I’ve had the though several times over the last month that quarantine feels a bit like maternity leave. Having experienced four maternity leaves, I know that once the leave is over, I tend to look back on the “time off” with a completely skewed since of reality and wonder why I wasn’t more productive, or didn’t make better use of my time. Can you relate?
So while we’re in the midst of the coronavirus quarantine (well, hopefully on the tail end), I want to share 6 things about the 2020 quarantine we’ll want to remember when we look back on this unprecedented time and wonder why didn’t make better use of it.
1. We became homeschool teachers overnight
We developed a renewed sense of genuine appreciation for our kids’ teachers while simultaneously cursing them under our breath. We became flustered when our children brought us questions like this:
Nothing makes me feel more inadequate than checking my child’s homework and explaining for two minutes why their answer to a reading comprehension question is incorrect. Only to find after they submit the assignment, they were right. I’m a professor in a university graduate program. Am I just a big phony??
One day it will be easy to look back and say we had to homeschool our kids a few hours a day, and that it wasn’t so bad. That is a lie.
What we’ll forget is the complete sense of anxiety we felt ALL DAY wondering if they were doing everything correctly, if they turned everything in on time, and if it was really a substitute for school. 2 hours of work required 6 hours of mental energy. There was no reprieve on the state waiver weeks, because we worried about regression and if they’d be prepared for the next year. We went week to week not knowing how long this would last, only to find out it would last the entire school year remaining. When they weren’t doing virtual education, we tried to make them read or utilize education apps and crossed our fingers.
It Was. Not. Easy. And God bless our teachers who worked their tails off to give us guidance.
2. We had “all this time”
We did not. This may, in fact, turn out to be the biggest lie we tell ourselves.
What initially seemed like a dream come true for some- working from home- we quickly learned wasn’t as dreamy (or efficient) as it sounds. Especially dealing with #1 above.
Some of us had more work because of the coronavirus. Think healthcare workers, educators, grocery store employees, and countless other essential employees.
Our time and energy requirements simply shifted, and were quicker to drain us because of all the added stress.
3. Our kid’s brains didn’t turn to mush because they spent 6 hours a day on screens
Full disclosure, I’m only 99% certain of this because we’re still actually in the quarantine. But so far, this hasn’t happened.
Some days we nailed it. We played outside, organized activities, or maybe even took a drive or went for a bike ride or hike. But some days our chore charts and activity list were no more valuable than toilet paper (wait… that example doesn’t work right now…you know what I mean). Video games and Netflix kept them occupied, happy, and gave parents time we needed to get work done, or simply have a break.
So yea, we may have wanted to vomit when we realized they literally spent 4 hours on Fortnite one afternoon. Then 2 hours more that evening. But did they die? No. In fact, this was one of the few ways kids were able to socialize with friends.
It’s like letting them eat 1,000 calories in candy the day after Halloween. We know it’s not good for them, but it’s not going to ruin them for life.
4. We were given a little bit of money from the government. But we needed it.
Many Americans received a little change in their bank accounts from the stimulus package. This was the only time throughout the quarantine I didn’t regret our decision to have four kids. (I kid! Sort of…)
For many people, this served an immediate need resulting from a job or temporary income loss. For others, it was a nice unexpected gift.
Currently there’s little question the economy will take a hit (many experts say we were on the brink of this before the quarantine). Financial hardships are going to show up in small and big ways. Perhaps you went over budget trying to stock up on groceries and household goods adapting to the quarantine. Maybe your hours were cut. Some of you had to use vacation days to manage childcare. The trickle effect of an economic downturn is not always obvious, but most people don’t come out unscathed.
One, two or three years from now you may find yourself wondering where all of the money went. You might kick yourself because you didn’t save it, or take a meaningful family vacation, or have anything to show for it. Remember it was possibly whittled away slowly and inconspicuously, the result of a shifting economy during and after the quarantine.
5. We stopped running 100 miles an hour, and it was kind of nice
This time of year sans coronavirus, we usually juggle multiple baseball practices during the week, games and tournaments on the weekend, graduation parties, church activities, and more.
We don’t do these things because we have to. We do them because we enjoy them, and they help our family experience fun and community. But there’s no doubt we find ourselves running around like chickens with our heads cut off this time of year.
The quarantine forced our family to slow down and just be together. And trust me, there are moments this pushed our sanity to its limits. But when these moments are weighed and measured, the good far outweigh the bad.
When I think about the last month, it doesn’t seem obvious that we had significantly more quality time together. Between homeschool and working from home, it sometimes feels like we had less free time as a family. But when I look at the photo album on my phone, I see a different story.
We baked. We planted vegetable seeds. We drew with sidewalk chalk. We jumped in on screen time and watched family movies or played video games with the kids. We rode bikes, watched church on our porch, and stayed up late together.
We always did things like this (well maybe not church on the porch), but they always seemed to be the exception, and not the rule. Business was the rule. During the quarantine, it was reversed.
We may (hopefully) never experience something like this again in our lifetime. Knowing we have a few weeks left, I’m trying to be very intentional about making the most of this forced downtime. It’s hard. It’s not how my brain is wired. But I know it’s a silver lining in the midst of all that is happening.
6. We came together and did our part
Not all of us. There were the few out there who never fully recognized the magnitude of this pandemic. There were more than a handful of Facebook posts and conversations from conspiracy theorist that made my blood boil. And there were those who blatantly and repeatedly disobeyed the shelter in place guidelines without caring how it affected anyone but themselves.
But for the most part, we were asked to sacrifice and stepped up to the plate. Many, especially those who work in healthcare, sacrificed a lot. It wasn’t easy. When this is said and done, jobs will have been lost. Incomes cut. Small (and large) businesses closed.
It’s no small thing that as a country, we decided that even though it was hard, we would not sacrifice 3% of our vulnerable population to this virus because it wouldn’t affect the majority of us. We stayed home. We made masks for healthcare workers. We helped friends and neighbors. We came together for the common good.
Hard things are still to come, and it will be easy to look back and say maybe it wasn’t worth it. Maybe the conspiracy theorists were right. We’ll question whether thousands more really would have died if we hadn’t done anything.
Don’t deceive yourself. Don’t tell yourself a story about this time that doesn’t exist. This wasn’t a vacation. It was a 90 mph curveball, and you hit it. Maybe you barely got on base base, and maybe you hit a home run (after a lot of self-analyzing I personally feel I hit a pretty solid double). But I promise you didn’t strike out.