Today is Day 2 of a statewide shutdown because of the spread of COVID-19.
But really, it’s been longer than that. (And it certainly feels longer.) My workplace closed last week and my son’s preschool has been out (first for spring break, now in response to the coronavirus) for almost two weeks.
And now we have, likely, another four weeks of this, as the stay-at-home mandate in Hawaiʻi is expected to be lifted on April 30.
FOUR. MORE. WEEKS.
I’ve worked at home for years, so that’s not something new. But I’ve never worked home while everyone else was at home, too. That’s new—and pretty terrible.
It’s incredibly difficult to juggle a full-time job and my son’s (and husband’s) daily needs. There’s no way I can work when the kid is awake. He wants to read books, then he wants yogurt, then he wants me to play puzzles with him, then he wants to go outside—and that’s in the first half-hour after breakfast!
It doesn’t help that he’s an only child. He doesn’t have another kid to play with—and we can’t exactly have play dates over. (And it’s not like kids can stay 6 feet apart anyway!) So he’s stuck with us—and we aren’t very good at embodying PJ Masks characters. (He’s told us this himself.)
It’s hard enough trying to come up with things to do with him, let alone educational activities. (Seriously, I don’t know how parents with older kids are managing. Thank God Landon is in preschool. I can teach him the ABCs. I’d be screwed if it were algebra.)
So what are we doing?
Besides screaming on the inside?
This is how we’re managing—this week, anyway. It could all change by Monday.
• Staying on a schedule. I don’t deviate much from a schedule, anyway, so this wasn’t very hard. I have long realizer the importance of sticking to some kind of schedule as a stay-at-home freelance writer. You need to get up at the same time—early—get dressed and work. (AND BRUSH YOUR TEETH!) And with our kid, that’s even more critical. We get up the same time we always did during the week and follow a pretty regimented schedule: breakfast, walk the dogs, work on the alphabet and writing, play, lunch, nap, snack, some kind of physical activity—dance parties has worked—bath, dinner, quiet play time, books, bed. He doesn’t get to sleep in, he always eats at the same time and always at a table. This creates a semblance of normalcy for him—and it ensures I’ll be wearing pants.
• Get outside at all costs. I actually emailed the mayor to ask about this: Is driving somewhere to exercise considered “essential” travel? The answer? YES. So when it’s raining in my neighborhood—which has been every day so far—we get in the car and drive somewhere sunny and dry. We stroll new neighborhoods with our dogs or go on a run when the kid is napping. You just can’t stay indoors all day, every day.
• Exercise. Whatever that may look like. We surf, run, walk, get on the elliptical that’s been doubling as a clothes rack in our living room. But we also watch yoga and other workout videos on YouTube. (Lots of gyms and studios are offering classes online, even for kids.) Do this for your sanity, not to mention to burn all the carbs you’ve been eating now that you’re stuck at home.
• Keep the house clean. This may sound unnecessary—I mean, who’s going to come over?—but trust me, if you let your house go, you will lose it. I make a point to clean up every night. Toys are put away. Dishes are washed. Clothes are folded. It’s easy to say, “Why clean up? It’s just gonna get messed up tomorrow.” True. But messes can multiply. You think there are a lot of toys on the floor now? Give it two weeks. So clean up as you go, so you’re not overwhelmed later.
• Turn off the TV (or iPad). This is one of the hardest things for me to do, to be honest. When I used to work from home (alone), I kept the TV on a lot. I rarely watched it; it was just white noise for me. But I realize my husband—and son—are transfixed by the TV. So if we’re not watching something specific—a yoga class, the morning news, “Day of Our Lives”—then shut it off.
• Stay connected to people. Our team does virtual meetings for work every morning to start the day, keep us on track, give the 24-year-old on our team a reason to wake up before 9 a.m. But some of us meet for lunch online, and we have regular pau hanas with other friends on Zoom and Google Hangouts. Even my son has “play dates” with his friends on FaceTime. It’s not the same as face-to-face contact, of course, but it’s something to make us feel less isolated.
• Write letters. I’m bringing this back! I’ve had a pen pal since the second grade, and I still write and mail letters. (I keep the post office in business!) This week I got Landon to start writing letters—really just drawing pictures of rocket ships and caterpillars—to his preschool friends. This letter exchange is fun—and we can teach valuable skills: writing, drawing, what addresses are, how to put letters into envelopes, what stamps are and how mail gets from here to there. Plus, we’re letting people know we’re thinking about them. That’s the best part.
• Eat healthy. It’s so easy to eat an entire box of Froot Loops. (I know. I did this.) But try your best to eat right. That may mean ordering takeout—and getting some veggie dishes—or subscribing to a local CSA that brings fresh produce to your doorstep. It’s hard—especially if you’ve got a bunch of mouths to feed at home. But there are ways. A friend suggested doing meal shares with friends, so you’re getting a variety of home-cooked dishes. Another friend uses this time at home to learn to cook vegetarian dishes. Whatever it is, try to eat as healthy as you can.
• Keep it light, stay patient, be kind and laugh when you can. This is an incredibly stressful time for a lot of us. People are getting sick, losing jobs, taking pay cuts, worried about the future, running out of rice and toilet paper. So keep your head above water. Volunteer if you can. Bring food and supplies to neighbors. Check in with friends and family. Send video messages. Hug your kids. Watch “The Daily Show.” Whatever you can do to lighten the mood, make someone smile, help each other, do it. Because this is the time when we need that the most.