I wasn’t expecting this coronavirus. I mean, I remember reading one or two articles around October and November, highlighting how a pandemic was going to be a threat in the future, but nothing that would have worried me. Brexit, global warming and ever-growing public debt in Italy were on top of my global worries list. And then the catastrophe hit. My mind and my heart are with Bergamo, the worst hit city in Europe by this tragedy. A lot has been said and I don’t think my words could add much. But I still want to reflect on what this time brought to me.
At the beginning of the lockdown, I didn’t think I would have been able to last very long. The thing that bugged me the most was the allowance of one trip out a day. I needed more. Not so much for me, but for my little boy, who was three months old and seemed to be allergic to sleeping in the house during the day. The first few months with a newborn are special and challenging at the same time. Lockdown is hardly a recommended scenario.
I needed a time horizon, like when I broke my arm. In 25 days we will take off the cast.
We didn’t get that. You must stay at home, indefinitely. In my optimistic mindset, I was expecting the lockdown to last few weeks. Maybe that is the lie I told myself.
No schedules, no obligations, but a new life in my hands. Demanding, as all babies are. The baby, me, my husband, who embraced working from home and was glued to the screen for several hours a day, working hard as he always does. My days turned into something completely different and I switched from Fulham mummy on maternity leave with a busy social life, some childcare help in place and a foot in Bergamo, to a full time foreigner with no family nearby, no help and nowhere to go. Home, park, residential streets, repeat. Some bread making, yogurt and cooking sessions to keep my hands busy, but also not much time for anything else than looking after the little one and keeping the house together. Suddenly I was a housewife from the 60s, minus the chain smoking we saw in Mad Man.
My maternity leave, as I envisaged it, was wiped out. No more coffees with friends, baby-friendly gym classes and some childcare help to grant some me time. Just as I was getting ready to venture into central London, indulge in the numerous museums pushing a pram, the only thing available was a walk in the park.
For two months, I haven’t looked anyone in the eye, except my husband and my baby, who was getting more and more interactive by the day, and who has now passed the grand landmark of six months. A lot of whatsup groups, FaceTime calls and occasional Zoom drinks.
For three months we have been filled with words like “it will never be like before”. I never believed it.
While we were in lockdown – and I say were, even though we are not back to normal, but we can do a lot of things – the “before” appeared to us so happy and absurd and full that now we want only one thing: to return to it. We longed what we knew.
I can speak about my experience and this situation has shed some light on a few things. Sure, we will not go back to a better version of ourselves. Take a ride in the car and you will confirm that people are still using the horn more than they use the break.
This situation has highlighted certain things we didn’t like of our previous life and never admitted to myself.
Frantic travels, horrible commutes, extreme planning, a lot of unnecessary spending. We spent a lot to make up for the lack of time. Think breakfast on the go or shopping as a form of entertainment. The lack of spontaneity and the need to diarise everything. Until a few months before closing, I was leading a life that was anything but sedentary. I worked a lot, I travelled for work and visited my family in Italy, I often dined out. Some weeks, even when I was eight months pregnant, I came home just to sleep.
This has been a time to reflect. I understood that real freedom is time. I was used to saying it before, but now I can certify it.
We haven’t wasted these months because we have gained a different perspective over things, and hopefully, understood what matters for us.
I want to go back to some aspects of my “before”, but for sure at a different and calmer pace.
I want less stuff, fewer clothes and longer holidays.