We Need a Break From Pandemic Parenting
My wife and I have an elaborate fantasy.
A weekend away from the kids. An expensive hotel. We lie on the high-thread-count sheets on the king bed, put soft music on the speaker, and then we don’t talk, we don’t move, we certainly don’t do that. We do nothing. It is glorious.
We are never alone. Our suburban Chicago house was already too small before it became two schools and an office. The conversation starts at 6:00 a.m., when the five-year-old wants to discuss Mario Kart, and goes until midnight, when we close our bedroom door on our teenager, midsentence, still going strong about some meme. There’s not a single moment of quiet, not a single moment for nothing. In one year, we aged a decade.
And yet I and the woman I haven’t been away from in hundreds of days have held it together. In an impossible year, this one thing was possible. In a year when all we wanted was nothing, that was something.
Not everyone held it together. The year exposed the cracks in a marriage. Friends split up in April and tried to rebuild their lives while the world collapsed around them. Other friends didn’t split and spent this time trapped in a home together, replaying a daily nightmare.
Even for many couples who stayed together, this past year has been the worst of their lives. It’s certainly up there for us but pales in comparison with when my wife had cancer and we endured surgeries and treatments that ensured she didn’t die from it. That taught us that sometimes you just have to put your head down and power through, that the work of not dying is also essential work.
And so we share that work. We share the school day. We share the cooking, the cleaning, and the understanding that our house is always a mess. We share the looping, never-ending conversations with our kids. Sometimes, when we’re not completely spent, we share each other. Usually we’re completely spent.
Nobody’s getting out of this unscarred. Once the scars fade, the skin that replaces them will never quite match what was there before. One day we’ll sit in our hotel room in silence and see them and know that we made it through together.
And then we will do nothing.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.
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