There is a quote I heard years ago that someone made reference to when I was a stay home parent. The quote was, “The days are long, but the years are short”. This quote applies to parenting and is especially true for parents who are staying home with their kids for COVID-19. It’s been four weeks since my family and I started our home bound journey. I call it a journey because I don’t really know what else to call it.
Like thousands of others, my family and I have settled into a home routine. We work and school from home, cook, clean, and get outdoors for at least an hour a day. We don’t have a lot of variety to our days, except on the weekends we don’t do school or homework. Our days seem long and predicable.
I’ve been grappling with emotions during this journey, which appear to come in waves. I don’t feel emotional all the time, but when I do it seems to hit hard and fast, like a huge wave crashing to the shore. I started to think of my emotions as waves last week because I realized there was little I could do to stop them. They come and go at will, and I must wait until the feeling passes and try to regroup afterwards.
Freedom to do as I want, when I want, has been the hardest challenge for me. Not being able to head to the park for a walk or grab a meal a local restaurant feels punitive. I didn’t realize how important being able to do things of my own will were. Having options is important to me. I like change. I like variety. I like making the day up as I go along, rather than having it pre-planned each day. It makes me happier.
I struggle with feelings of boredom (doing the same thing everyday), irritation (compromising with the family on things I want to do, but they don’t) and guilt (feeling like I should be more productive and not complaining). All of these feelings are normal and to be expected. But, I’m not used to having the intensity and frequency of these emotions, so I think that is why I’m having a hard time.
I consider myself an introvert and enjoy my alone time. I like dreaming and having conversations with myself, in a healthy way of course. But, with my family and I all home bound in a small space (800 square feet), it’s hard to be alone. My bedroom has an open ceiling that allows light and sound to come in from the living room. Even when I head to my bedroom for “alone” time, I never feel alone. I find myself “hanging out with the family” doing things they like to do and get irritated because I am not doing what I like. The combination of boredom and irritation doesn’t prove to be a good fit for me, as my family has told me stop complaining more than once.
I realize there are many people alone at home and have limited social interactions. They are also struggling financially, due to a loss of work or income. This lead me to feeling guilt. I have people to support and spend the day with. We have money to buy food and pay bills. It’s silly to complain when so many people are struggling far more than myself.
There are other emotions as well. Sadness (missing close friends and family), fear (not knowing what could happen next), worry ( if I or someone I know will become ill), and confusion ( not knowing what I should be doing). These emotions feel strong and are difficult at times to navigate.
My family and I went for a drive yesterday evening. We drove by a local beach where we could see the ocean shore. Due to COVID-19, all the beaches in our area are closed, so we could only view the water from a distance. As I looked onto the vacant beach, a sense of calm came over me. I realized waves are only difficult when then appear large and overwhelming, but calming most of the time. It was a good reminder that this situation won’t always feel this way. The emotions will pass and calming rhythms will form. We will all find a way through this difficult time, even when our emotions make us think otherwise.