Jocelyne is one of our psychologists at Pocket Family Psychologist and would like to share how being ill with coronavirus has changed her family structure for the better. Here is her story:
Unwelcome, unwanted and unexpected events can throw ‘curveballs’ at family life. These curveballs often change the structure of a family as one member can’t play ‘their role’ or do ‘their job’ as they did before the curveball hit. Responsibilities can change pretty much overnight and family ‘rulebooks’ torn up in the chaos. Often, families learn to readjust and reorganise in response, but the process can be strange, unfamiliar and anxiety provoking.
I recently came down with corona virus. Sure, it was a ‘mild case’ but I was out of the family action (in bed, sleeping, ill, feeling rotten) for a good few weeks.
Our Family Before the Covid-19 Shaped Curveball
I’m a mum to two young children and a wife to a husband who sees parenting in ‘alternative’ ways to me. I pretty much see myself as THE key decision maker for the family. My nickname is The Boss. At the start of lockdown I was in my element making even more decisions and telling my family what to do. Then, the virus hit me and I was, unexpectedly, removed from daily family life. This was a most unwelcome and unwanted development.
First Stage – Impact
I tried to keep going for the first few days. I was worried about what kind of chaos could be unleashed with my husband in charge. What if they ate dry cereals for breakfast, lunch AND dinner? What about my carefully crafted homeschool time table (which my daughter hated by the way)? What about those twinkl worksheets that I printed out on day one of lockdown (that my daughter also hated by the way)? Would my two year old colour in every single wall space? And then start on the carpet? Would everyone develop anaemia and muscle wastage from weeks of watching TV in the dark?
Anyway. You get the idea. How would my family cope without me? But worse than this. What if they coped really well? What if my husband turned out to be better at all this than me? What if my role as The Boss turned out to be redundant? What if my kids preferred the more ‘relaxed’ ways of my husband’s parenting? By day three, corona virus had won and I was in bed feeling too crappy to even think.
Second Stage – Adjustment
Over the next few weeks things didn’t fall apart. Sure, lots of cereal was consumed. Walls were coloured in. Twinkl worksheets gathered dust. But, thanks to my husband lots of other activities happened. Puppet shows were made, poetry was written and ‘squash golf’ invented. If I’m being honest, everyone was relieved to have a break from the authoritarian ways of The Boss. But, after many weeks I was back and ready to dislodge my husband from my place in the family. I didn’t, however, reckon on the structural shifts that had taken place in my absence. I was horrified to learn that my husband had enjoyed his new found role and wasn’t about to step down. I read my six year old’s diary (pretty low) and learned of all the wonderful things that had happened and how much fun they’d had. I also didn’t reckon on how exhausted I would feel following corona virus. For many more weeks, my fatigue meant that I had no choice but to be alongside my husband, and at times, follow his lead.
My husband and I have had many many conversations in the past about me wanting him to do more but only if he signs up to what I want him to do. The ‘who does more’ row has been a favourite in our house. Negotiations have broken down when he wants to do more, but his way. “No way” said I. “It’s my way or the highway”.
When the Dust Settles – Long-term Changes
Corona virus has changed the structure of our family for the better. I wan’t happy with being The Boss but I also didn’t know how to let go, and was frightened about sharing this role with my husband. It took corona virus, and me literally being taken out the equation, for family roles and responsibilities to shift in response.
For many families, the changes that follow curveballs are more permanent than the ones that my family experienced. Sadly, illness, separation or even death can bring about much larger and far reaching changes to a family’s structure. With some guidance, families can navigate these changes in roles and responsibilities and in time, learn how to adjust, support one another and grow together.