23 March 2020:  Lockdown Day -3

23 March 2020: Lockdown Day -3

It’s Day 62 of corona self-isolation.

Kidding, it’s Monday and still only our first week of staying home, but it feels like longer. And Mondays being Mondays, I start my week with that familiar, uneasy feeling that there’s a possibility that my domestic lady won’t show up for work today.

Except this time, that uneasy feeling is a reality, because she’s on forced corona-leave. And, what’s worse, tomorrow is Tuesday and she won’t be coming either.

We’ll, we’re more than capable of cleaning our own house and can’t risk putting our domestic lady and her entire family (and neighbourhood and then the rest of our town) at risk, when she has to travel to me via two taxis here and two back. 

So, Domestic Lady 2.0 is called in for duty.

I’ve managed to do the light house work over the last few days. Little bit of brooming. (That’s a word, right? It should be. It’s a work-word. A do-word, a noun. I’ll make a great home-school-teacher.) I’ve wiped down counters and sanitised the entire house. I haven’t done mopping. (The mop smells funny. I’ll get to that one when I have more courage. I’m easing myself into this.) I’ve even got a bit side tracked and worked my way into the kids’ toy cupboards. I’ve made them build all their puzzles (under the label of “home-schooling”) in order to locate the missing pieces. I’ve assembled all the car tracks, in order to correctly group the sets (and enjoyed that more than the kids). I’ve filed everything in my inbox (and my sent items), I’ve consolidated all my loose hard drives, I’ve done most of the admin and sorting tasks around the house (some of which have been on the to-do list since 2014)… I’ve painted the back stoep, pumped out the water from under the trampoline, cleaned out the drinking water tanks, declared war on the moles on the front lawn, cleaned the pool (twice)…

So, really, there’s no avoiding the real house work any longer.

I’ve allowed my kids to have a “pyjama day”, every day, for the past week. I figured we’ll have less laundry that way, and I’ve disguised my reason as “enjoying some lazy time”. It backfired terribly, because they had to put on clean pyjamas every night, as they can’t seem to keep their clothes clean, even if they stayed indoors most of the time. So, doubling up on pyjamas, meant that we’re now out of pyjamas.

The time has arrived. I’ll have to tackle the elephant in the room. So, here goes.

I gather the clothes. I’m relieved to find very few items in the laundry baskets. But then I check the bathrooms, the shower floor, around the pool, and even found a few pairs of my 3-year old’s pants stuffed in drawers… Finally got it sorted in two piles – light and dark. Or do whites need to be washed completely separate? And what if a white shirt has a colourful print on it? Is it still considered a white? And do I really need to read the wash care instructions? Surely nobody does that and clothes aren’t manufactured that way anymore?

I take care to unravel all the bundled socks, to close all the zips and velcros, to go through all the pockets. I find nerf gun bullets, till slips, sweet papers (that’s where those went), stones, and something already rotten. Feels a bit like a “guess the surprise” game. Unfortunately my husband’s pockets didn’t contain any money.

I find the shortest cycle on the machine. I struggle to get it going, because I keep on pausing it, instead of starting the cycle. Why would they put the start and pause function on the same button?! I chuckle a little at the thought of what my domestic lady would think of this 3-button machine dumbing me for minutes.

I am surprised at how quickly that went (and at how much can actually fit into the machine if you stuff it properly). But then I get whipped for trying to shortcut. Most of the clothes come out with their stains still visible. Ok, so a longer cycle next time. And maybe stuffed just half full. And also maybe that laundry gadget which replaces the dishwashing soap isn’t so great after all. Should’ve believed my domestic lady when she complained – instead of telling her to just go through the laundry and rub the stains with the bar of sunlight soap. No ways I’m going to hold up each stinking item and look for stains and then get up even closer to rub them. (Mental note to buy laundry soap with the first trip to the shop, when we’re allowing ourselves out of isolation again.)

