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Things from quarantine life I want to keep around

Family Dinner

I hate the phrase “new normal” for so many reasons. It’s become a buzz-wordy cliche, it means everything and nothing at the same time, and, to be honest, it freaks me out. Everyone is saying we need to prepare for the “new normal” post-COVID, but what does it mean? Are masks in public the “new normal?” Is social distancing here to stay? Will remote learning kick back in this fall? WILL WE EVER GET SPORTS BACK??? There’s so much we don’t know and while thinking about the “new normal” makes me a little nauseous, there are some aspects of this quarantine life that I hope stick around.

More time with my family

Don’t get me wrong, being quarantined together 24/7 has had it’s challenges. There have been arguments, tears and frustrations. One of my favorite quarantine quotes from my 9-year-old son came after he lost a card game and began crying. “Tensions are just really high right now, mom,” he sobbed. Boy was he right. We don’t pretend to be the perfect little happy family, but I will say that the overwhelming majority of our time together at home has been a gift and a time I’ll never forget.

Before we were ordered to shelter in place, my husband’s job required a lot of travel. He was typically gone at least three days a week, right in the middle of the school/work week. It was hard on my boys. They missed their dad and they were left with a stressed out mom who was trying desperately to keep everything running smoothly by herself. My husband was laid off as a result of the Coronavirus and that presented some difficult financial situations, but overall, it has been a tremendous blessing. It has been a joy to watch the relationship between my boys and their dad grow in a way that it couldn’t have, had it not been for quarantine. The strength of that relationship and the intentional time together is something my husband and I have vowed that we will work to keep as a top priority, even after stay at home restrictions are lifted.

More time at home

At first, it was difficult dealing with everything being cancelled. Like most families, our days and nights were full to the brim with obligations. From swim team, to music lessons, and everything in between. Not to mention finding time to do the grocery shopping and endless appointments while making sure to squeeze in date nights, time with friends and #SelfCare. Then with a flip of a switch, all of those obligations were gone. For a couple weeks, it felt like I was forgetting something. I was so used to rushing around from one thing to another, that it felt odd to have down-time. But now, 14+ weeks later, I love having nowhere to be during my free time. I think my calendar is something I will continue to guard more closely in the future.

More time in my neighborhood

Confession: I’m not a good neighbor. We’ve lived in our home for more than five years and my interactions with my neighbors have mostly been the courtesy wave as I pull into my garage and close the door. I’m not proud of this, but I wasn’t pushed out of my comfort zone to improve until recently. Something started happening in our neighborhood during all of this, and I’m sure it happened in yours too. People started taking walks. Every afternoon our neighbors would be out doing a couple laps around the block and it became much easier to have socially distant conversations as we all made our daily trek through the streets. Then, signs started appearing in yards. Signs telling us it was someone’s birthday, or that a frontline hero lived in the home or that a graduation was just around the corner. Suddenly, I had something I could easily talk to my neighbors about. It made it so much easier for me, a somewhat socially awkward introvert, to have meaningful conversations with those around me. It’s been so great getting to know these people, that I’m embarrassed that it took me so long. I’m going to try as hard as I can to continue to be someone that those around me can look to for support even after life goes back to “normal.”

More flexibility

I remember when we were first told we would be working from home. I naively thought it would just be a couple weeks. I set up shop in the kitchen so I could monitor the remote learning for my kids while taking meetings and making deadlines. I was in denial when my husband said, “Hey...we might want to make you a home office.” As much as I hate to admit it, he was right, and we ended up converting a rarely-used toy room into my office. It was hard to face the reality that working from home was going to be my life for the foreseeable future. I miss my co-workers. I miss running into people unexpectedly in the kitchen and finding out what’s going on in their lives. I even miss real, in-person meetings! I hope those things come back soon, but I have really grown to appreciate working from home. Before COVID, I had a 25 minute commute (when traffic was normal). Which isn’t terrible, but it adds a minimum of 50 minutes to my day of just driving. And if traffic is bad (which it often is) I’m driving for well over an hour each day. It’s not a terrible commute and I enjoyed driving into the city, listening to podcasts or catching up with my sister on my drive, but that extra hour of time back in my day has been incredible! Not to mention, being able to sleep later since I don’t have to physically go anywhere.

Pre-COVID, by the time I got home from work, the mad dash was on. It was a race to get dinner on the table, monitor the mountains of homework, be the air-traffic controller coordinating the bedtime routine and get the house somewhat picked up so we could rush out the door in the morning and do it all over again. It was exhausting and it felt like time at home was rushed and in a state of stress. Now, it has a different pace and a totally different feel. We aren’t rushing anywhere and I get the added bonus of seeing my family when I take a break from my computer. I’ve even come to enjoy the little interruptions or knocks on the home office door so that my kids can talk to me about Pokemon or ask me if I want to take a break outside with them. It’s eased the pressure at home significantly, and while I don’t want to work from home permanently, I do hope it becomes more common to allow remote work on a more regular basis.

I’ve learned what’s most important to me during this strange break from the life I was used to. The one thing I feel like I know for sure about my “new normal” is that there are pieces of quarantine life that I want to hold onto. And that’s my goal as we work through the back half of this bizarre year.

Afton Spriggs is a working mom of two boys, Jude and Beckett. She and her husband, Ryan, are lifelong Metro-East residents. Afton spent most of her career working in digital content for traditional media companies (TV news, magazine and radio) and now works at a digital marketing agency in St. Louis. She loves sports, trying new recipes and traveling.

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