The Diary of a Stressed-Out, Sleep-Deprived Mother: The Isolation Edition Part 2

In the first Sex and the City movie, Samantha scolds Miranda for not keeping on top of her bikini waxes. Miranda uses the excuse that her marriage is going through a “rough patch” and so she does not have time for “that” (waxing). Samantha then replies “I could be on death row and not have that *situation!*” In other words, even when the circumstances may be dire, there is no excuse for allowing your standards to slip. I am remembering these words during my period of isolation and I have decided to try and keep up with my usual standards despite the fact that I am going nowhere and seeing no one aside from my husband and our two kids.

I have come to the conclusion that my pasty white skin tone is not doing me any favours in terms of making me look healthy. As a result, I have decided to try and apply some fake tan in order to give myself a much needed “healthy glow.” I’ve recently become an ambassador for Tropic Skincare because I tried the products back in March on the recommendation of a friend and thought they were great. As it happens, they do a variety of fake tans and so I elect to experiment with one of these. I have chosen the one called “Summer Skin,” which is supposedly a gradual tanning lotion. I feel this will be the safest option, because if I apply anything too hardcore straight away, it may make me look more like an Oompa Loompa rather than a bronzed goddess, especially seeing as though I was nowhere near the front of the queue when tanned skin was handed out. I follow the instructions very carefully, and finish my debut application just before retiring to bed one night. Just wait until everyone sees how tanned I’m looking tomorrow, I think to myself sneakily (and by everyone I mean my husband and our two kids.)

The next morning I wake up to the sound of the kids chatting away to each other over the baby monitor at approximately 7am. Today is my husband’s first day back at work following his illness with Covid-19 and so I know I need to be very organised and on top of things as this is the first day in a while that I will once again be totally on my own with the children. I am however, very confident that I’m getting good at this and that I’m going to nail it.

I get out of bed with the view to going downstairs and making some much needed coffee. I start to make my way downstairs, but just as I am passing the boys’ room, Henry declares that he needs the toilet. As any parent of small children will know, things can’t really wait when it comes to toddlers and their bladders and so, resigning myself to the fact that my morning coffee fix will have to wait just a little bit longer, I take Henry to the toilet.

As Henry is sat on the toilet, the doorbell rings. I race down the stairs like a lightning bolt and scramble for my keys. We have recently built a porch and so now there are not just one, but two doors to get through before you reach the great outdoors. Of course, you have to be very speedy these days in order to catch a delivery driver before they abandon ship and leave you one of those highly irritating “sorry, we missed you!” slips instead of your much coveted parcel. Miraculously, I manage to avoid trying to insert the wrong key into the incorrect lock twice in a row this morning and make it just in the nick of time to get the package. “Many thanks!” I say to the delivery driver appreciatively. He gives me a rather shocked look and hesitates before stuttering “ok, have a good day” in response, and getting back into his van.

Perplexed and wondering what his problem is, I head to the nearest mirror in order to check that I don’t have something stuck in my teeth. To my sheer horror, as I analyse my reflection, I realise that I have forgotten that I am wearing a skimpy nightdress, which is barely long enough to cover my arse and consists of nothing but lace over the chest area. It leaves very little to the imagination. The poor bloke would probably have enjoyed the view a great deal more had I been the other side of 30 and sporting a body that had not yet borne children. Furthermore, I can now appreciate that my first attempt at fake tanning has not exactly gone to plan. Rather than looking like a bronzed goddess as I had hoped and intended, the tan is so patchy that my resemblance is worryingly similar to that of a Guernsey cow (if you aren’t familiar with the Guernsey cow, they are light brown and white- as seen in the picture below- and so if you don’t apply fake tan particularly well, you can easily end up looking like one of these creatures). “B*llocks” I mutter under my breath as I head back upstairs to check on the children.

