I’ve become borderline obsessed with the New York Times parenting newsletter over this period, mostly because I’m desperate to know how other people are surviving – what are they doing? How are they managing to work from home with kids? Is everyone else having adorable family time and complicated crafts and enriched learning experiences?
My online perusal is one part commiseration, one part desperation to feel superior to someone, and one part “If I put my kids in the bath in the middle of the day and tell them to wash the duplo, I’ve just bought myself 30 minutes??! YES PLEASE.” (Also, seeing how stressed John Oliver was about working from home really made me feel better).
So, I thought perhaps there are other people in a similar position, and would be interested in that weird “obsessed with other people’s lives” kind of way who would want to know what it’s like doing a 21 day lockdown in a tiny house with an almost 3 year old and a 9month old. Also, since I’m at home, I have time to tell you about it.
A couple of huge perks about our living situation:
- We’re in South Africa. It’s early fall. The weather is mostly great. No one will freeze to death if they play outside, they might just get a little chilly.
- We have neighbours/our landlords on the same property, who have a trampoline and a toddler. We’re one “lockdown unit” so the kids are still able to play with each other. When it gets too rainy, we can always go visit the neighbours.
Living in a 8x2m tiny house with 2 kids is WAY better than living in a tiny apartment somewhere— we have outdoors. It’s also way bigger and with way less people than a lot of people’s houses in SA. We have internet. So please keep all that in mind.
Normally, David walks to work four days a week, and is with the boys all day Friday. Normally, I work 3 days a week, and two of those days Gogo Martha, our nanny, comes to watch the boys while I’m at work. She also cleans our bathroom for which I am forever grateful. So, our biggest change is that we’re now both working every day, and just taking shifts with the kids.
So, what’s life like these days?
Well, normally I get up at 5ish to feed the baby and do yoga- if it’s too cold outside, my yoga mat fits down the middle of our tiny house. Then I make coffee, and David starts work at 6am. Big brother gets up at some point and we have this very complex tea and vitamins routine (HOW do these things get so complex?? Like any routine with my toddler starts as this simple thing, and then suddenly one part moves one day and he latches on to it and loses his mind if it’s not that way again. So we have the tea, but WITHOUT the tea bag in the cup yet, so he can put it in himself, and the jug of milk so he can pour it himself, and his vitamins, but now also a cup of water because he chews his vitamins with his eyes closed, sipping water and shaking his head back and forth like an old person taking pills… oh wait, he’s copying me).
Breakfast, normally with the baby in his highchair on the porch, since he makes such a mess eating. Hand breakfast and snacks up to David so he can keep working through breakfast.
Tidy up and hopefully get outside. Toddler is very into his construction site at the moment, which is where he moves rocks from our our outdoor shelter to different spots, mixes them with sand, and recites lines from his favorite youtube video, a 1996 British kids show called “Builder Ted”. We hear things (in a British accent of course) like, “Did you know, this dump truck can carry 45 tons of rock. That’s bigger than FIVE elephants” or “This hopper works with a compressor like a telescope” (Or something. I don’t know all these construction terms).
Try to do laundry any time there is a speck of sun, since we don’t have a dryer.
Maybe get the baby to nap.
Probably play upstairs with Duplo, the other favorite. Duplo also often becomes a construction site. The other upstairs favorite is Doctor. This is a very involved game with every. single. stuffed animal needing to have some medicine administered. And of course a parent must do all the voices or meltdown ensues. And there are multiple medicines. No one ever gets better. No one ever takes their medicine calmly.
Tea time at 10, and hand over to Daddy while I do my work shift. YAAY.
Whoever is working normally works up in the loft, or outside at the picnic table. Both of us are exceptionally good at tuning out things we don’t want to pay attention to. David will often listen to podcasts or music in his headphones to tune out. I just have the amazing ability of not caring about stuff. It’s kind of like this secret joy to hear a child whining and know, “That’s not my problem right now.”
Get handed peanut butter sandwiches or a smoothie from David while I work through lunch. Sometimes get handed fancy coffee (like the hand-whipped kind from a tiktok video) because he’s bored.
At 2, accept the children back again. Normally toddler has had some sort of rest time – playing by himself up in his room, listening to a radio drama or podcast. He gets obsessed with the same episodes though. So it is quite tedious hearing the same “Jungle Jam and friends the radio show” story a million times. It’s about a little lion.
We finally got him to try StoryPirates podcast, and he loved it… but doesn’t want to try any new ones except the single first episode about a portable trampoline. (It’s a very catchy song).
So, we normally play outside again (construction site, anyone?) David sometimes manages to weed in the garden or work on a small project with toddler during his shift. Sometimes I manage to bake with toddler. Often in the afternoon we’ll go up to play with the neighbour. Playdough has been a friend.
We’ve had several rainy days, but so far our toddler has still been obsessed enough with duplo, playdough, and listening to StoryPirates on repeat that we’ve been okay. Haven’t even had that much youtube.
Then it’s the chaos of cooking supper right at the time of day kids are getting tired. One benefit of David working from home is that a few days he’s managed to get something in the crockpot during his “kid shift”. Food, bath, stories, bribe child to wee with a stale smartie (cardboard m&m-like candy) because he started refusing to make a final wee before bed and I don’t have time for these power struggles. Brush teeth with toddler (because he’s now paranoid the sugar from the smartie will make holes in his teeth, so we MUST do it in this order, and the toothpaste MUST be in a small ball in the middle of the toothbrush, and there MUST be a cup of water there, too, otherwise the exhausted meltdown ensues). Then tuck in bed, pray, sing “Bless the Lord Oh my Soul” and then put it on repeat on his speaker, nurse the baby to bed and THEN feel like I deserve a medal …but then go on the internet and read about people dying and people not having access to medical supplies, and think about people who don’t have work right now and feel terrible.
And then think about how it’s only Monday and there’s a whole week of this left.
So, in summary, lockdown in a tinyhouse is not that different from:
A) lockdown in a normal house
B) just normal parenting
It’s really not that bad.
We did turn our couch sideways to get more floorspace under the loft. We can’t really do a massive spring clean with all our free time because we don’t have that much stuff. We can’t horde a month’s supply of food because we don’t have space for it. But other than that… it’s pretty normal.
Oh, I’m leaving out the part about the mouse. We’ve been sharing our house with a very bold mouse who comes in WHENEVER he wants, and helps himself to whatever food is still on the floor from the baby. He runs in from outside, grabs food then runs behind the stove/fridge/toilet/couch. When you have a mouse in your tiny house, it’s like they are literally one of the family and is very creepy, you can’t just leave the kitchen door shut or something. Thankfully, mousetraps are an essential supply that is still at our grocery store. He died a horrific death this morning, and we managed to hide the remains from the toddler, who was QUITE attached to “mousie”.
So, wherever you are in the world, I hope you feel better about your lives. You’re a great parent, whatever you’re doing. You can make it through this. And if you have any pro toddler distraction tips (note: pro-tips here, people. Not sweet enriched learning experiences that involve parental supervision) please let me know! ;D
Also, questions? I’m here for it. I’ve got time, people. I’ll just turn on “portable trampoline” on Storypirates and type away.