Quarantine reflections

21 August 2020

At the end of March, I wrote a reflection on our first two weeks of quarantine. It was the beginning of spring and the beginning of an alternate reality that, though we didn’t know it at the time, would still largely be our reality many months later.

And here we are, many months later. While so many aspects of our life remain in that shifted state – masks on, sanitizer at the ready – a significant milestone took place this week when our kids returned to preschool after five and a half months at home. With that, an acute season of our life closed, and I wanted to record a few more reflections here.

I’ve often said that one of my least favorite things in life is trying to work when my children are around. I hate it. It leaves me exhausted and irritable, feeling like I failed at being both a parent and an employee, and since becoming a mom I have put structures in place to avoid it whenever possible. I like to think I’m not a distracted parent, and perhaps that’s why trying to do focused work on my computer while my children are clamoring for my attention feels so icky and alien to everything I try to cultivate in our family life.

Even aside from my life as a parent, I think it’s the Enneagram 5 in me that makes me highly value compartmentalizing my work life and my personal life, and wrapping things up cleanly before I transition from one to the other. (Trying to do something for work on my phone while my kiddos are in the room is literally the stuff of nightmares for me.)

Anyway. All that to say that after our preschool closed, John and I knew attempting to juggle two (almost) full-time jobs with no childcare was simply not an option for us – something in our work would have had to give if we couldn’t have come up with a childcare solution. Thankfully, we did. For five months, we welcomed two of our favorite high school neighborhood babysitters into our home from 9-noon almost every weekday morning. Angels, both.

Was it a risk? Absolutely. Was it a risk that was personally worth taking for our family? Absolutely. We took all the precautions we could and we are so thankful that everyone stayed healthy throughout. The kids had great mornings (mostly going in the backyard splash pad or playing camping/sleepover/pet school :)), we ate lunch together as a family, then nap time/Big Girl Quiet Hour got us through most of the rest of my work day.

(That last hour, of course, was often the worst, as I battled feelings of not having gotten enough done during the day while attempting to wrap things up and meet the needs of kiddos who had spent the day in proximity to us but often not gotten the attention they wanted from us.)

Still, many (MANY) had it much harder than us. Still, we found the sweetness.

Before it got too hot, we ate lunch in our backyard every day – a revelation to eat as a family in the middle of the week! June snuggled up next to me and colored on a few Zoom calls. John no longer had a commute, buying us back an hour of every day.

Outside of work, we did many of the things we are accustomed to doing – backyard s’mores, back-of-the-car picnics, hikes in the woods, neighborhood walks, Saturday morning chocolate croissants – but they were all suddenly imbued with a certain nobility and solidarity: these things are keeping other people safe! We’re doing our part in an awful situation!

We tried new things. I don’t think the male members of my family will ever go back to getting their hair cut professionally. (I certainly will, ha!)

We became closer to other school parents as we texted updates, commiserated, and set up Zoom playdates. This felt like a really big step forward in these relationships, and one that would have been unlikely to happen otherwise.

We indulged in curbside pick-up at basically every business we frequented – what felt like a special luxury as a parent juggling multiple car seats.

We took on a new agency in our faith lives without some of our traditions to rely on, like listening to podcast sermons, writing the Word, and reading the Gospels together.

We were more intentional to connect with our far-flung family, like sending little snippets of life at home through Marco Polo with the Thomas crew.

We made our own celebrations and everyday magic when fun got canceled. We camped in the backyard, made a giant Easter egg tree, and hosted a movie premier party.

We connected with friends in new ways: trading book stacks when the libraries closed, Zooming with high school friends across the country, and signing on for virtual game nights.

And in a revelation that might be one of the longest-lasting, we discovered the beauty of taking ordinary days off from work. Early on, John and I thought we’d help cover childcare until preschool resumed by taking alternating Fridays off (lol to that). These ordinary days of having little adventures together, one parent and two kids, were so sweet. Traditionally, my vacation days have been reserved for travel and big events, but I’m looking forward to scheduling more of these days going forward.

So: week one of preschool in a pandemic — complete. While I never really understood the memes that circulated this spring about suddenly appreciating teachers so much more (maybe it’s having grown up with two teachers, but I already knew exactly how much teachers should be appreciated!!), I am SO thankful that our kids are able to be back in school. (And of course, as grateful as ever for their wonderful teachers.) Sending all my best wishes and compassion to those who are facing harder falls, for whatever reason. xoxo

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August 21, 2020 8:52 am

I went on maternity leave the day before lockdown in the UK; a maternity leave I had meticulously planned so that my oldest would have childcare whilst I focussed on our daughter. My plan was not to be! Giving birth at the height of a global pandemic was utterly surreal and something I will certainly be telling my Grandchildren about. I will be forever grateful to the friends who stepped in to look after our son so that my husband could be there at the birth.

The newborn weeks were so different to the vision I had for them. The four of us were on our own in our house 24/7. They were also some of the most beautiful and memorable weeks of my life. Our family mantra of ‘We can do hard things’ was never truer. Hard things are so often the best things.