Parenting and working from home during the COVID-19 shutdown has felt just like Bill Murray’s classic movie “Groundhog Day.” We are living the same day, every day, with a few new choices peppered in for variety sans Murray’s zany antics.
Each morning I attempt to tackle work and Zoom meetings while my four kids do their best to accomplish schooling, often amidst shushing and sometimes tears. We regroup over morning snack, and then try again.
I feed the kiddos lunch, we clean up lunch, and we head out for “P.E.” Then we have snack and finish the rest of our school/workday. Next up, food. Again. This time in the form of dinner. After dinner, dessert. And why not? We end our day in front of… wait for it, family movie night on a school night — every night.
I’ve loved our time at home around the dinner table (without the constant juggle of sports and school functions!). I complain about the amount of food we’ve had to prepare and constantly clean, but the truth is, I’m grateful for the provisions from our pantry, even though three square meals a day plus snack has proven to guarantee the “Quarantine 15” as we have jokingly begun calling it.
At the beginning of the stay-at-home order, I was very deliberate to establish a routine for my kids. Routine equals stability and safety for children and more than anything I want them to feel safe. I have also been deliberate to talk about COVID-19 openly with them and the realities of this global pandemic.
I don’t want any one of us to live in fear, but I do want to be honest with them about why they can’t go to school, soccer or church.
The first, and I might add, very difficult week of crisis schooling was eye-opening. It was that week when I realized that our routines were going to have to change drastically to allow for more interruptions, a different definition of productivity and higher tolerance for clutter and disorder in our personal spaces because we now had six people all working and learning from home.
My children began cruising through their daily school assignments and were often done before 11 a.m. When they finished their work, they began coming up with creative ways to help others. The first week, they made homemade cloth masks.
They made dinners during the second week to freeze in case our neighbors got sick. They started having slumber parties with their siblings on “school nights.” Picture my 13-year-old when I told her we shouldn’t stay up late on a school night: “Oh mom, [insert eye roll] it’s a home school night.”
We nailed routine, albeit a new and strange one, and I became more productive despite the constant interruptions. But there has been something missing. Call me slow on the uptake, but I finally realized what we’ve been missing: joy.
Joy, a feeling that has been elusive in our home in the past six weeks. We’ve had moments of laughter for sure, but joy has been hard to come by. Kind of like finding milk, flour, and eggs at the grocery store at the onslaught of the shutdown. You can do without it for a short while, but there’s only so many substitutes to the real thing and it leaves a hole without its presence.
It struck me that our children are grieving some losses, and so am I. Our 5th grader is sad to head to middle school without being able to say goodbye to her elementary companions. Our son is missing his baseball season and other boys to be wild with during recess. Our middle schooler is missing her friends at a time when social and emotional connection outside the home is vital.
I know I’m preaching to the choir, because we’ve all gone through these small losses together and we’ve all had to make major changes to our “normal,” but it’s been hard on us emotionally.
We are witnessing history, and it’s hard internalizing the enormous loss of life across the globe. It’s hard knowing our friends and neighbors are out of work. It’s scary living in fear, thinking everyone could be a potential enemy by way of an asymptomatic COVID-19 carrier.
As we battle our feelings, we must choose which ones to give merit. They are all real, but which will we embrace? Fear or hope? Hardship or gratitude? It’s minute-by-minute some days, but I am choosing hope and gratitude.
I am grateful for our health and our home that serves as our refuge—not everyone is so blessed, I know. I am grateful for my family who bring so much laughter and chaos. I am grateful for the health care workers on the frontlines. I am grateful for stocked shelves at the grocery store and those who stock them. I am grateful for hugs, and I cannot wait to give them out freely again.
This pandemic has taught me the importance of connection—we were made for it. When this is all over and we get to return to our new normal, I hope we hold friendships dearer, open our homes to each other more often, and love deeper. I hope we get to experience more frequently the type of connection that brings joy.
That’s the new normal I hope to realize, and I hope to role model that to my children as part of the takeaway from the aftermath of the history we were all a part of.
And while we are still in the midst of the fight, I hope to role model gratitude and hope, not fear. That’s what gets me through the sad days.
That and a dance party in the kitchen with my kids.
Linde Marshall is the founder and principal of Purposeful Colorado, a boutique public relations and community affairs firm based in western Colorado.