Monday, November 29

Lockdown is making the kids v no kids divide wider



Coronavirus has revealed a deep divide in our nation between the haves and have-nots. No, not those smug stockpilers sitting on stacks of toilet roll. The real gap that’s been brought to the fore is between those who have kids and those who don’t.

It’s not like I never realised this huge difference before. Among my friends, there’s a sharp line in the sand(pit) between breeders and non-breeders.

The former suggest meeting for lunch at 11.30am, the latter are sometimes just getting home from a night out at that time.

There are those who have to schedule our meet-ups with military precision between naps and playdates, and those who do it around holidays, facials and all the ‘trivial’ things child-free people in their thirties do with their weekends (#sorrynotsorry).

But now that we’re all stuck at home it’s really highlighted just how different life in self-isolation is with children and without. My friend Ella says that she would love to be doing home yoga, then making a lobster bisque, eating it from bed and Instagramming it, but she’s busy building her 15th fort of the day.

By 7.45am. Every time she sees another Instagram meme about using this time to ‘rest’ and ‘reflect’ she wants to rip her own face off. The fact she has two seven-year-old twins might have something to do with that.

Even within my mum friends, there are divisions. A mate with three under five, who is also trying to work full-time from home, says she can’t bear to speak to her friend who has one child and doesn’t work. We are all in this together, but some of us are quietly going insane while small people pelt us with sofa cushions.

ut being under lockdown when you don’t have any children isn’t a walk in the park (at a safe distance) either. If you’re 35 and don’t have kids, the current situation brings your choices starkly into focus.

When you’ve made your career the main focus of your life, the fact that most of your work, like everything else, has suddenly ground to a halt could leave a real emptiness that no amount of yoga or fancy soup-making would fill.

There’s a part of me that wishes I had a newborn to care for, or a fun little sidekick to do a Joe Wicks PE class with. I sense parents are the ones buying sensible things when they go to the shops. Unlike me, who came back with two packs of Mini-Eggs, a bottle of kombucha and some dried mango.

All the benefits of being child-free – going out spontaneously, leisurely lunches in restaurants that aren’t Giraffe are now off the table. Long lie-ins lose their appeal when there’s nothing to get up for. I feel trivial moaning to friends with kids about my anxiety, when I know that they’re working 15-hour days to juggle work and childcare.

Those of us non-breeders who live alone have resorted to desperate measures. One single friend told me she’d built a ‘companion’ out of sofa cushions to chat to. I think she was joking. Another is going on ‘video dates’ with the guys she’s meeting on apps, which after a few drinks often lead to phone sex. It’s no surprise that sales of sex toys have gone up. After all, orgasms are meant to boost your immune system.

It seems that whatever life stage you’re at whether you’re the woman who live-tweeted having to self-isolate with a Hinge date she’d just met, or the divorced couple trying to figure out how to co-parent while social distancing – this isn’t easy. All of us are facing our own unique challenges.

But when we finally do emerge, blinking in the sunlight with very dry, overwashed hands, every single one of us will feel grateful parent and non-parent alike.