While the pandemic has affected us all differently, it’s affected us ALL in some way. We’re more than two months into the thick of things here in the US and some stay home orders are finally starting to be lifted. While things sometimes feel like they’re trying to get back to normal, there’s still so much unknown about what’s to come. One of the things that’s helped me through some of these difficult times is reading about how other moms are doing and handling the situation. A few members of the Run Wild My Child Creative Team took some time to write down their reflections on quarantine and documented the good and the bad about their COVID-19 experiences thus far and how the pandemic has affected their homes, heads, and hearts.
When the Covid-19 threat first became real here in Ohio, things shut down with astounding speed. Our heads were spinning with the new information coming out daily, the threat of how this would impact our families and communities, and the frustrations of major restrictions. From the outside, though, it didn’t seem to change our lives that much. I’m a homeschooling mom to four kids. My husband works in an essential job. Our daily schedule remained much the same, and we realize how blessed we have been. Even so, the increasing closures and restrictions made an impact. Art and music lessons were canceled. The libraries closed. Our church moved all services online. We couldn’t get together with friends and family. Even grocery shopping became a challenge. And, thanks to the weather, outdoor adventures (my favorite way to have fun with my kids) were more of an ordeal than a fun outing. After a long and cold winter, our Ohio spring remained cold, wet, and windy. In fact, if you had told me at the beginning of the quarantine that it was going to snow clear through Mother’s Day weekend, I might have crawled under my bed covers and not come out until Memorial Day!
But despite the challenges, I have so many things to be thankful for during this quarantine. We’ve spent even more time than usual together as a family—and as you all know, that comes with both challenges and blessings. But without anyone else to turn to, my children have become better friends with each other. All our needs have been met, and I know that isn’t the case for everyone during this time. And even though the weather hasn’t been ideal, we have repeatedly turned to the great outdoors for adventure, excitement, and fun. Right before the pandemic hit, we moved into a rural farming area and we’ve been thankful for that every single day. We haven’t had to fight through park closures or social distancing for outdoor time, because we can step outside our door and wander through woods and fields and up and down our quiet country road. And we have…every single day. When the monotony of life within the walls of our house feels overwhelming, we’ve gone outside to explore. When winter has felt never-ending, we have searched the fields and woods for those sure signs of spring. And when our indoor entertainment has run out, we’ve gone outdoors and found endless new things to play and enjoy.
The bad. It’s been a long two months. My daughter turned six almost RIGHT before the Covid-19 pandemic hit American soil. We were lucky to have her birthday party with friends the first week of March. That next week we made the decision as a family to self-isolate. My husband worked from home for one month, but then had to return to work. Nearing the end of two months at home, and we are feeling it. Workouts are interrupted with requests for snacks, writing sessions are at best, sporadic. Though we are a homeschooling family, we rarely stay home. In fact, I think the hallmarks of our homeschool are our field trips and shenanigans. Typically we are done with school at the end of April and we spend May visiting my Mom and Step-Dad in Phoenix, using their home as a base for farther explorations. Staying home hurts. Our family is so far from us and we miss them dearly.
Without the road trips, day trips, and shenanigans to seek out I’ve found myself slipping into the grips of Mom guilt daily. I’ve been shorter with my fuse and sharper with my words, stemming from all this togetherness without an outlet. My typical routes of self-care are no longer accessible and alone time is a precious commodity that looks like sitting in my car in a parking lot with a latte from home. (which is actually just left over coffee mixed with chocolate oat milk). Anxieties have reared up from where they were buried and at night when I’m trying to sleep, perceived failures and shortcomings intermix to keep my brain firing. I feel like I’m drowning. But then, when I’ve taken a moment to pause, I realize that my kids are standing in that water I think I’m drowning in. They are fine. They are thriving. And what they most need right now is our family. And we are right here.
