Most of us in Australia have now emerged from the bizarre world of homeschooling – some worse for wear, some refreshing and rejuvenated, and many scratching our heads and wondering what the hell just happened as we adjust to this cliched "new normal".
Like many parents who were just forced to homeschool for the first (and, fingers crossed, last) time, I did a happy dance when my kids' school re-opened. I waved them goodbye at the gate, silently praising the new regulations that dictate parents can't enter the school gate to sit with their kids for interminably minutes each morning, waiting for the bell, like my youngest used to insist I do.
And after giving up on regulating screen time while my children had little else to do, we are now back at our extra-curricular activities, and everyone is busy, engaged and happy.
But as this strange new risk-averse world has unfolded, it has been revealed there's a new loser in all of this – and that loser is me. Why? Because suddenly I'm spending a thousand hours a week in the car.
COVID-lockdown was terrible for a lot of reasons, but one thing that was great about it was that I kept the same tank of petrol in my car for two months. And better than that, I had enough spare time to engage in a daily yoga practice, start each morning with a meditation, and perfect my own sourdough bread.
Now, instead of all that, I drive my car. A lot. This is not what I expected.
Where once I would have let my eldest child catch the bus to school, I now drive them each day. I mean, who knows how many people will be on that bus? That thing could be a seething pit of germs hurtling along the highway.
It seems like a lot of unnecessary exposure at this point, when I can just drive them to school and back – but 15 minutes there and back twice a day adds up to an hour for me in the car.
And with extra-curricular activities restarting, there are new social distancing rules to keep everyone safe. My daughter's gymnastics school, for instance, no longer allows parents to stay and watch so they can keep numbers down in the building. Fair enough, but the school is a 30-minute drive from our house, and there aren't many places parents can just go and hang out these days, so I sit in my car and work or read.
I've calculated that I'm now spending eight to 10 hours a week more in my car than I was a couple of months ago – both driving and just hanging around. I'm even considering getting one of those beaded car seats that taxi drivers have, and installing some potted ferns, so I can really make myself at home.
I guess what I'm really saying is that this in-between life doesn't suit me as a parent. I know businesses need to start re-opening – and god knows, we want our kids back at school – but I feel like a ghost, moving around my children's lives, facilitating their good times, while sacrificing my own.
All I seem to do now is work and parent – and sit in my car. And the worst part? I've gone back to having to buy my own bread.