I put in batch four. The first three will have to go into the cupboards as is, stains and all. They were a trial run. Everyone deserves a practice round(s). With this last laundry batch there aren’t enough lights and darks to make two separate bundles, but I don’t want to wait until tomorrow to fill them up. I need to get this done and dusted. I need to tick it off the list completely today. (I know I’m fooling myself and there’ll be laundry again tomorrow, but at least I’ll feel the satisfaction of a job completed today.) I decide to put both the lights and darks into the machine together. My common sense tells me that if I use a cold wash cycle and if the clothes are old (which they are all) the chances are very little of the colours running. I put a towel between the two “layers”, just in case. Imagine that works. I know it won’t, but it feels safer doing that. And the towel needs to be washed anyway. (Mental note to never be upset when I see that my domestic mixed up the darks and lights. She goes through this struggle daily.)

I take the huge basket of wet clothes from the first batches. Internal struggle. Huge one. Do I hang them up outside (more work, but environmentally friendly way of doing things) or do I pop them in the tumble dryer (huge electricity consumption, but so much easier)? I opt for the dryer. I’m sorry. But I deserve this. I’ll do it only today. Plus, the weather might change. You never know with our weather. And a bird might poop on the clothes outside. The dryer really is the safer option. Turns out my dryer is smaller than my washing machine.


I turn to my safe space – in front of the kettle. While I wait for it to boil, I consider the absolute wasted (but necessary) last two hours. I feel a strong reluctancy to do this over and over and over again until my domestic lady (should really start calling her ‘domestic angel’) comes back. We’ll have to make some adjustments and put some limitations in place on how many items each family member is allowed to wear. From now on kids will have to eat ice cream naked, outside. Spaghetti will be served with bibs. And swimming will have to happen in day clothes, not swimwear or naked. Might even have to consider letting the kids bath in their clothes.

22 March 2020:  Lockdown Day -4

22 March 2020: Lockdown Day -4

It’s Day 57 of corona self-isolation.

Actually, it’s Sunday and we’ve gradually started staying home since the start of this week only, but it DOES feel like weeks already.

I’m not so scared of contracting the virus. Actually, then I (and inevitably my entire family) will be immune and we can go on about life as normal. But, just imagining a house with three sick kids (and being down myself) is enough to motivate me to rather practice complete social isolation. It’s not so much the kids getting sick. As a mom of three boys, I’ve dealt with sick kids often. It’s the sick husband I’m dead scared of. Imagine that.

I walk into the washroom and see the pile of dishes that couldn’t go in the dishwasher – or, more correctly, the ones that went in and came out dirty anyway. Better start washing those, as we won’t have clean pots, pans, or glasses soon.

I’ve asked my domestic lady to stay home and self-isolate five days ago. It’s too risky for her to travel to work with the taxis during these uncertain times. So, now I’m mom, home maker, work-from-homer, home-school-teacher, gardener, and cleaner.

Well, not as if I don’t know how to clean my own house. Of course I do. I do it every weekend and when my domestic lady is on leave. As well as (what feels like) every half hours from when she leaves at 16:00 during week days. But, to be honest, it’s way worse when we are all stuck at home and the kids don’t seem to stop eating. (I make a mental note to never complain about packing school lunch boxes again. Feeding them at home is definitely more work.)

I gather all the dishes. I find coffee mugs everywhere – under couches, outside, on the basin in the bathroom. All mine, I must admit.

Do I always leave my empty mugs out like this?

I gather all the empty glasses. And mop up the spills on the floors and carpets from where they fell over. Some broke. (Where do we keep the hand broom and dustpan?) My goodness. How many water glasses do my family members use in a day? Do they really take out a new glass every time they drink water? We should have a talk about that. I vaguely remember something about “rubbing up” the glasses to make them shiny. If I just rinse them under the running tap, would they not be clear? Will have to test that and see after this batch of 921 glasses I’m now going to wash.

I fill the sink, being mindful of the amount of water I’m using. It makes me think of everything we’ve been “scared” of lately. We’ve feared fires (and floods in other areas). We’ve feared running out of water. We’re still fearing running out of electricity. Now we’re fearing getting sick and spreading the dreaded corona virus to the elderly.

But never thought I’d fear running out of dishwasher tablets. I count the ones left in the bag. One per day, times 30-odd days per month times… how many? Should’ve bought tablets, instead of toilet paper. I can still rinse my bum in the bidet, or the basin or under the shower. But imagine not being able to use the dishwasher soon and having to wash dishes by hand every day.

I start scrubbing away.
It’s actually a pleasantly-surprisingly soothing task.
(Mental note to put my hand up for this one when we start dividing the household chores soon.)