The good. I have never been so grateful and appreciative of our home. I’ve never been more aware of how absolutely privileged we are as a family. My husband had the ability to work from home for a while. He has a job to continue working steadily, and regularly brings our groceries home after work. Our fridge hasn’t been bare and our bellies have been full. Our back porch has become a sacred space. Our children rediscovered how much fun our backyard can be. We do not live in a major metropolitan area that has been hard hit. As a family, we our weekends were typical non-stop adventuring, staying home all weekend had been a rarity for us. So, this time of turning inwards has been a blessing for us. No nightly tennis practice, no gymnastics, no running for the next activity. My husband and I, and our kids, chose to invest that energy into our garden. It’s a space that brings me so much joy and is a source of peace in the daily grind. This year, prior to the pandemic, we added four more raised beds. I threw myself into planting them. Then we added huge barrel planters for giant dahlia blooms. Then (thanks to Instagram) I got an idea for an arch. My husband made that happen, but he went above and beyond anything I could have imagined.
This summer, we won’t be traveling like we used to, but we will have the most amazing arch tunnel, that you can walk under. It will be filled with morning glories, luffa plants, cucumbers, mini pumpkins and mini squash, sour gherkin cucumbers, nasturtiums, and whatever else I planted on it that I forgot about. Last weekend, we added a potting bench (built by my husband). We have delighted in picking fresh produce for our meals almost every day for the past two months. (We live in zone 8, so gardening starts in February). My kids enjoy our mornings outside and I enjoy my nightly garden stroll with my husband to show him what grew that day. Just yesterday, I was showing him the sunflowers that are starting to bloom. It’s been an excellent exercise in patience and presence. (#coleyraegardens). Our schooling may have been sporadic during this time, but we have read some wonderful stories, had more family dinners than ever before, played more board games, laughed together at Dude Perfect videos on YouTube, and enjoyed the gift of this slowed down time.
The bad – I first became aware of just how scary and devastating this pandemic could be while at work, listening to doctors, actuaries, and experts come up with a plan for social distancing. Things escalated faster than I ever could have imagined and only days later, we were officially home and self-quarantining (my daughter has a heart condition, so we took it seriously). We were working from home (two lawyers), schooling from home (2 school-aged kids + 2 year-old), and living socially distant from our friends and family. It was incredibly heartbreaking to drive down the street and see stores and restaurants closed. Friends started to get laid off; many had to close their businesses. The stock market continued to drop. The panic buying set in, the statistics got worse, the fear surmounted. Everything felt so overwhelming and scary. The kids missed their friends. We were overwhelmed with screen time and schoolwork. Nothing was getting done, the laundry piled up, the house was a wreck, there were so many meals and chores and snacks and Zoom calls. I was taking care of kids all day then working until 2:0o am every night and I still couldn’t keep up. Overwhelm set in and I lost it.
I’ve been surprised by the sheer volume of how much and deeply I felt. Somedays, within minutes I could go from being so incredibly sad, scared, stressed, and helpless to bursting with love, joy, pride and gratitude for my little family. I’d throw myself a pity party about how hard this all is and then I’d consider how much harder it is for so many people and how lucky we are. Then I’d feel guilty about feeling bad in the first place. It’s been so confusing. My temper’s been short, my stress level through the roof. The introvert in me wanted to scream and hide in a closet. Never (not even while pregnant) have I felt so emotional and exhausted. I withdrew from everything and it took me weeks to (very slowly and deliberately) get back into a headspace where I felt like I could function again. That’s so not like me and very unnerving. It’s left me very worried about what’s to come and if this will happen again.
The good – Never in my life have I been more aware of how incredibly privileged, lucky, and blessed we are. The pandemic has made me fully aware of how much we’ve taken for granted and how grateful we need to be every day. We have a home that’s comfortable, a fridge that’s full, bodies that are healthy, and opportunities just a click away. Friends and neighbors have gone above and beyond with birthday parades, organizing virtual events and dropping off goodies like freshly baked pretzels, homemade jam and booze. After a few stressful weeks, I kicked my guilt to the curb and decided that homeschooling on a screen was just not going to work for our family. We found other ways to learn inside and out and it made it huge difference in our attitudes. Work’s been busy, but flexible enough that we can get out and do things together as a family. Ryan and I make a great team and work together so we can each get things done. We’re lucky to have friends with private land nearby so we can explore outdoors all day and never encounter another person. We’ve been camping, floating, fishing, hiking, and spending countless hours in our own backyard.
