OK, there’s no way of wringing a positive out of this one. The return to lockdown is bleak. Yet that’s the reality for anyone living in Melbourne or much of Victoria.
Second time around it feels even harder to contend with, perhaps because we’re now queasily familiar with what’s to come. Enduring the cabin fever of lockdown with small children invariably leads to mental angst, relationship stress and way too much screen-time for the kids.
In urgent need of inspiration, The Father Hood spoke to five Melbourne dads about what they plan to do differently this time in order to safeguard their sanity.
“I found it really claustrophobic”
“Last time around was really challenging. Life became reduced to looking after the kids – we’ve got a two-year-old and a four-year-old – and stressing about not getting enough work done. As soon as the kids were in bed, I was back on the laptop trying to make up for lost time.
But what I most struggled with was not ever having any time to myself. It’s not like I had stacks of time before, but even my drive into work gave me a chance to listen to a podcast. Without that alone time, I found things really claustrophobic. It definitely affected my mood.
During this lockdown, my wife and I have agreed that each of us will get a 30-minute “timeout” each day to go for a walk or to exercise. Hopefully that’ll give us the mental space to cope a bit better. That’s the idea at any rate – we’ll have to see how it goes.” Chris
“No drinks until my daughter is in bed”
“I found myself drinking too much last time. There was nothing dramatic or remotely interesting about any of it – no blackouts, no fistfights, no adventures. I just found myself, well, drinking a bit more and waking up feeling not exactly hungover but a little bit dusty most days.
To be honest, I think I was mostly drinking out of sheer boredom. Obviously, you’re not going anywhere or doing anything in lockdown. Plus I enjoy drinking, too. And, let’s face it, looking after a two-year-old when you’ve had a couple of beers can sometimes be a bit more fun. (“You want to make another sandcastle? Hell yeah!”).
So this time I’m going to try and keep things more under control. The plan is to have three booze-free nights a week and no drinks until my daughter is in bed. Except at the weekend, obviously.”
“I’m going to train the dog”
“My wife ‘surprised’ me by getting a new puppy a month ago. It nearly led to a divorce. We’ve already got one dog and three young kids so life was full-on before that. Throw in a hyperactive puppy that’s always chewing everything and pissing on the rug and the family has been brought to the brink.
Plus my wife and I seem to have very different ideas about how dogs should behave. Let’s just say she favours a more indulgent approach, so that led to a bunch of rows, too.
So this lockdown I’m just going to focus on training the dog. If by the end of the six weeks, Tessa the cocker spaniel is no longer terrorising the household, I’ll count that as a definite win.”
“I want to lose a few kilos”
“I’m totally gutted. Six weeks feels like a long, long time. So far these lockdowns have ruined anything fun we had planned this year. We already had to cancel our holiday in the Gold Coast during the last one. The latest one means I’m going to miss my sister’s 40th in Sydney in a couple of weeks.
So this lockdown I feel like I need some sort of mission to distract myself from the shitty reality of it all. My aim is to try and get a bit fitter and lose a few kilos. That’s something I’ve definitely led slide since becoming a dad.
The plan is that I’m going to start running again and try not to eat so much crap. It’s not like the next six weeks of lockdown are going to be much fun anyway, so if I can lose 5kg at least I’ll have got something out of this mess.”
“Arguments over ‘the right way to fold a towel'”
“My wife and I clashed all the time during the last lockdown. We were both trying to work from home and look after our two sons who were bouncing off the walls. It caused a lot of conflict, a lot of rows. Plus living in each other’s pockets there were also a lot of petty arguments over “the right way to fold a towel” and all that stuff.
This time we’re going to plan our work schedule together. We’ll share a Google calendar that shows what our days look like, when each of us is going to take the kids and when we have important Zoom calls or deadlines.
My wife also complained that last time we “didn’t spend any real time together” despite the fact that we were both at home the entire time. This time, the idea is, we’ll make a bigger deal out of our evening meals together. Sit down each night and have a glass of wine and eat something nice. Turn it into a bit more of an event. As opposed to what usually happened before: finish off the kids’ leftover sausages at 5pm and wind up snacking on Kettle Chips on the couch – usually in front of MasterChef ironically enough.”