I rummage through the washroom cupboard to find an old baby bottle brush to clean the taller glasses. (How does my domestic lady otherwise do this?!) I don’t find one, but make a plan to reach the bottoms easily. I move things around, in order to optimise my drying space. I fill the larger, stickiest bowls with scorching hot water and leave the lids of the jars and plastic ware floating inside to soak. I then stand back for a few moments to marvel at my ability to figure out all of these dish washing hacks by myself.

I want to brag to someone.

But my kids disappeared after I made them sit through an hour of home-schooling. (Mental note to voice my awe at all home-schooling moms when our paths cross again.) My husband went upstairs to shave. An hour ago. It’s amazing how husbands manage to find the time to just take some “me-time”. We can really learn from them. But, then again, a day only has 24 hours.

I turn on the kettle for a well-deserved cup of coffee. Then I realise that no-one has done laundry this week. Ugh. 

Mental note to increase my domestic lady’s wage when she’s finally back.

30 March 2020:  Lockday Day 4

30 March 2020: Lockday Day 4

There’s a corona crisis.

We’re in lockdown. It’s been many days.

There’s an ‘inside day’ atmosphere about – like when the weather app predicts a storm. But, all the time.

Eventhough the sun is shining, we resort to the same kind of entertainment one would when the weather says ‘stay put’. No going to the beach when the wind is still. No quick breakfast out, so the kids can run around (and the adults finally get a chance to talk). No Seattle coffee from Caltex. Instead, we build puzzles, complete lego sets, try to colour in, play board games… My Google searches now include ‘fun inside activities’, ‘cool science projects’ and ‘free games downloads’.

And fort building. The kids are making one in the living room. The spot on the couch, where I planned to watch Netflix tonight, is now the eldest one’s bedroom for the next two nights. It keeps them busy. And busy, entertained kids are moms’ favourite kind.

The 11-year old is the site manager. The two younger brothers are the eager construction workers. The 3-year old carries pillow towers and heavy winter blankets from every bedroom in the house. It’s incredible how he can do that, yet he cannot bring his tiny pile of washing from his room without help. The 7-year old is in charge of getting all the dining room chairs past the couch, to support the roofs.

I bite my lip every time I hear my eldest reprimand and order the younger ones around. I hear myself. All my own words, but in a boy voice. He even gets my tone right. (What a lesson about passing it down.) I politely tell him to talk nicely to his brothers. The younger two quickly chirp back that they don’t mind. They just appreciate being part of his team.

I get called to look at their great fort (every ten minutes). I have to do the full tour. I haven’t leopard crawled like this in ages. I even get an invite to sleep in there tonight and they offer to make me my own room. They’re very disappointed when I decline and I almost consider it. But no, thanks. I barely get a good night’s sleep in my own bed. Even the best padded wooden floor won’t do. They try to make me promise never to break the fort, ever. I say “we’ll see”. I know not to pick a fight now. There are plenty of negotiations about the treats they should have for their midnight feast. I offer some old sweets from a past party pack, half a packet of chips and two stale-ish biscuits.

They’re not impressed, but I explain it’s tough times.

Last night, my mom forwarded a post from a lady in Italy. She was writing “from the future”, as Italy already passed the lockdown phase we’re experiencing now. I realised that I CAN BE THAT to others. Our family has been in isolation for two weeks already, compared to most others who started at the official government announcement four days ago.

I can offer lots of advice.

Well, I don’t always appreciate it when people use ‘experience’ as a reason to lecture or try justify their opinions. (Well, only, of course, when their opinions differ from mine, otherwise I’d call their reasoning ‘proof’.)

So, my advice is only applicable to other moms of roughly my age (which is 29-ish-ish or 49-ish, depending on the mood), with three kids (preferably boys) between the ages of 3 and 11, with a busy household, including pets, a working husband, a long to-do list, more than one job, and plenty of projects. My advice is relevant, only if you share my values, attention to detail, and often a-type personality. You need to be a little pedantic, time-sensitive, and internally obsessed with organising and planning (but only internally, otherwise you’d seem manic). You need to be the type of mom that will walk around the world for her kids – balancing a school bag on her head, while carrying a coffee in the one hand and a favourite toy in the other. ALL around the world. Barefoot. While it’s hot. In sweatpants. But you also need to be the type of mom (and here’s where I lose half my crowd) that is realistic about her kids’ shortcomings and can publicly laugh about that.

