I will be the first to admit that this period of social distancing affords many new kinds of hard. I am fortunate to not understand personally the higher levels of hard – putting myself in harm’s way day in and day out in a job that directly exposes me to COVID-19, sending my children to live with a family member to avoid exposing the children to the virus I fear I will bring home, worrying and waiting as my elderly loved one that I can’t visit resides in a care facility that has had a confirmed case.
The kind of hard I am experiencing is more inconsequential and mundane in many ways, but hard nonetheless. It’s the two parents working from home while trying to manage two kids’ distance learning, break up fights, guard the snack cabinet from constant access, limit screen time to something less than ALL DAY, and continue to explain repeatedly why the kids can’t play with their friends. It’s answering the kids’ questions that I have no answers to – When will this be over? Will I get to go back to school this fall? Am I going to get sick? When can I play with my friends again? It’s going into the bathroom to sit alone with the door shut or sitting in the car in the garage to get a precious moment of quiet alone time. It’s losing my patience as I try to participate in a conference call (Thank you, mute button!), and also keep the kids from burning pancakes, sprinkling glitter all over the carpet, and killing each other.
It’s being present without being present as I once again have to tell the kids I can’t play with them outside because I’m trying to work. It’s cleaning up the bigger than normal mess of each day – the Barbie hair trimmed and scattered, the cooking experiment disaster, the art creation that inched beyond the paper to get all over the table – and all the other things I had to let slide during the day in order to work while the kids found ways to occupy themselves. It’s trying to be patient with myself and my family members as we all process things differently and spend a lot more time together than we are used to. It’s remembering and acknowledging that we (all people) are truly in this together.
When I’ve had a chance to breathe and appreciate everything I have, I think about all the things I would’ve missed if we weren’t confined to our home during this time.
- More family walks and bike rides and outdoor time than probably ever before, especially during a chillier time of year when we may have otherwise opted to just stay inside.
- Getting out my sewing machine, re-learning how to use it, showing my two daughters how to sew, and – quite frankly – having a blast making face masks, doll clothes, and skirts for the kids by re-purposing old clothes and material I’d purchased years ago.
- Drawing a life-size chutes and ladders game in the driveway and giggling as we pretended to slide down the chutes.
- Seeing companies donating personal protective equipment, people sewing homemade masks for medical professionals, neighbors helping vulnerable neighbors with groceries and errands, people helping to support small and family owned businesses and restaurants.
- Gaining a newfound appreciation of not just medical professionals but other often overlooked occupations that are keeping us safe and fed during this time – grocery store cashiers, truckers, police officers, sanitation workers, etc.
- A great deal of pure and simple downtime. No rushing to squeeze errands in, no commuting to and from work, and no driving kids from one activity to the next.
- All the random things we laugh about as a family, like the time we had each family member do a blindfolded taste test with red and green grapes.
- A true appreciation of still having employment during a time when so many have lost their jobs and the unemployment rate has skyrocketed.
- Getting back on my treadmill in the basement (after years of it collecting dust) early in the mornings as a much needed outlet for anxiety and stress.
- Watching my husband and kids get totally engaged and excited about building an obstacle course in the back yard.
- So many movie and popcorn nights (and not just on the weekends, like usual) and snuggling on the couch with the kids.
- All of the hilarious memes and parody songs created about social distancing, home schooling, and staying at home. Laughter is precious during this challenging time.
- More cooking and baking than I’ve ever had time for before.
- An appreciation for people in general. I’m not even the most socially extroverted person but I have truly missed seeing, talking, and interacting with people. We need each other.
This social distancing time isn’t forever. When it’s over, I wonder how we will look back on this time. As an incredible exercise in multitasking work and family? As something we’d rather forget? As a simpler and slower family time? As a stressful and challenging experience? As a time we saw the best in people helping others? Or simply as a strange twilight zone we hope to not repeat? I told my kids that this pandemic is actually history in the making and I thought they should do a writing prompt that starts with “Life during the COVID-19 pandemic was like…” They rolled their eyes, said “Oh, Mom”, and went back to their electronics. But hey, I tried!