When I get back upstairs, I find that although Henry has been to the toilet, he has aimed incorrectly, missed the bowl, and consequently there is p*ss all over the bathroom floor. I remind myself that the important thing here is that he has tried his best as I clean up the first, of what is inevitably going to be many, bodily fluid disasters. As I take Henry back to the nursery to get him and Edward dressed, I discover that the room looks worse than I imagine it would had an atomic bomb been set off in the middle of it. Virtually every toy has been taken from the toy box and thrown in one direction or another, the baby monitor has been pulled from the top of the drawers and disconnected from it’s power cable, and Edward is sat near the changing station finishing the job of removing every single baby wipe from the packet and scattering them all over the carpet. I sigh to myself as I get them both ready and think about how long it is going to take me to clear up this mess later on, when I get the chance. I cannot for the life of me find Edward’s shoes in this mess and I have looked everywhere for them (they were previously on the windowsill but appear to have been moved and lost in amongst the debris when the nursery was ransacked by my youngest son in the space of approximately 2 minutes flat). As a back up, I am forced to squeeze his feet into another pair of shoes, which are technically a bit too small but they will have to do for now. As I am heading downstairs with the boys, I empty the nappy bin, which is now overflowing with soiled diapers. This time, when I go outside to dispose of the rubbish in the main bin, I ensure I am wearing a dressing gown over my nightdress to avoid any further indecent exposure. If one thing is for sure, I cannot be accused of failing to learn from my mistakes.

Later that week, my husband has a few days off in between shifts and we have decided we must tackle something we have been dreading pretty much since lockdown started. We must attempt to cut Henry’s hair. It is already starting to grow over his eyes, and if left for much longer, he will look as though he is about to audition to become the fourth member of Hanson (for anyone who is too young to remember Hanson (yikes that makes me feel old!), they were a band of three long-haired brothers from Oklahoma most famous for writing and singing a catchy song entitled Mmmbop in 1997). My husband managed to do a very decent job of cutting Edward’s hair earlier on in the lockdown with the help of his friend from home who is a hairdresser via FaceTime. However, Henry has always hated having his hair cut and has always been a nightmare at the barber’s, and so we both know that he is going to be the “hard one”. Things are indeed as bad as we expect, and Henry screams, cries, hyperventilates and flails uncontrollably during the process. There is no choice but for me to attempt to pin him down whilst my husband desperately tries to sort out the length of his ever-growing mane with some electronic clippers. Miraculously, after much struggling, he comes out looking reasonable, but during the process we have unfortunately grazed the top of his ear with said clippers. Although there is no serious injury, the ear is a pretty vascular structure, and so even a tiny nick bleeds like crazy. The result is that when we finally release a traumatised Henry from our makeshift hairdressing chair (one of the highchairs with a towel draped over the back of it), the kitchen looks similar to how I imagine Sweeney Todd’s barbershop looked after the Demon Barber of Fleet Street had indulged in a good throat-slashing session.

As if that wasn’t traumatic enough, my husband then declares that it is my turn to cut his hair. Now, I have seen a lot of very good attempts on social media from my friends who have cut their other halves’ hair during this lockdown. However, hairdressing is most certainly not my forte. In fact, I have always joked that if I attempted to work as a hairdresser I would almost certainly get fired on day one owing to my incompetence. I suddenly begin to panic slightly and have flashbacks to an episode of Coronation Street some years ago in which Vera Duckworth’s hair is accidentally dyed purple in the hair salon by an apprentice hairdresser, and to that instalment of Friends when Phoebe cuts Monica’s hair and makes her look like Dudley Moore rather than Demi. Realising that my attempt is most likely going to make both of these mishaps look both excellent and professional, I gulp nervously as my husband hands me the dreaded clippers. He asks me if I see his hair line and tells me confidently that I should “just follow that.” I reply that no I cannot see his hairline, and he says something along the lines of “blimey, this is going to be worse than I thought” (perhaps more explicitly than that). After a very shaky start by me, he looks as though he has got into a fight with an intoxicated Edward Scissorhands, and finally realises that he would be better off finishing the job himself by looking in the mirror. The fool can’t say I didn’t warn him.

