The parents of three children aged six, nine, and 11 say that at the start of the lockdown in mid-March, they began slipping into bouts of madness at unpredictable times, which made it difficult to stick to a schedule.
“Sometimes Rob mumbled incoherently during breakfast and set his plate on the floor to feed an imaginary dog, while I’d sneak off to the bathroom to listen to the theme song from ‘Friends’ and cry,” said Maarja Reinsalu, 43. “And neither of us remembered to set up Zoom for the kids’ online lessons.”
After managing to put their children in bed early around midnight one night, the couple sat down and agreed it was best to alternate mental breakdown days. In shaky handwriting and with only a few instances of shouting, they created a schedule.
“On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I’m scheduled to be sane, take care of the kids, monitor their homework, organize an activity outside, fix three meals, and do the washing up, all while putting in my eight hours of work, of course,” Maarja said. “Rob is free to hide in the bedroom and punch his pillow a few hundred times.”
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, 40-year-old Rob is on duty. He takes care of everyone and everything in the household while trying to be fully present for his job.
“On those days, I take the kids on afternoon walks in the forest that last between two and five hours, depending on the intensity and duration of Maarja’s scheduled breakdown,” he said. “Whenever she’s done sobbing and has put back the decorations she’s thrown to the floor, she texts me and we all come home and eat breakfast cereal for dinner and have a moment of peace.”
Sources indicate that while scheduled mental breakdowns in two-parent households are increasingly popular in Luxembourg, single parents have to plan their breakdowns more carefully. Many wake up early to fit in an hour or two of nervous rocking and talking to themselves, and often they have to wait until the children are asleep to curl up in a ball and moan.