Thursday, October 22, 2020

Pandemic ramblings

The Little Prince started in-person schooling again yesterday. We’re in the green zone, there haven’t been any cases of covid transmission on campus in the past 9 weeks, and his remote-learning teacher was the one who would transition to in-person for returning kids, so it seemed like a good time to make the switch. We’re not fully confident that this is the safest thing to do, but we’ve calculated it to be safe enough at the moment, and probably best for now (considering that a vaccine for the general population still seems to be at least a year away). I already feel more relaxed during the day with only the Fox around. This had me taking stock of the past 8 months or so, even though the pandemic is not over by any means. 

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?


Katie said...

Coincidentally, I read this post at the end of a week spent providing periodic at-home tech support for my 3rd grader's remote MAP testing!

I feel like my family's lives have not changed very much, in large part because we live far away from our families and don't have a ton of local friends, so it's not like quarantine cut back on a super-busy social life. We are also very minimally scheduled in our free time, so we didn't experience many changes there, and TBH the biggest change has been switching around my non-gym-based workout schedule, heh.

The one thing that I've really had to reckon with is what I want from my career. I just changed fields and got my first job in my new field in January, so the abbreviated training period plus WFH has been a *rough* transition. I've thought about quitting many, many times -- I've been able to cut back on hours some this fall, but I'm still working for a high-pressure boss while guiding remote learning -- but as much as it would relieve the pressure on me for the next year or so I think that I'd regret dropping out of the workforce in the long run. I have a lot of *thoughts* about the way that the pandemic has concentrated a lot of the pressures on women in particular, but I also appreciate all of the choices that I have in how I negotiate the responsibilities of work / family / schooling.

Amélie said...

Oh God, yes, the workouts! I had been on a streak of almost a year doing a home workout every weekday, during my toddler's nap. Then the pandemic happened, and my then-1st-grader staying home coincided with the switch to a big-boy bed for the toddler, and he hasn't napped since. So I haven't worked out since. I'd love to find the time for yoga again. I might just have to do it in the living room with a toddler around?

We're in the same situation where we live far away from most of our family and friends, so our day-to-day interactions haven't changed that much. But we couldn't see them over the summer, and the holidays will be harder for sure.

I had really enjoyed this article ( about the difficulties of balancing work and parenting during the pandemic. I also feel privileged that I'm able to drop my work so that I can take care of my kids and it's not a huge problem financially, but I haven't been able to find any new clients recently. (I can work virtually, but admittedly I only have 3 days a week where I could take appointments, and I'd be confined to my bedroom instead of my desk, and it's all less than ideal.) I'd love to work more hours in my field, even though it would complicate things. So I think you're making the right choice for your household, even though it's more stressful than not working!