As I write this, I am sitting at the picnic table on our deck. This is my office until about mid-morning when the July heat will make it hotter than hell’s front porch. Then I move to the bedroom.
My husband is working in the corner of the bonus storage room above our carport. It’s the only non-bedroom room with a door. A previous owner added it in order to move the washer and dryer out of the kitchen, but it is the size of a small bedroom – just with a concrete floor and no insulation. So, in between conference calls – his and mine – I run in to move the clothes from one machine to the other.
We set up my son’s desk in the dining room. In August, this will again be “school” for him, though right now it is the scene of too many Roblox marathons. My daughter, at 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, is still asleep. But when she wakes up, she will spend the better part of the day on her laptop or phone.
I have had friends–also working from home with kids in a pandemic–ask me ‘what I do about screen time.’ My answer: I make them wear headphones or keep the volume low.
I mean, yes, I make them spend part of every morning outside in our backyard. And, I plan short road trips on Fridays to get them out in nature — for their sanity and mine. When I have any extra energy I force one of them to come with me walking the dogs.
But we live on a busy street. Even during the shelter-in-place orders, dump trucks heading to nearby construction sites race down the hill at speeds much higher than the legal limit and a decent sense of caution merit. The playground and pool that are in walking distance from our house are both closed. I don’t trust that the few public pools that are open are actually safe.
The shutdowns have also produced a lot of anxiety that gets expressed as anger. People get in your face if they think you aren’t wearing the mask correctly. (We are. I just don’t make us wear it in the car or outdoors away from people.) Some people get in your face for wearing one at all. I hear more car horns honking and see lots of aggressive drivers. Also more incidents of road rage (and other rage) appear in each morning’s paper. Outside is not always safe for a variety of reasons.
Like most people, my husband and I also have to work. Instead of fewer hours during the pandemic, my husband now works more. In addition to working, I also prepare three meals a day, every day, for everyone in the house. My kids help with cleaning, but things get dirtier a *lot* faster than when the kids had school or camp and my husband left the house for work.
And we are one of the fortunate ones to have our own house, which has its own yard. We have jobs we can do from home. At the same time I am bitching about working at home, thousands of people have to leave home to work – risking exposure every day. Their kids either take care of themselves or go to daycares where they may get the virus. As I complain, I am aware. I just need to document my experience of this moment in time. It is my way of coping.
This is not normal life. And I am not going to try to make normal rules apply. My kids are on screens a lot. They stay up super late at night and sleep in when they want to. My job as a parent right now is to do my best to keep them alive. I will worry about screen time after the global pandemic, Karen.
I think when the shutdowns first started, I naively thought that it would bring us more together as a society. And I have seen a lot of that here locally. People volunteer to go shopping or run errands for older neighbors. Many donating funds to help local businesses or families stay afloat. I was proud of my daughter for masking up and going to the Decatur Black Lives Matter march. I was proud to see the Confederate obelisk in front of the courthouse come down.
But I also noticed the increase in anxiety that gets expressed as aggression has extended to passive aggression. Many parents, especially here in our upper, upper middle-class bubble, convert their insecurity into competitiveness. Now I am seeing a lot of people trying to figure out how to “win” at quarantine.
But there will be no winners at this. We just all need to try not to lose.