasionally drove me to spy on my own children while they were playing in the garden at nursery (though safeguarding rules made this tricky). It was utterly fascinating and self-soothing to watch them have little friendships with other kids, to watch them interacting with the nursery workers. It was a bit like, having made an elaborate paper boat, setting it on a body of water and giving it a push and watching it drift away from you, knowing it might sink but hoping very much that it would float.
Clothes. Is it unpatriotic to have bought things online recently? Having thought for weeks and weeks that I could live forever without ever buying another item of clothing I have, I’m sightly ashamed to say, been pulled inexorably into the tractor beam of the massive fire-sales the entire high street is being forced to have. Now I am also no longer spiking my bloodstream with alcohol every single night I have had to look elsewhere for a thrill. And I have started further justifying have a look at clothes online to myself with: “It is a good deed to buy something in order to shore up retailers who are struggling”, while also thinking: “Maybe that dress will change my life.”
If you have got any money left at all or you are in fact saving money by not going to the cinema or eating out or going on holiday or driving your car about or buying coffees – and you also happen to be in the market for new clothes – the high street is your total oyster right now. Most places are throwing discounts around like there’s no tomorrow, for a reformed-ish compulsive shopper like me it’s like waving a very chilled glass of cold hen-night Chardonnay at – well, at me.
I cracked and purchased from Me + Em this sleeveless black linen “swing” vest and a camouflage jacket that I have been eyeing up for actual months. But that’s it. Anything else feels somehow too joyful, when the only thing I ought to be getting joy from right now is all the wiping.
Fuck me, the WIPING. I’m glad it’s not just me. Now that I don’t go anywhere I don’t wash my hands quite so relentlessly but the endless wiping and rinsing and squeezing means they are just shrivelled husks. I’ve even started to insist in a deranged obsessive way that the e-cloths have to be colour coded and used in strict rotation which makes my family think I’m even madder than they thought. I imagine it’s a weird coping mechanism – imposing my own bit of order on a world which is going to shit. Instead of clothes buying (aside from essential elastic waisted trackie bottoms from Hush) I’ve splurged on robots with the excuse that I need them to maintain some sort of cleanliness underfoot. One for hoovering (family hates it because it’s rather noisy but frankly I couldn’t care less because it means I’M not doing it) and a sweet little one that potters about squirting and mopping the floor. I highly recommend except that when I think for the price of them I could have a very very beautiful dress that would indeed change my life if my life wasn’t this one.
I’ve never wiped so much in my life! Loved today’s post thank you. Does the jacket come up true to size? It’s fab.
THE WIPING OH GOD THE WIPING!!
There are some bits I’m not hating. The kids are playing, in between squabbling. They did reduce me to tears this morning though :-/
While I’d love to be an easy breezy type, II have to have a daily schedule for my sanity. Within the schedule there’s plenty of time for ‘choosing activities’. Broadly they are choosing arts n crafts so that’s fine.
Apart from a few wobbles, as per this morning, there is a satisfying sense of hunkering down. I’m currently roasting a tray of veg and sorting/ shredding paperwork. Future me is high fiving present me 🙂
Esther, I have never felt so seen. Oh the wiping. My hands are shrivelled too.
When I find myself feeling a bit moany about it all I have to remind myself that a) none of us are ill, and b) I’ve got an entire farm to potter about on so I’m not allowed to complain about being stuck inside.
As usual you are spot on, Esther. I am convinced that I am the only person in my house that can wipe to a satisfactory level, so I am the fool that keeps on wiping. Wiping and online shopping will be the story of my lockdown.
I love your posts and it is so refreshing to read someone who appears to be on the same wavelength and verbalises what’s in my head. Thank you!
YES! Haven’t read a single thing in the last 3 weeks that has resonated as much as this. Utterly on point. And has left me feeling very seen and better about things! That morning me feeling… clean kitchen, favourite mug at the ready.. it’s hard to beat frankly. Thank you Esther.
Hi Esther – I hear you regarding the wiping – it’s replacing the hand washing now we’re all inside, all of the time!
With regard to shopping – I couldn’t countenance it at all until this week and felt it was all wrong to even consider it while we were all going to hell in a handcart!
However, at the end of last week I cracked and ordered a skirt, a pair of sandals and a pair of trainers from a local independent boutique (South West London) where I often shop for nice, different, non-high street stuff. I reassured myself that this was OK as (a) it was for gifts “from my husband” to me for my birthday, next week (b) I was doing by bit to help keep an independent shopkeeper going – I genuinely could have sourced each item online, definitely cheaper, but love her shop and will miss it if it goes. We had a lovely email exchange and it was so nice to have some human interaction – a win all round, I think.
