I realize that what I’m about to say is based on the fact that before and throughout this confinement, 1) I’ve been a stay-at-home mom (even though I started my own business, SAHM was definitely my primary occupation in terms of hours worked), and 2) I am privileged because my husband is classified as an essential worker, so he got to keep his job, and his salary is enough for us to live comfortably. But there are still things that make me feel out of step with many people, even though we’re all going through the same thing.
It seems that everyone I see on social media, and even almost everyone I speak to personally, has “learned” from this experience that they had a lot of unnecessary activities in their day. They now realize they were overbooked, spending too much time commuting, had their kids signed up for too many activities, etc. But those are things I learned early on. I chose to be a freelancer, about 15 years ago, in large part because it left me more control over my schedule. My kids both had swimming lessons (they love swimming, and I think it’s an important life skill), and my oldest had just started drumming lessons (because he’s talented and also because he really, really likes drumming), and that’s it. We made it a conscious decision to have enough free time that we could relax and, ideally, not have commitments on weekends. We always have dinner as a family (except on maybe at most a dozen nights a year when work or an outing prevents one parent from making it).
The main way that the Little Prince being out of school had eased up our schedule is that we no longer had to get up at 6:00 am on weekdays – but that wakeup time wasn’t by choice, it was because our public elementary school (4 minutes away by car) starts so early that we just have to get up at 6. I mean, to the extent that you have a say in your schedule… I just don’t understand why it would take a worldwide pandemic for you to realize how busy you are and to decide to drop a few things to be less busy? Or to spend more time as a family?
People say they’ll save money, buy local, travel less. Well, I was already putting energy in the first two, and if anything, this makes me want to travel even more. I was already doing most of my shopping online (the big-box stores that took the worst hit over the past months were already in the red before 2020, mostly for that precise reason – they weren’t competing well enough with online retailers). I already thought that essential workers like teachers, waiters, nurses, mail carriers and waste collectors were underappreciated. I already thought that the minimum wage should be higher and that people should have free health care – I am from Canada, after all. But based on public discourse, it’s like a lot of people just now came to that conclusion.
People who were child-free and still had a decent income suddenly had a lot more time to themselves, and many got to check major things off their to-do lists – catch up on all those movies and tv series, read all those books, learn new hobbies, complete projects that had long been set aside. So even if their viewpoints are the same, they may feel more evolved just because of how much they got done for themselves. But most of us with kids (definitely myself included) had way less free time than usual and got even less done than we would have otherwise.
The Little Prince has to do MAP testing each year for school. MAP stands for Measure of Academic Progress; it’s not graded per se, but is meant to position him in relation to his peers in math and reading (there will be more subjects as he gets older). As the name implies, though, he has to progress in order to get a “good” score, meaning that even assuming he scores above his peers, if he didn’t progress much compared to the last time he took the test, he would score poorly. And I couldn’t help but think of this when I compare my viewpoints today with everyone else’s. Not that I’m “better” than anyone, of course, just that I feel like I’m standing still.
So here I am, admittedly possibly on the verge of a midlife crisis (what with two months left in my thirties), feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything beyond day-to-day treading water and haven’t evolved mentally either. Is anyone else in the same boat?