The aftermath of the traumatic hairdressing session. We had managed to clear up most of the blood at this point

As the weeks go by in lockdown, I am becoming pretty exhausted both mentally and physically. Round the clock childcare is relentless and some days I do not really have much, if any, adult company because my husband is at work. It can get quite lonely and isolating at times, and as a result, I find I am occasionally a bit tearful on account of this. I am also slightly miserable about the fact that I really don’t know when I’ll next see my friends and family properly again. I have now not left my house since the 20th of March and it is difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel. However, I know I’m not the only one who is finding things difficult and every now and again, the experiences of others do put things back into perspective.

One day, I get a text from my good friend Becky telling me that she and her fiancee have decided to reschedule their wedding. It was supposed to be in July this year, but they have now moved the big day to April 2021 due to the restrictions of the pandemic. I know that this must be very disappointing for her, especially since a lot of planning and anticipation goes into weddings. It is such a shame that this has had to be postponed, but my friends and I assure her that “we will all get inappropriately wasted” in order to celebrate accordingly when the time comes. Coming from us, this is quite a statement. Past occasions upon which we have collectively got “inappropriately wasted” have resulted in broken limbs, the theft of a push bike (this was from a guest at one of our weddings and it was later returned undamaged once we’d sobered up and realised it was a stupid thing to have done, just to clarify), and entire rooms of our student house covered in alcohol-induced vomit. Therefore, when we make this pledge, it means we are very serious indeed about getting up to mischief and making the occasion one to remember (or not, actually. Thinking about it, I fully expect our memories to be very patchy indeed the morning after).

For one of my other close friends, this lockdown has been emotionally very difficult. Her mother is sick and shielding, the time they have together is precious, and this pandemic is resulting in weeks on end of separation with no guarantees about when they will be able to see each other in person again. When I think of things like this, I feel guilty for even feeling remotely sorry for myself. After all, things could be much worse than they are and although the house is chaos, it’s mostly good chaos. Luckily, right now my biggest problem is that Henry has now started referring to me as “Big Bad Wolf” (although my mood may occasionally be as vicious as that of said wolf, I am certainly not becoming as hairy as one- for clarity on my stance regarding superfluous hair removal, see Sex and the City reference in paragraph one. Clue- I’m on Samantha’s side on this one).

There are days when I am so tired that I start falling asleep if I so much as sit on my bed for two minutes. Usually I decide that it is time for a coffee when this happens, but I feel like I could actually do with being hooked up to an intravenous infusion of the stuff permanently at the moment. On one particular occasion when I start to nod off, my relaxed state is interrupted by sudden, panicked shouting coming from the kitchen downstairs. It is my husband shouting “SAAAAAXXXXX!” with a volume and tone similar to that of Ozzy Osbourne when he infamously shouted “SHAAAARRRRRROOOOOONNNNN!” repeatedly at his long-suffering wife. I go running down the stairs, faster than my legs can carry me, thinking something catastrophic has gone down for it to provoke such a sudden need for my womanly presence. As I reach the bottom of the stairs, I meet my husband’s exasperated gaze as he declares “the kids have got ice cream ALL OVER the floor!” I warily peek round the corner to investigate the surely dreadful and irreversible damage caused by said ice-cream spillage. With nothing immediately obvious, I screw up my eyes tightly and scan the floor carefully. Finally, just as I’m about to request a magnifying glass to ensure a more thorough inspection, I notice a tiny puddle of ice cream on the wooden floor near the television. It is not even on the sofa or any furniture. I clear up every last trace of the almost microscopic spillage with the single sweep of a moist baby wipe. If only my husband saw the house at its worst, when the debris field looks worse than that left behind in the aftermath of an earthquake exceeding the most powerful ever recorded on the Richter Scale. “Bless him,” I say quietly to myself, “he has no idea about what real mess is.”

