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My 2020 'Covid stole our chance to buy a family home so we now live with my parents'

Kildare mum Margaret Lynch says she’s grateful for all the blessings in her life, despite the fact that 2020 pushed her family’s dream of a new home further away.

AS THE CLOCK hit midnight on 31 December 2019 I turned to my partner, squeezed his hand and said ‘we’re buying a house this year!’ I even went as far as to say that this was going to be our year. We had laid all of the important groundwork.

We just about had our deposit together. All of the hours he had put into his business were finally starting to pay off, and I was just about to start a new job where I was swapping 60+ hour working weeks for more flexibility. We had worked so hard to get to this point, and finally, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

I have thought of that moment so many times during 2020. As someone who achieved a Master’s Degree at 23, and then found themselves an unemployed and single parent of two tiny toddlers at the age of 25, I was no stranger to life not going to plan.

I was unemployed for a couple of years while they were very small. It was a very difficult and a very lonely time and I felt like I had stepped on that sneaky snake at number 98 on the Snakes & Ladders Board, the one that drops you right back to square 1.

The days were long, but the years were short. I began seeing my partner when the girls were only toddlers. To them, he has always been there. He also came with his own, wonderful family who welcomed us with open arms. His mam has referred to herself as the girls’ grandmother from Day One and has their school photo in pride of place in her house.

Any worries or fears I had for them growing up without their father, were alleviated by so many kind and loving adults that we are lucky to be surrounded by. Once they were both in school, I went back to work part-time. This meant that I was able to do some of the school runs, and also not cry for three days when I got the electricity bill. Life was good.

Pulling the rug from under us

Sadly, our landlord abruptly decided to sell our house in early 2018. We agonised for a couple of weeks but there was no other option available to us at that time. So, with my partner, two kids, and five bunnies in tow, I moved back into my parents’ house.

The girls were six and eight at this time. They loved our home and our routines. My younger daughter was barely three months old when we moved into the house. She was only a tiny little speck sitting in her car seat when I viewed the property. She learned to walk in the sitting room.

They both learned to read and write at the kitchen table. They had made friends on the road, were enrolled in the local school. We had christenings, birthday parties, BBQs, sleepovers and play dates in that house.

It was where my babies grew up, and it still hurts my heart when I think of leaving. As I mentioned in a previous article, I have worried myself sick that they will be too old to enjoy any of those things by the time we finally buy a house.

Moving back in with your parent’s in your 30’s is generally not considered a successful move. Living with your parents while you are a parent, is nothing short of a major challenge. Life is a constant laying and re-writing of boundaries. My parents are brilliant, but I don’t think my dad has ever said ‘no’ to either child. In fact, his favourite activity is saying ‘yes’ after I have said ‘no’.

Living with them has been like living in a chaotic hybrid of the Wonka Chocolate Factory and Disneyland, except with more singing and only one bathroom.

So you can only imagine our joy when, instead of moving out this year, we actually got to spend even more time with each other and never leave the house, ever, except for monumentally stressful visits to Aldi.

An unwelcome change

When we first began to hear about Covid, back in January, I naively thought we were far too advanced as a species for it to really take hold.

We had met with a couple of banks who seemed positive about our potential mortgage application. We started looking, and I mean really looking, to find our home. The first few cases of Covid arrived in Europe, but we never for a moment thought this would grind our world to a halt.

Any denial that I was gripping for comfort was ripped away by March. The virus was rampant, other countries had shut down and the future was so uncertain. We had been told that children were super spreaders, and they were banned from supermarkets. They were instructed to stay indoors at all times.

We heard horror stories of children with Covid who were taken away in ambulances, without their parents. I was terrified that one of us would get sick. One night, as I tucked my 8-year-old into bed, she tearfully made me promise that if I caught Covid I would give it to her so that we could stay together.

The fear was overwhelming, and my partner made the enormously difficult decision to close his business. I read the announcement of the school closure while I was in work, and drove to collect my two in a panic.