It helped lift my spirits and I can’t wait for delivery, but promise not to wear them until my birthday!
(And why is no one else in my house capable of it?)
Esther, how are the ME + EM goods? I have three things from there that I love but they have the SLOWEST returns I have ever encountered. I sent a dress back in January and the refund took over a month. A month!! I googled and apparently this is common? Anyone else found this? I think it’s unacceptable.
Oh this is so me! I have a grown-up daughter & her boyfriend here with us & gosh they want proper lunches (which they cook themselves) as well as suppers for all 4 of us so much endless wiping & clearing. As I have a farmer husband working flat out at the moment I feel guilty if I am not seen to be as equally busy in the house so endless cleaning, sorting, laundry, ironing & cooking. None of this rumoured hours of free time to watch box sets & read piles of books. Completely shattered.
I may have to completely declutter my wardrobe so I can start shopping again but really cannot justify anything at the moment 🙁 however much I want to support the fashion industry.
Oh god the wiping. Why can nobody else see when surfaces need wiped?! I have to work standing at the kitchen worktop as I am recovering from a slipped disc and have to be grateful when my boyfriend makes lunch or dinner because at least I’m not doing it but with the mess he leaves behind sometimes i’d be happier with a cup a soup.
I have been pretty restrained in terms of shopping but I did buy some of the rainbow cuffed navy Hush joggers. They are great quality but somehow they just make me feel even sloppier unless I’m in clean hair / ‘no makeup makeup’ mode. Generally I’m alternating between a day of gym kit and clean skin and a day of jeans / nice T-shirt / makeup which is a good balance…
Loving having you back on the blog, Esther!
I have a small house and three sons (11,9+4). It is a military operation to try and keep every room from sliding into the abyss of shit. Not clean, not tidy, just walk-through-able. My husband is wfh and has gone Warhammer mad. This does not help the abyss of shit.
I have avoided the lure of sales but I cannot resist the allure of Premium Food delivered to my door. I’ve spent an absolute fortune on cheese and brownies and PIE (thank fuck I don’t drink) to sate the miserable fat demon within. I tell myself we can afford it as my husband isn’t burning through commuting fuel but really, it’s just to cheer me up.
Dex what happened to your insane no-fat diet?? or are you cured? I can’t believe that baby is FOUR YEARS old!
I had my gallbladder out in June 2018 (SO LONG AGO) and I can eat small amounts of fat. If I eat too much, I shit bile through the eye of a needle for a week. Some stuff is worse that others: washed-rind cheese is BAD, clotted cream is VERY BAD, ice cream is OK in small doses. So I’ve kept the weight off at least.
BUT ESTHER, I CANNOT DRINK. I can tolerate ONE shot+mixer, but no wine, beer or cider. I found this out after drinking a bottle of prosecco and nearly shitting myself to death. Something to do with the enzymes that process alcohol being made in the gallbladder rather than the liver in some people? I dunno, the doctors were just like “WELP, YOU’LL JUST HAVE TO NOT DRINK, BYE”.
Yes, that baby will be five in July. He’s autistic and quite delayed, so he’s basically a huge toddler.
I mean the fact is that now you’ll simply live forever, being forced to drink and eat in such strict moderation. That does sound pretty hardcore. Yes I remember now, gallbladder. I’m sure a kind soul might be able to fashion you a new one out of material offcuts while they’re sewing masks for the NHS. I’m making jokes because I find sincere sympathy really patronising. But I sincerely sympathise. Is the huge toddler coping with lock-down? Is he one of the magical few who are entitled to ongoing outside care??
On a seriously, seriously depressing note, I had to go to a (non-C19-related) close family funeral this week, and found that I had no hot-weather funeral clothing available. Not that with five people, all close fam, it mattered, but I minded very much that I was not suitably/respectfully attired. It seemed the least I could have done, but had failed.
So, just saying, maybe check your wardrobes and fill that gap in advance.
Sorry. I am going to post this, but not 100% sure I should.
Why should you not? This is a very valid point. I often get emails from people asking what to wear to a funeral and they are so apologetic for worrying about what they look like at such a time. But when we are paying our respects, we want to look our best, we do not want to feel uncomfortable or sweaty or not ourselves – which is hard if we are not naturally formal or “tidy” dressers (I’m talking about myself here).
It’s only normal to think about such things and it’s not vanity.
And, yes, people are dying. I was queueing for the butcher the other day and a full funeral procession went by, complete with horses with feather plumes and pallbearers in morning suits. It was quite a moment in time.
Thank you, Anon, for your pertinent and helpful comment.