Ten weeks into our stay-at-home experience, I cleaned out the refrigerator and found the list of rules our family had made at the beginning of our time at home. Almost a quarter of a year into these quarantimes, it seemed a good time to review how well our expectations have matched our reality. Despite the fact that my fridge expedition was based on a mysterious odor that we’d been hunting for the last two days, I’m pleased by how we’ve done and how realistic we were at the beginning.
In March, we sat Paul and the girls down at the table and came up with the following list:
- Everyone has space and sanity
- Everyone gets their work done
- Everyone learns something new
- Everyone keeps shared space clean
How We’ll Get There
- Everyone gets dressed every day
- Quiet Hours are 10:30 PM – 6:30 AM
- Everyone attends to hygiene daily
- Everyone needs to spend time alone and time together every day
- Everyone needs to move their bodies every day and when possible go outside
- Everyone needs to clean up after themselves and help with chores
Thinking back to the elaborate charts, schedules, and resource lists that were circulating on social media in March, our commitments seemed underwhelming. We set the bar low. We were thinking about how to thrive together as a tween boy, two (and often three) high school seniors, and two middle-aged parents who’d always declared that we could never work in the same office. Our romance is strong, and our work styles are profoundly different. Now we were all sharing the same work and living space around the clock, and we had a cranky senior dog, three cats, and a chicken to contend with. The chicken almost immediately got herself killed, as chickens do. One of the cats got tired of us after a week of quarantine, snuck out of the house, and took off for a month, only to return when food seemed more desirable than humans seemed disdainable.
With two adults who had worked at home in the past — one of us as research assistant and one of us a PhD student — we knew that we couldn’t exactly predict how the goal of “get our work done” would happen. It turns out that although we had three times more children than the last time we’d worked at home, three near-adults and one near-teen are more forgiving on the work front than 1 baby or toddler. I joke that I’ve become much more productive at home than at school because it’s easier to be get work done while being distracted by four children than by 450 children. Packed in that joke is grief, which will have to be wrangled once we are done putting one foot in front of another.
What we did not predict when we made our list ten weeks ago was how important time outside and time together would be. You see hints in the list, but we made those strictures just knowing that people in the tween and teen years can take to their rooms. We didn’t know that time outside would set all of our moods for the day or that the middle schooler would become the most enthusiastic walker of all of us. We didn’t know that board games and hysterical laughter — emphasis on the hysteria — around the supper table would come to seem necessary to the day.
We don’t yet know how many more weeks of time at home we’ll have. We don’t know when we’ll need to come back to it in the next year or two. I’m glad to have had a moment on this Memorial Day weekend to take a pulse on the state of our Quarantimes. I’m also glad that I found the source of the smell in the fridge, some recently purchased chicken that had now better never see our bellies.