15 February, 2021

Misunderstandings: Pandemic and No Kids version

Ironically, given last week’s post, the pandemic and my No Kidding life clashed last week and is still making me think. It was the first week after school went back following the summer break that began in December. My husband and I had a day off from working on the in-laws’ house, and we decided to go out for lunch, a rare treat this summer. The roads were clear, there were tables available at the café we chose, plenty of parking spaces, and the beach across the road was relatively empty. We had a lovely lunch overlooking a beach, and the harbour channel. The sea was a deep greeny-blue, the wind had whipped up white tips on the waves out in the channel, yet in the bay the water was calm and clear around the rocks, the sand was golden, and the sun was shining. It was gorgeous. I posted about it on Fbk, mentioning that the kids were finally back at school, and declaring, “I have my city back!”

It was a statement that many No Kidding people would understand. We avoid the crowds at malls and movie theatres and museums etc during school holidays, knowing that we can visit when there aren’t families on holiday crowding our city. My sister (whose child was back at school herself) laughed, and wished she could be with us. But I was initially confused when there were responses praising our PM, and even more so when I found myself being accused of crowing about our good fortune, and given the usual excuses why NZ had been successful in dealing with the pandemic (“such a small country” etc). Another person also seemed to want to point out how well their area was doing. (I bit my tongue and refrained from pointing out that 700 deaths in a single US county with the same population of my city -  was not “doing well.”)

The misunderstandings were multiple: 

First, I didn’t realise that my friends in the US and UK would not realise that our summer school holidays occur … well … in our summer! They know it is summer here, if they follow me at all. So that surprised me, and reminded me once again of the tyranny of the north, and that being in the southern hemisphere makes half the world outliers from the dominant culture!

Secondly, my social media friends didn’t seem to realise that I was celebrating a city without holidaymakers – because of course, when the schools start, the parents get back to work too. So celebrating a city without kids means a much easier city to navigate. Perhaps they’ve never felt the need to avoid children and families because life has been easier for them. I don’t do that now through pain or envy, although that hasn’t always been the case. Avoiding children and families used to be an act of self-protection, to avoid the ouch moments we all know so well. But now I avoid them if possible simply because I don’t like crowds, and prefer to wait till the families have resumed school and work before I voluntarily visit certain places. After every school break, I rejoice when the schools open again, and I reclaim my city! But this simple state was completely misunderstood by some of my friends.

Finally, my simple statement about a kid/family free city  – or at least, what I thought was simple – became a trigger and hurtful to others, who are so focused on the pandemic that they immediately assumed that was what I was talking about. It reminded me again about infertility. How many times has someone made a simple statement that we have taken the wrong way? I’m sure I have at times, when I was deep in pain. Were my casual comments about going out and eating lunch the equivalent of fertiles talking about their kids? Perhaps. What I do know is what I didn’t say. I didn’t say, “I am blessed,” or “it wasn’t meant to be” or “some people/places aren’t meant to have this luck.” Because I know how pointless and hurtful and simply untrue those comments can be. So I’m still thinking about it. Those who responded badly were more politically supportive of administrations that have performed poorly in the pandemic, and perhaps feeling defensive. So I'm trying to be fair. Trying to be sensitive. Trying to do better.

 An aside: The woman who told me it was “distasteful” to “crow about” NZ’s pandemic (relatively) free status, which I was not doing, was someone I knew through the ectopic online support group. We had commiserated and comforted each other together, I met her in real life, and I was supportive and happy when she went on to have a child. I discovered some years later that she already had two much older children, and I remember feeling duped and betrayed. I don’t know the story around that, and there obviously is one. But I did think it was a bit ironic that she, who is a fervent poster about being a mother and now a grandmother despite pretending not to have children in the first ten years of our relationship, objected to my innocent comment. I remind myself. Try to do better. Bite my tongue!


  1. WOW!
    I am sorry you had that experience and feedback. Clearly I ought to have gone back and read more comments after I made mine celebrating your more normal life which was due to your country's choice of how to respond to the virus. But then, actually, NO. It was better I did not read those who failed to understand and whose reactions were so different from my own.
    Just know, for anyone who was jealous/angry/painful in response to what is possible for you to do, know there are others who take much joy and find mental health support and hope in hearing of a life continuing in a more normal fashion. I am locked in. Isolated. Fearful of close encounters with other people. Worried when I need to grocery shop, and only doing that once in 3 weeks. And, fully aware I, during normal school holidays and weekends, avoid all stores and many locations where children and working parents need to be BECAUSE they cannot be there during off-hours/middle-of-the-week-days and I can. AND, I remember when that wasn't an option due to my employment.
    My country did not have to chosen to lie about the virus, did not have to chosen to hold super spreaders, did not have to have chosen to open bars and restaurants rather than schools, did not have to rejected masks and public health measures for one person's political ego and rejection of science. But that was the path that administration made and encouraged and fostered. New Zealand made a different choice. I am not a New Zealander but I am so very proud of your country's choice AND YOU DID NOT CROW ABOUT IT AT ALL. You only spoke/wrote about living a normal life without major fear of dying as a result.
    Stay safe, stay aware, stay smart, stay lucky. And, know you are deeply celebrated, appreciated, and given credit for holding others afloat in a terrible time. THANK YOU.

  2. Jeezum. So easy to be misunderstood on social media. And so easy for people to see a post and filter it through their own perception/worldview. I'm sorry you caught flak. I'm glad you are free, and I'm glad you're been relatively free of COVID complications in NZ. Maybe people are so wrapped up in restrictions and pandemic stress that is easy to be testier than normal. Also, WTF? So interested in whatever would be behind lying about not having children on a support forum. Bizarre.

    Thankful for your thoughtfulness and empathy. Blowing raspberries at those who don't appreciate your intent, because I did not promise myself to do better, ha.

    1. I agree that stress and restrictions (the woman who reacted badly is a front line officer) will definitely make people testier. It's why it didn't really bother me. It was just interesting to think through the process.

  3. Dear Mali, I deleted my FB account a year ago, so I haven't seen your post. But if I Had seen your post with the sentence "I have my city back", I would have understood it completely.

    It would have made me happy... knowing that someone (on the opposite side of the world) is back to enjoying life. Which gives hope to the rest of us...

    So - you don't have to try to do better. You don't have to bite your tongue. You are perfect just as you are!

    I have better solution - just "unfriend" people who wrote you unkind comments.

    sending lots of love from the northern hemisphere,


  4. Well...that was unexpected, that people would find fault with that simple statement. I like what other commenters have said about understanding what you intended, and how people's filters sometimes get in the way.

    Know what I honor? That instead of getting irritated (or maybe in addition to), you got reflective. You went inside yourself and observed, non-judgmentally. This is praiseworthy, for such mindfulness is what can heal what ails us.

  5. I saw that post and the comments. I understood what you meant, but obviously some people did not...! I think you handled the situation quite graciously, all things considered!

    1. What surprised me was that it took me quite a while to figure out that what I thought I had said was different to what they had thought I meant! lol