I am an introvert – hear me cancel all plans and sit contentedly at home. My time alone at home recharges me and helps me cope with the unceasing verbosity of the world. I may have been one of the few people who was mentally celebrating the curfew and lockdown. Finally, a break from the working mother’s constant battle to complete work and reach home to spend some quality time with the kid. Or so I imagined. 

Unfortunately, I forgot that I will be locked in with a Husband and a Child. Did I mention that I work for an essential service ? The peace of mind I craved turned into pieces of my mind instead. My personal Apocalypse seemed to have arrived. We are working parents with one kid. Generally our modus operandi is tag team parenting. Once the primary parent is parented out, he or she would tag the other one, hand over the kid and catch a break. But with the lockdown, work from home and work for home collided to create a Black hole that sucks energy, time, the few pieces of mind left, hopes, dreams, everything!

I was left cursing the very curfew, I originally craved. 

Day 1 : The Husband (let’s call him P) took on the manly role of hunter gatherer of groceries, fruits, vegetables and other essentials. Kindly note the word essentials. Then the Child (who will be referred to as S) and P conferred and decided they want pizza. Guess who had to cook the sauce ? Chop the veggies?  Grate the cheese (I made P do it since I detest grating cheese) And clean post it all? I tried explaining to S that Pizza is not essential but the little miss stuck her nose in the air and declared, “It is very essential for me, Mamma.” I then turned my wrath on P and asked him to manage his child. To soothe my savage soul, P made me adrak wala chai and asked S to ‘cuddle the Mamma.’ Cuddles do charge me up, especially warm baby cuddles. And to be honest, S is right – Pizza is Essential. P smiled at us cuddling and went off to make palak paneer for dinner. 

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Day 2 : I woke up at 5 am so that I could get some solid work in before S wakes up. I finished off a significant chunk by 8 and then decided to make myself some coffee. For the first time in years, I was able to sip on hot coffee uninterrupted. For all of 3 minutes….. Then the clock struck 9 am and the constant deluge of conference calls began. Now there are 3 types of people on conference calls. People who want to ensure others work, people who want to show that they work and the people who are actually working.

Thanks to WFH, the second category has grown exponentially. The result, a 15- 20 minute call takes 2 hours. So I put the phone on mute and started ‘Rage- cleaning’ . I imagined that all the people who were unnecessarily prolonging this call swimming in the toilet bowl. I furiously attacked them with my weapon of choice – the toilet brush. As they circled the drain and flushed away, I felt a strange sense of calm. I spent the day cleaning and drafted the Child to help. After all chores build character! She was quite thrilled. Using a spray bottle filled with Dettol, she happily squirted away on every surface in the house and sort of wiped it. So that was the dusting done. P was in charge of the kitchen, doing the dishes and feeding us. While I got the vacuum out and revelled in its power. I vacuumed everything. And I truly mean everything – P sat down for a couple of minutes and I vacuumed his feet and his chappals. Watch out COVID-19, the vacuum and I are coming for you!

Day 3: The little Madam woke up and grumbled that she is not in a good mood. I think she finally has caught cabin fever.  She then picked up a book and I was relieved because that means peace for a few hours. Unfortunately I tempted fate, or Murphy’s law since P lovingly asked her what would help put her in a better mood. And she replied, “Cake.” So I then started to bake a cake. I like baking so this wasn’t too much of a stretch. She wanted to help me bake and I asked her to wash her hands. S walked away wailing, “ Mamma, you have turned my life into a tap. Yes that is what my life is now – a tap!!!!!” It was just the beginning of a long and difficult day. Everything with S was a battle. She wailed and whined. “I miss my school, I miss my bus, I miss my friends.” When we were setting up dinner, she threw a tantrum and cried some more. Finally, at bedtime, I asked her to put away her book since it was time to brush and was told, “ You are the world’s worst Mom. You never let me decide. I don’t want to live here anymore.” This was the point where I reached the end of my tether. I told P, “ I am all parented out!” I handed S over and Papa dearest managed to calm her down. I went off to sleep. 

Day 4 : My home, my sanctuary had been taken over by the combined virus of P and S. P had taken over the living room and was working or watching shouty news channels. Those loud reporters were not helping my anxiety levels. S had taken over every other room. Each room had a different activity strewn around. Every activity was interspersed with calls of “Mamma, I need this! “ or wails of “ Mamma this is not working, I can’t do this!” At one point, I was hiding in the bathroom because that seemed to be the only place where I could find peace. I figured that I need some ground rules. 

Post my little meltdown in the bathroom, I decided that I needed to put my foot down. So these are the rules for a 

  1. No hot breakfast. Drink your milk and eat some fruit.
  2. If you use it, you wash it. You can’t leave dirty dishes and cups in the sink. You have to put clean ones away. 
  3. P and I are not running a restaurant. Meal plans will be decided on the basis of  the ‘ Kaunsi bhaji kharab ho rahi hain?’ parameter. You don’t like it ? Too bad. Have some fruit.
  4. All leftovers must be finished in the next meal. You are allowed to cover them in cheese.
    1. You don’t want cheese covered leftovers. No problem, here’s some fruit. 
    2. If you are one of the adults in the house being picky, Welcome to intermittent fasting! 
  5. The house will be divided into the following zones
    1. Living room: Family life and social area and P workspace. You want to talk, play together, eat and be all ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ then this is your zone. 
    2. My Bedroom: Inner peace area and Workspace for Mamma. Loud noises are not allowed.  You can only come in here if you plan to read. The word “ Mamma” accompanied by a wail is banned in this room. 
    3. Playroom: Do whatever you want in there. I won’t be stepping in until this lockdown is over. If I can’t see the mess, it doesn’t exist, right?

Day 5:  Things seem to have settled down. P and S went up on the roof in the morning. P finished his yoga practice and S read a book in the sun. I got some alone time and wrote in my gratitude journal. When they returned, P made breakfast for us. S and I then sorted her Lego by colour which helped her build better. She then decided to build a Lego world and was happily occupied for most of the day. P and I also had an epiphany that S might be feeling lonely in her playroom and created a corner in the living room where she can draw, colour, build etc. while P is working. She also had a couple of video calls with her friends and that seems to have helped as well. 

We are cycling through the rooms depending on the mood we are in. So if any of us needs some alone time, they head to the bedroom and return when they feel social. The last few days were tumultuous and well, it sorted itself out eventually.I remain cautiously optimistic that we can get through the next few weeks with happy memories. I hope that we eventually look back at this time with gratitude that we were happy, healthy, safe and more importantly together as a family. 

Views are the author’s own. She is a banker.

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