It felt like the world was ending. I had a lump in my throat and could so clearly see the worry etched into the face of every other parent. I wanted to talk to someone, to be reassured, but we were all keeping our distance.

Then the bell went and we were deafened with the cheers and whoops of 600+ excited children. It was like being dropped in the middle of a St Patrick’s Day Parade.

My two told me that when the principal announced the closure on the intercom, they didn’t even hear the reason why as their whole classes exploded into cheers and whoops. My 10-year-old was actually reprimanded for jumping onto a table and dancing in glee.

Their excitement was short-lived once they realised that their calm, professional and loving teacher would be replaced by their stressed-to-the-eyeballs mother who was trying to write entire Covid policies into the workplace while battling a substantial fear of leaving the house.

No longer in control

At the end of March, I was laid off. While it was a relief to not have to leave the house anymore, I was heartbroken at what this meant for our family. It removed any last shred of hope that we would be buying a house this year. I rang my partner in tears, on my final journey home, and let it all out. Then I put on a smile and a brave face for the girls.

The lack of control over the situation was almost comforting. Not only could we not do anything to change it, but the entire world was also in the same boat. We watched news stories with bodies being piled up, one on top of the other, in New York, Italy and Brazil.

We were terrified for our future. We kept the girls away from the news as much as possible. We baked. We made jigsaws and we painted. Entire weeks went by where I wasn’t on my own in a room at any stage. 

We had our first Covid birthday, as the 8-year-old became a 9-year-old. We ordered a handful of items off Amazon and had a BBQ in the back garden.

Thankfully, I went back to work on two days a week in June and have slowly built up hours until I was back to full-time. Since then we have both been back to work, been laid off, had hours reduced, and been forced to close again.

The girls went back to school in September and despite some sleepless nights beforehand, it has all gone well. They carry hand sanitiser (and moisturiser) everywhere. They aren’t allowed to sing in school and are careful not to touch anyone else’s things.

They don’t help to pick up if someone drops their books, but they will still sneak a sweet to their friends and hide it under their masks. The school Christmas morning is on Zoom this year, and we visited a drive-thru Santa last weekend. I have consistently been amazed at how they have adapted.

Keeping the faith

My parents are both healthy and in a lot of ways, they were far more relaxed about Covid than we were. As a retired teacher, my dad does most of the school runs with the girls. He also brought them for regular 5K walks during the lockdown.

I think my parents were glad that we were living there this year, and that they didn’t have to miss us. Sadly, the slime craze really took a hold of both girls this year, along with most of the carpets and surface areas in their house, so we can’t really be sure at the moment.  

We have stayed safe in our bubble all year. When the girls are grown up and telling their kids about 2020, I want them to remember us doing our best. I want them to see that we respect doctors and scientists and that we listen when they speak.

I am glad that they know a world where rivers briefly ran clear, and air pollution took a couple of months break. I hope they don’t remember the stress, worry and fear that we all felt.

I hope they remember the weeks we were able to spend building up their confidence to withstand the storms they face in life. I hope they remember endless walks, movie nights and Mario Kart tournaments. I hope they don’t remember me hurtling a home-made paper clock across the room in frustration after spending 837 hours trying to teach the 9-year-old how to tell time (she still can’t).

The future is very uncertain, but to such an extent that it is almost freeing. We didn’t get what we wanted this year, but we got the luxury of time stopping still, something that each generation of parents wishes for.

I am grateful that we were here in this house, with grandparents for Covid. I am grateful that the girls didn’t have the heartache of missing their grandparents this year. I am grateful for our bubble, our Quaran-team.

I would love to say that I have made my peace with 2021 and whatever it may bring. But the truth is that I can’t wait for us to have a place to call our own and I think about it and wish for it in almost every waking moment.

As we edge ever closer to 31 December 2020, I am feeling surprisingly positive. As the clock hits midnight, I will definitely take a moment to count my blessings. But I will also have my fingers crossed that 2021 brings us a home.

Margaret Lynch is a busy, working mum of two, living in Kildare and wondering if Adulthood is really for her.

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