One full week of COVID-19 self-isolation has proven to be tougher for me and my partner than for the children, who seem to be thriving.
I’ve been working from home for over ten years now and always enjoyed the peace and quiet. As I spend a lot of my time writing, not having any distractions round about me makes for a more productive day at work.
When children came along we had daycare, then primary school straight to after-school, bundled in a tidy bus routine. I’ve never had to interrupt my working day.
So when the schools closed on Thursday evening last week, the 12th of March 2020, I thought I’d use my work routine as a template for the kids. Instead, they seem to have found their own rhythm, as captured in The Jack & Ella Show.
The children are delighted they are getting more screen time, more quality time with mum and dad and more treasure hunts. More baking, more arts and crafts. The life.
As they revel in this lazy weekend atmosphere, much of the time spent in their pyjamas, we as adults are stuck in a state of limbo. It does feel like the weekend, but not a lazy one. The kind of weekend that involves sitting at the desk and working.
Still, there is a sense of shared experience. The giddy feeling that permeated the creche when I picked the kids up that Thursday evening was palpable. There was the prospect of some time off, for both the children and staff. The kids were bundles of energy eager to relay what they had experienced on that momentous day, their schoolbags full of promise.
We got home and somehow flew through most of the homework allocated for the two weeks we were told isolation would last. That enthusiasm fizzled out three days later and school work is now a bit of a chore. What started off as play – maaaammy you be Teacher – has turned into an activity on par with emptying the dishwasher.
According to psychologists, we need to impose more structure to keep them focused on learning. But there is actually a lot of work involved in finding educational activities the children will enjoy; the school has shared dozens of resources through the Aladdin app for which we are very grateful, but these will take sifting through as many of the websites are not very user friendly.
What of next week? One day at a time. Next month? Holiday plans for family visiting are getting cancelled due to lock downs. Our own trip to France this summer hangs by a thread.
What is clear is that exercising is near impossible, be it outside or indoors, without exemplary time management skills. We will no doubt increasingly turn to online shopping, for children’s books and maybe more jammies and outdoor game paraphernalia. Of course, most shops are closed as a quick stroll down the town shows.
Supermarkets also seem to be adopting varying approaches to the distancing measures. Some have markings on the ground to queue at the tills, while others don’t seem to be imposing restrictions. SuperValu seems to have taken the most concrete steps, having introduced plexiglass to protect cashiers. We haven’t tried online shopping for food, although it seems there is a waiting list.
In fact I’ve only been out of the house for groceries (albeit more often than I’d like), scrubbing hands when coming home and using hand sanitiser. But the kids have stayed put and haven’t asked to leave. We’ve had a WhatsApp video chat initiated by their friends and we are contemplating a walk in the woods tomorrow. But then you hear of beaches getting pretty crowded so we’re probably not the only ones thinking of getting out into the great outdoors.
But all in all, we are very fortunate in that we don’t, as of yet, feel confined. Our house is big enough for the children to roam around, although being under the age of eight they tend to stick close by. Having a big garden also helps, especially now that the weather is improving.
It’s true that juggling work and family life has definitely been more difficult, in that the relationship is now intimate. We are taking it in turns to take time off, working half days. Holiday hours will run out very quickly at this pace but these are small things. One day at a time and god’s speed.