he relative miseries (or joys) of lockdown life were all people could talk about in the first days and weeks of this strange new world.
‘Imagine being cooped up in a tiny flat with no outdoor space!’, ‘imagine living in the Beckhams’ mansion with family all around you and unlimited resources!’, ‘imagine if you had to work from home with three kids to look after!’. We quickly all came to the conclusion that we could have it better, or worse.
Your position on this relative scale of better-ness or worse-ness is, I think, directly related to the guilt you feel over how hard you are finding the current restrictions on your liberty. Aside from the obvious, feeling grateful for your health and that of your family, you feel you should be grateful for your garden, your job, your access to open space, all the things we took for granted just weeks ago.
I sit somewhere in the middle of ‘the scale of lockdown misfortune.’ I have a small but lovely home, a long but untamed garden, a son (four) to keep me company and a job that has always allowed me to work from home, so I haven’t had to be part of the #WFH novelty brigade. As a single parent I score extra lockdown misery-allowance points, but I lose some for having a co-parent, who is having my son frequently, allowing me to work in relative peace. I would argue that as work set-ups go, I have it easier than many of my married friends who are co-working and co-parenting under one roof. But, my trump card: the only other living adult I’m able to see regularly for the foreseeable is my ex. I’ll give you a moment to think about that.
While lockdown days are treating each of us differently – some twiddle idle thumbs on furlough while others attempt to juggle impossible home school sessions with four-hour Zoom conferences – the nights are now the same for us all. Well, almost the same. You either have another adult in your house with you, or you don’t. And here lies the learning opportunity for my single friends with no kids (and you thought all you’d learn was how to make the perfect flour-free banana bread).
If you are an adult, living on your own, you are right now getting an insight into what it is like to be a single parent. What evenings stuck at home on your own, with nowhere to go and nothing to do feel like. How some of them feel glorious, full of opportunity and self-indulgence (a long, silent bubble bath and a glass of wine? What bliss!) and how some of them feel endless, lonely and hopeless (a long, silent bubble bath and a glass of wine? How tragic.).
The monotony of every night offering the same options, the same routines. The silence that can only be filled by streaming media into your rooms, voices that don’t hear your replies, don’t require a response. The inability to be spontaneous, to say ‘yes’ to a drink at the pub because the afternoon was unusually warm. The inability to pop next door to the shop because you’ve run out of loo roll (actually you’re allowed to do that, as it’s an essential item, so you have a slight upper hand on me, still). The long stretches between socialising with friends, going on dates, getting to a gym class, because you have to wait for your night off, or to organise childcare.
All the single folks out there, welcome to the single parent club. Your evenings now look like mine. And as the club swells, as so often happens, it’s really taken off. You ‘new members’ have really improved things. You’ve had great ideas. We now WhatsApp call, Zoom and HouseParty. My evenings are filled with quizzes, FaceTime dates, virtual Pictionary. I feel more connected to friends than I have since becoming a single mum. You’re missing the company of other adults, just like I am, but you’re learning that you can survive long lonely nights, if you can find support from your friends and family, however it’s available.
I am as desperate for lockdown to be lifted as anyone else is. I am excited to be able to use my infrequent nights off to see my friends, go to a pub, have dinner, have sex (remember sex?). But single friends, when you get back out into the wild, please remember these long, lonely nights you spent as honorary single parents. And remember the single parents you’re leaving behind in evening lockdown, with children sleeping upstairs. Remember how you saw our faces on your phones and laptops so regularly, how we became part of the gang again?
When this is all over, please don’t stop calling.