I’m reminded over and over again during this quarantine of the old adage: careful what you wish for. For years I’ve wanted nothing more than to cut my hour-long commute out my life. I daydreamed about all the amazing things I would manage to accomplish with an “extra” 10 hours a week to play with. Oh, how productive I’d be, I’d tell myself. I’d be livin’ the dream!
My office has been closed since March 13. Yes, Friday the 13th. I stopped by once that Saturday to collect a few perishables and things I wanted to have with me at home. For example: those airplane bottles of booze, just in case the liquor stores closed. PS: I was right; they closed for more than a month!) Since then, I’ve not been back. Not for more than five weeks. In some ways that’s been amazing. In other ways, this was not the work-from-home fairytale I’d envisioned.
To be fair, I have likely gotten a lot more done – certainly a lot more baking, anyway – since the stay-at-home orders were enacted. What I’d not anticipated is just how much of a mental toll working from home would be during a pandemic. I hadn’t factored in sharing space with another grown human conducting their regular business from home, two high schoolers alternating between classes via zoom and marathon video game sessions with friends, and a second grader who needs more hands-on guidance with schoolwork and also someone to keep him company in a scary, confusing world.
My productivity definitely tanked, especially the first week when it seemed all I could focus on were stats on new cases, projections, and advice from experts. I steered clear of listening to any press conferences, waiting instead for the cliff notes versions afterwards by consulting several liberal and conservative sources. And I walked. A lot. For some reason getting in my usual 12,000 steps a day took on a level of critical importance. With the crappy late March and early April weather, I walked in circles around my house. The first few days my family stared at me with looks that said: she’s finally lost it. Now, they just naturally adjust their trajectory into the kitchen to avoid getting in my way.
I still feel a certain pull to be online 9-5, knowing full well no one else in my office is. People have staggered their work times to fit their new home-based lives.
I feel for people with much younger babies, toddlers, or preschoolers who must now conduct business without an actual caregiver on site to focus on the most helpless of little ones. I also feel for parents trying to juggle the schoolwork for multiple children in elementary school while timing homeschooling around business calls. And we’re the lucky ones who have this problem.
Those who have already lost their jobs instead have to figure out to how feed their tribes and keep the lights on. How do you interview for jobs remotely? That’s if anyone is even conducting interviews anymore. The scary economy has left many businesses freezing all hiring.
So, yes, if anyone asks, I am struggling a bit with living my dream. But truth be told, everyone is struggling, and this isn’t normal life. So, I’m trying to be gentle with myself and bake another batch of cookies.