The tiny puddle of ice cream, which freaked my husband out

On one particular day, I am feeling especially worn out and emotional. My mood has not been helped by the fact that Edward slammed his finger in the back door earlier on when I once again foolishly diverted my attention for a split second. My husband has warned me time and time again about this danger, and told me that such a domestic accident could lead to one of the kids breaking a finger. Luckily, Edward’s injury is only very minor and is nothing that a cuddle and an ice cream can’t fix (the power of these things is often underestimated). I am grateful that I have avoided having to rock up to A&E at the hospital I work at having to explain to a colleague how my lack of vigilance has led to yet another injury.

That evening, I have been posting some content on my Instagram page (click here to visit it). Ever since I had post natal depression following Edward’s birth (you can read about that here), I have tried to raise awareness about it via my blog and social media. I usually post to Instagram whilst the kids are in the bath, and I’m feeling glad that I’ve managed to do so today as I try not to go too long in between posts. A few hours later, I receive a message from some medical doctor, which simply says “work on your spelling before posting in future.” Perplexed, I inspect the post carefully, and am deflated when I see that I have omitted the second “E” from the word “depression” and so my post is actually talking about “post natal deprssion.” Needless to say, I’m left feeling like a real twit after that, particularly seeing as though the error is on a letter board in a photo and so cannot be corrected. Never again will I tease my husband about his poor spelling (he is dyslexic and is forever getting chastised by anyone and everyone about his spelling. I often joke that I essentially had to learn a new language when we got together in order to translate his text messages. Sometimes I manage to decode even the most nonsensical of texts and this has become a bit of a party trick).

Sometimes, I am astonished by the hidden strength of my kids. There are times when they seem like such delicate little human beings, susceptible to being blown over by even the slightest gust of wind. However, when it comes to “teeth cleaning time” they suddenly become capable of fighting me off like some blood thirsty wild beast. Following these battles, I am frequently left battered and bruised, much like Hugh Glass in The Revenant after he has been mauled by a ravenous grizzly bear. Edward also decides to practice contortionist type moves whenever I attempt to change or dress/undress him. He twists and turns in every direction imaginable; some of which `I never knew were humanly possible, but all of which make my job irritatingly difficult.

One night, I am disappointed to discover that the kids have found a new way of attempting suicide in the bath tub, because this means that I am now unable to use this time to allow them to splash about whilst I get a daily dose of “Mummy’s Special Medicine” (aka the strongest alcohol I happen to have in the house at the time of asking). Whereas bathing used to be a relaxed affair, consisting of them playing with plastic animals and pretending to drink from mini buckets with holes in the bottom, they are now climbing up on the back of the bath and sliding down the sides into the tub after exclaiming “one, two three, WHACK!” at the top of their voices and giggling incessantly once they’ve plunged back into the water. Whereas virtually nothing shocks me anymore, the first time my husband witnesses this new game, I am genuinely concerned that he is going to experience some sort of adverse cardiac event at the tender age of thirty two.

The following day, the kids have managed to break through the fence my husband and I have assembled in the garden to stop them from getting to the gravelled area by the shed (Edward tends to try and eat stones and I am usually found squeezing his cheeks together and forcing him to spit them out much like Miss Trunchbull does to the boy who naughtily scoffs M&Ms in her classroom in the movie Matilda). On this particular day, I am last seen by the neighbours running across the lawn in my slippers, brandishing a large pair of sharp scissors and some heavy duty brown tape yelling “THAT WAS THE LAST STRAW! YOU WERE WARNED SEVERAL TIMES!” at the top of my voice. Goodness knows what the neighbours must have thought, and I am half surprised the police don’t turn up on my doorstep later on in the day asking questions. I text my friends to tell them about my latest mishap, and my good friend Liz replies promptly with “good God, I hope you were wearing more than just your slippers!” I laugh and hastily reassure her that, yes, I certainly learned my lesson from the “skimpy nightdress in front of delivery guy incident” and I was in fact fully clothed (and with an even fake tan- I worked on my application) at the time in question.