We eventually hired help (a college girl home for the summer) to take the kids on socially distant outdoor adventures during the day so my husband and I could work (necessary to keep our full-time jobs – we know how lucky we are for our paychecks). My kids have spent nearly every day of the last two months in a creek, on a trail or by a lake and it’s been incredible for them. While they still fight constantly, I think they’re also closer than ever before and they’re thriving on all the time they get to spend outside and with us. Being outside has made a world of difference to us all and really solidified my passion for helping other families get outdoors together. I love being home and (while I don’t want to be here forever) I’ve truly enjoyed having dinner together as a family every night, doing house projects with my husband, adventuring with the kids and all the time together we’ve been blessed with.
Lockdown for us has been a mixed bag. I feel blessed to have extra time with the kids and to spend loads of time together as a family. We’ve done some fabulous crafts, had a garden campout, toasted marshmallows, and played board games. There have been some days that have been truly lovely. I’ve adored watching the kids develop a lovely bond and play more together – I’m so thankful we have 4 kids – they have entertained each other!
However, the juggle has been oh so real and a struggle! Trying to work (teaching live lessons as a secondary school teacher or leading training whilst my husband takes a work call) has been super stressful. There have been days where I feel sad that the kids bickering and me as an impatient mum have dominated the day. It’s also been hard that the kids have missed out on seeing their friends and grandparents. My daughter was in the last year of primary so she won’t get to say goodbye to her friends, won’t have the leavers parties, and end of school play. Both my son starts school and my daughter starts secondary and they won’t have a transition period. Other things have been tricky – friends have had their babies and I won’t be able to meet them until this time is over. Parties and anniversaries have been missed…my 100k overnight walk with friends was canceled.
But we’re thankful. We’re all healthy happy and safe – we’re intrigued how we’ll navigate the next period – longing for life to return to normal. I am worried about how the next part of the journey goes. Will our children grow up fearful of others? Will we always be crossing the road when someone walks too close? Will we turn into a germ-centric generation? Lockdown leaves all these feelings and although I know we’re so, so lucky – it’s still hard to think about how we’ll all be touched by this crazy period of time.
Sometimes I wonder “What if?” What if we would’ve known ahead of time? How would we have prepared? But the fact that we couldn’t prepare in advance forced our family to be creative and to learn new things.
The good. What a time to be alive am I right? The circumstances leading up to the stay-home orders have tremendously affected everyone’s lives including ours, homebody Homeschoolers. While there have been challenging moments I can honestly say that this time at home has been and will remain one of my fondest memories of my children’s childhood for the following reasons. Time. Oh, bittersweet time. Our days were often filled with at least one errand or obligation we had to be at and with the stay-home order, they cease to exist leaving me with my children, distraction-free. Our conversations were enriched and I felt a sense of slow normalcy I have never felt before. I didn’t pay attention to what time it was and something about the constant slow days made me appreciate my time interacting with my children without the hustle and bustle of life even more. We all ate at the table every night together. I can’t say how much this has changed our lives.
As a photographer, there are many nights that I am not home in time for dinner as I am chasing the sunlight and I miss that time. Lots of nights were wrapped up with mom grabbing something on the way home and dinners were rushed so we could keep our normal bedtime routine. Being home allowed me to cook (more than I ever have before) and enjoy dinner time with my children every single night, never missing a beat or moment or conversation I otherwise would have missed. It gave me more time with my children, my husband, and even myself.
The bad. Negatively I would say that the hardest struggle any of us went through were the days we needed a change of scenery. We highly missed our outings to lunch, spur of the moment out of town day trips, book store, and coffee shop mornings…and just having the option of getting out of the house especially with how much it rained his spring season. You can only expect kids to be stimulated at home so much when suck inside. I think those are the days I struggled and the kids struggled too. I think I personally struggled too with my lack of working, being a photographer – I missed creating. This mentally made me feel worthless some days as a high functioning creative – it made me feel a bit in a rut. However, I did my very best to challenge myself in other ways creatively and come up with new ideas on how to create income. However, I would do it all again if we had to and have learned through this experience that its okay to have slow days and ignore the “real world”. I don’t want that to ever change or “go back.” The good completely outweighed the bad.