This is not the dystopia I had in mind.
In the 2011 film “In Time”, time itself is the ultimate commodity. Those who can afford it enjoy the infinite spoils, whilst everyone else scrambles to hold on to what little they have left. Since becoming a father in February of this year, the latter has become all too increasingly real. It’s barely been 3 months, but the word “spare” has seemingly vanished from my mental dictionary, only to be replaced by “sleep deprivation”. Meanwhile the definition of the word “reality” is steadily being rewritten as the weeks progress. Raising an infant for the first time in any scenario would do just that. During a pandemic however is something we could never expect.
Leading up to the big day, my wife and I were deep in preparation for our new family member, whether it be routine scans and checkups at the hospital, NCT classes with other equally anxious & excited first-time couples, or clearing enough space in the flat for a mound of paraphernalia capable of serving and pleasing a tiny Empress. One who since her arrival has captured our hearts, minds and just about every waking hour. Each day appears to evaporate faster than the next. It’s incredible how much our relative perception of time has been altered. (I sometimes wonder if this is what Einstein truly meant.) Returning to work after 2 weeks of parental leave was a challenge for both of us. I wouldn’t be around at home as much to see our little one grow and develop, and also was not able to provide the same level of dedicated support and share of the responsibilities. On a couple of occasions, I approached my boss and entertained the idea of working from home once a week.
Little did I know I would soon be working from home for the foreseeable future.
Taking care of a new life is certainly proving to be equal parts joyful and stressful. Doing so during a widespread spate of panic-buying adds a whole extra layer of unwanted frustration and anxiety. Whilst the nation went Battle Royale over the last roll of toilet paper, I was Nicolas Cage in National Treasure, jumping through 2 metre-spaced hoops and racing against (you guessed it) “time” in a desperate hunt for Calpol, nasal spray and nappies. (There has however been some justice served, several stores are refusing to refund hoarders of their surplus price-gouged goods, when they discover nobody wants to do business with them.)
Then in March, the country went into Quarantine. Stay at home. Save lives.
Barely into the second week under government house-arrest the grip on days and dates began to waiver. Sitting in the same place in the living room day in, day out, with any human contact outside of immediate family reduced to Zoom or Slack. The initial camaraderie among colleagues fizzling out as the situation continued, and the furloughs began. The increasingly uneasy gauntlets of grocery shopping (forget even looking at home delivery, you’ve no hope in sight), and praying to yourself you don’t bring anything unwanted home with you. Muttering the words to Happy Fucking Birthday as you scrub your hands for the nth time.
The daily update of reported fatal cases.
All while dealing with very heavy eyelids, 4am diaper changes, a highly fluid work-life balance and a tiny human being who (thankfully) has absolutely no concept of what’s going on, and is still learning how to tell us what she needs with a garble, grizzle, or a cry.
Being unable to see friends and family has been especially difficult, particularly from a support perspective. My parents were able to meet their granddaughter just before everything changed, but with my wife’s family being overseas, they were not so lucky. Its quite a strain, and while regular video calls help to ease the situation, it just isn’t the same, not least for the baby. Despite assurances, it’s hard not to have concerns as to how this will affect her ability to interact and bond with others as she develops.
There are however, some silver linings to this unprecedented, monumental cloud.
I have no daily commute (unless you count walking to the living room), I get to see more of my wife and daughter, and the all important “firsts” that she is reaching as she grows week by week. (The first true smile was a heart-melter.) Whilst unable to meet others in person, we’ve seen more of our folks in video than we would normally in the flesh. Meanwhile, with 90% of our time spent indoors, the mandated “one form of exercise a day” has resulted in more walks around the local park than we’d ever done pre-lockdown.
But as Quarantine continues, its hard not to wonder what will go back to how it was, and what has irreparably changed. What kind of society we will have to adjust to, and that our child will grow to experience.