Liz and I lived together for most of med school and so she has seen me at my very worst and wouldn’t therefore be surprised if luck had it that I were caught running across the lawn stark naked, wearing nothing but slippers. One incident that immediately springs to mind from the many mishaps we have experienced together over the years was when she accidentally threw her passport from a fourth storey window whilst trying to use it to swat an offensively large moth (she knows how much I detest the creatures) that had invaded our insect-ridden flat whilst we were working in Kingston, Jamaica. Just as an idea, the moths in Kingston are, to a “moth-phobic”, as an obese tarantula would be to an arachnophobic. We then had to salvage said passport from the territory of a flea-ridden stray dog (I’m unconvinced it was not also rabid), which inhabited the patch of grass below our apartment block. Luckily we were successful in winning the passport back and we managed to escape to Los Angeles a few days later, after having lived in Kingston for a few months in accommodation that didn’t reliably have running water. Yes, I was not exaggerating when I said she has “seen me at my worst.”

During the lockdown, we have had to “doctor” several of the plants growing in our garden. Firstly, we have had to give all of the holly bushes a very thorough trim, because yet another glitch in our fencing system has meant that the boys have relatively easy access to them. We are alerted to this fact when, one day, Henry appears at the back door with a holly berry in his mouth. After some momentary panicking following a quick Google search, which suggests that holly berries are in fact hideously poisonous if ingested, we conclude that Henry does not require an urgent trip to the local A&E. Luckily, merely popping one of the berries into his mouth has alerted him to the fact that they don’t taste very good at all and he has fortunately decided to spit it out before any damage can be done. Typical, I think to myself, the little so-and-so rarely eats anything I cook for him, yet when he goes outside he will sample sand, mud, grass, leaves and potentially poisonous berries without even batting an eyelid.

The roses have also had to be sacrificed in the name of child safety. I am rather disappointed about this as I really do like the roses in our garden, but alas, one sunny afternoon Edward impales his finger on a thorn and so these too must be eliminated, resulting in a garden that is rapidly heading towards becoming a toddler-friendly barren landscape.

Of course no diary entry would truly be complete without recounting the horrors of yet another messy toddler meal time. This evening, Edward repeatedly drops an apple on the floor for attention. Henry has dipped virtually everything on his plate into his cup of water, making it look like an awful concoction that I wouldn’t drink if you offered to pay me a thousand pounds to do so. In my effort to try and do several things at once, I have forgotten to give the kids any cutlery, and I only notice this when Henry pulls a plastic fork from his pocket, which is part of a set that came with some plastic food that he and Edward have in their outside playhouse, and attempts to use this to eat with. Toddlers can be resourceful at times it seems. Meanwhile, Edward has decided to hurl everything that has been given to him across the room. He manages to catapult an almost-full yoghurt pot across the kitchen with such force that he could probably contest the Guinness Record for furthest throw with this effort. Sticky yoghurt splats all over the kitchen floor (and this was properly all over the floor, not as all over the floor as the ice cream mess described by my husband earlier on).

The scene of destruction left behind after another toddler meal time. Circled in red is the yoghurt pot, which Edward lobbed from the highchair (left) across the kitchen. Note the traces of yoghurt splattered all over the floor

Once the dreaded mealtime is over, I take the boys upstairs, put them in the nursery, and begin to run the bath. My husband gets to work downstairs tidying the bomb site that was formerly known as our kitchen. I go back to the nursery to get the kids so I can put them in the bath. Of course in the few minutes that they have been given free rein of the place they have managed to trash it as usual. However, some good has come from this for once. Edward is standing by the door, grinning from ear to ear, holding both of his previously missing shoes. I can’t for the life of me think where they had been hiding all this time. My husband and I had both turned the entire house upside down several times searching for the darned things and neither of us had a clue where they could have been. We’d even discussed the possibility that they had been thrown away by mistake. After I have bathed the boys and put them to bed, I head downstairs and feel a lot calmer when I see that the kitchen is now looking recognisable once more. “You’ll never guess what I’ve just found” I say to my husband as I proudly present the previously long lost shoes to him. He asks me where they were and I reply “I haven’t the foggiest.” I guess that is one thing that will forever remain a mystery.

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