If you can picture yourself as that, then picture this…

Here are some general tips, not an all-inclusive list at all, and in no particular order of importance:

This is possibly going to continue for a long time. Don’t plan your outings yet. The house is going to get smaller. The tempers are going to get shorter. The boredom is going to get larger. Practice to breathe in deeply, bite your lip often, and roll your eyes when no-one is looking. This should be easy to master, as most moms should be proficient at this already.

The silver lining is (no jokes) that this is the extra time with the kids moms always wish for. (However, this is not quite the type of extra time wives wish to spend with husbands, if you’re married with kids.) It will feel like a long weekend, then a nice break, then like the school holiday that’s too long. Initially the kids will fight more. But then they start getting along better than ever before. Everyone eventually adapts.

There still won’t be time to read the books you’ve stowed away for ‘one day’. And even if you do have the time, you’d probably find you’ve moved into a different phase of your life and they’re not so interesting anyway.

Don’t start a major project. You don’t want to be the only disappointed one when lockdown is over, because your project isn’t done yet.

You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. If you shower and get dressed before dinner, it still counts. You’re allowed to call it a holiday some days. With some chores, you can actually get ahead – like freezing leftovers for future lunches. Make peace with the loops – those are dishes and laundry. They never end. You never get ahead. Just deal with it. Watch out for false sense of accomplishment. Soaking and drip-drying dishes cause less work now, but more groans later.

Hide the sweats. Don’t tell anyone where. Don’t be tempted to reveal the location when you’re too busy to get up to fetch some. Your husband might be worse than the kids, so don’t trust him either. Kids don’t snack proportional to their weight, but to their level of boredom. Keep them busy, but never compare yourself with Facebook moms. Great ideas other people post about how they keep their kids entertained for hours, are A) not so interesting to your kids; B)is above your kids’ skill level; C) fake news.

Many things are now ok. It’s ok if the kids sleep in the fort, because it’s not a school night. It’s ok if your kids wear the same clothes many days in a row. It’s ok if you do it too. It’s ok not to wear make-up or a bra. (Don’t make it too obvious to your husband that you’re not wearing a bra.)

Many things are now even better than ok. Your car will stay cleaner for longer than ever before. The kids will get skilled in the art of cleaning up and doing chores. They’ll even reach the point where they can do them without being rewarded. That earns you a pro-parent-badge.

No-one will truly know or appreciate how much you do every day. Your husband will get up from his work-from-home-desk just as you are about to make a cup of coffee or turn a page in a magazine. I don’t have much advice here, other than to teach your eldest how to make a decent cup of coffee.

Some further unrelated observations I’d like to convey: Take the batteries out of the bathroom scale. Drink the cheap coffee first. The snackwicher is your best friend. More open windows result in more dust – choose wisely. When the kids play dress-up, don’t offer make-up or face paint. The mess of baking with the kids will most likely outweigh the fun thereof. Small plates fit the dishwasher better and everyone eats less. You can drink coffee from soup mugs if all the cups are dirty. If you have boys, you won’t feel how sticky the floor in front of the toilet is if you wear shoes to the loo. If you have a smelly dog, don’t leave your best carpet outside to air. The smell of grey water doesn’t wash off your hands. Do not make sandwiches after cleaning grey water tanks. If you tell the kids to come call you when they’re done keeping themselves busy, so you all can start cleaning the house, they’ll leave you alone for a really long time.

And if you get bored, here are some fun things to do: Smell the mat in front of the bath / shower / toilet. Open the dishwasher, but instead of looking inside, notice the filth at the bottom, in the groove of the open door. Run a damp finger over any flat surface above eye level. Smell the bin (between the black bag and the bin). Smell the dog. Smell the back of the kids’ necks.

When you find time to sit down and listen, really listen to your kids play. Remember, this is that extra time you’ve always wished for. Listen to the latest slang they’re using. This is the time to brush up on how to run with your crowd. Learn how to dab. (Google it. It’s impossible to explain here.) You might be a ‘noob’ at all of this now, but it’ll be second nature soon. Take care. You’re on your own from here onwards.

PS: All accounts from the last few days were absolutely true.

You can’t make this stuff up.