Like many self employed parents comedian Tiernan Douieb has seen his work dry up because of the coronavirus outbreak. He tries to see the funny side and looks to a better future.
It’s hard to define what is more terrifying in this sudden very unusual pandemic situation we’ve all found ourselves in.
Is it that suddenly all my work has been cancelled for potentially months, what with my job largely revolving around shouting at strangers in dark, windowless rooms, basically up there with the worst possible things to do when there’s a virus plodding about but I still have bills and rent to pay and I really want to pre-order a completely useless Baby Yoda plush toy that I’ll pretend is for my daughter? Is it that not having any work also makes you feel creatively redundant and rather useless as really, in these times of need, my only real skill is constantly being in the way all the time and then apologising for it? Or is it that me and my wife face months of unassisted childcare with a toddler who has hit her ‘terrible twos’ at a running pace and is currently thriving on shouting ‘I don’t like that’ at everything we try to make her eat, wear, watch or do? Or is it that I’ve parked my car in the only space I could find miles down the road, as there’s a whacking great van parked outside our flat that no one’s moved in days?
I mean, it’s probably a combination of all of those, but working and childcare are a difficult duo to manage at the best of times, but now, as I’m probably reduced to just doing online work and stuff from home, while also trying to stop the mini one from drawing on the floorboards with crayons I’m not sure how I’ll manage either.
There is, as I write this, currently no real support for self-employed people that’s been announced by the government. I went through the fun process of registering for ESA or universal credit as soon it was announced that you could, and I’m hoping I get accepted so they can send me five silver coins and a bubblegum every 10 weeks to help me through this.
I do have savings, but they have been reserved for tax bills and those moments in self-employed life where suddenly there’s no work, followed by all of the work, followed by none of the work. Now we’re in the sort of endless career winter Jon Snow would warn you about, I’m not sure the thought of continuously using savings until they all go and I’m having to barter with people through the window about how maybe I could swap a loo roll for a potato is really all that appealing.
It’s very much highlighted how little support there is for self-employed people all year round. No safety net, and where there might have been one, just a very long drop with an unpaid overdue invoice at the bottom.
Working from home is one thing, but trying to do it when also trying to explain to a toddler why she can’t watch the exact same episode of a mind numbingly dull cartoon for the 600th time – the reason being for my own sanity more than anything else – is a lot harder to do. I have read several posts that say ‘you should embrace how much time you’ll get to spend with your family’ and while on the one hand I do relish every second I spend with my daughter, there is also every other second as she’s throwing all our cutlery down the stairs while shouting ‘oh dear’, where I realise that if I do get the coronavirus at least I’ll have to spend a couple of days in bed and that sounds amazing.
But I’m being hopeful because I feel like whatever comes out of this has to be positive.
This has to lead to ideas about how to give people more job security, better provisions for childcare, someone in supermarkets who asks how often you poo before allocating you the appropriate toilet roll – ok not that one then – and an even bigger appreciation for social contact than we had before.
Already online comedy gigs have been set up, which while they may lack the atmosphere of being in the room, they’ll hopefully get even bigger audiences laughing and maybe people accessing comedy that couldn’t before.
There are so many online support groups of people in similar jobs trying to help each other cope, and charities and fundraisers to financially help. Sites like Ko-Fi or Patreon or others mean that if people enjoy what they do, they can contribute to you not having to learn how to eat card.
And of course, there are lots of ways to contact other parents who can empathise with just how on earth you fill that much time when all the play-doh has already been completely smushed into the carpet.
I’d love to offer some advice about all of this to you, but I’ll probably just get in the way of someone’s actual more sensible advice. So all I’ll say is that even by the time you read this, things will probably have changed, we’ll all be worshipping Netflix as a deity, livestreaming ourselves making low humming noises while looking into the void and I’ll have given in and just let my daughter push bits of cake into my playstation. But there are lots of us out there in the same boat and I’m hoping that when the last bit of lurgy has been coughed up, being self-employed and parenting might not be quite as lonely a job as it has been before. And maybe, just maybe, someone will have finally moved that whacking great van.
If you can lend a hand to my rather dire income situation, please chuck me a few quid at ko-fi.com/parpolbro and I’ll be updating my website and social media constantly with any online comedy that is going on.