I consider myself a happy person with a relatively quiet and drama free life. I tend to look on the bright side of things and, because I am also a Christian woman, when things do get tough, I find peace in turning everything over to God. So when COVID-19 showed up, I went into shelter in place on a positive note. I had always wondered about homeschooling, so I was excited to try it out. I came up with a daily schedule and hung it up in our kitchen. I kept a running list of positive things that were coming out of this unprecedented situation, and relished having my entire family home together even if my husband did spend the days holed up in our home office. We were among the lucky ones. We were healthy, my husband was able to work remotely, and we had a tight-knit circle of friends who helped us navigate this confusing time.
But as two weeks (remember when we all thought we were just hunkering down for two weeks?) turned into three, four, five, and six, I eventually found myself in a deep, dark hole that terrified me and turned me into someone I didn’t recognize . . . or like. My relationship with my oldest daughter was suffering, I had gained close to 10 pounds, and my tolerance for alcohol was through the roof. I was barely keeping up with the housework, and a newfound, paper-thin patience had me losing my cool every time my kids dumped out another bin of toys. That lack of patience also had me angrily bickering with both family members and internet strangers on a regular basis. I felt like a failure as a human, a mom, and a wife. And I didn’t feel like myself. I knew things had to change, and they had to change fast.
First, I tore our homeschool schedule off the wall. Our home is not a classroom, and I am not my daughter’s school teacher. I still went online each morning and checked her in for attendance purposes, but rather than fight over math worksheets or writing prompts, I opted for a peaceful environment in which she would learn whatever we felt like learning about. We purchased a butterfly nursery and learned about caterpillars and butterflies. We hung two bird feeders outside our living room window and learned about different types of birds. I taught her about measurements when we cooked together, and my husband taught her how to ride a bike. We planted a small garden together, and spent time collecting all sorts of nature treasures which we used to build a fairy village in our backyard. She may not have been completing math worksheets or writing a persuasive paragraph, but surely she was learning something.
We went on like this for a couple of weeks I think; long enough where she no longer seemed to be avoiding me and no longer dreaded the idea of school. It was working for us, but I felt guilty that we weren’t doing any of the assigned work. I started paying our babysitter to come over a few times a week (with proper precautions, of course) to tutor my daughter, who was thrilled to finally have a new teacher. By the time June rolled around, I knew that in spite of the difficulties we faced, my daughter was coming out of the school year ahead. And maybe, just maybe, we could all come out of this thing on top.
Eliminating the daily fights with my daughter was a tremendous step towards restoring peace in our home. With three young children, I can easily waste an entire day just following them around and cleaning up whatever mess they leave in their wake. The constant stream of toys, shredded paper, and dried out Play-doh that littered my house became a huge source of frustration for me. I’ve always known that my children have too much stuff, and being stuck at home gave me the chance to purge in a big way.
I spent several nights after they had gone to bed going through every bin, box, and basket in their playroom and clearing out everything that hadn’t been played with, along with any toy that had a million tiny accessories. Our town participates in the national Buy Nothing Project, so all of our unwanted toys found new homes. Everything we kept (which is still too much, if you ask me) was organized in new storage bins. Our playroom is still messy most of the time, but at least it’s manageable now. And while I was at it, I also cleaned out piles of stuff from our attic, basement, and home office.
Cleaning house applied to more than just my actual house. A few weeks ago, I made the decision to permanently delete my Facebook account. While I loved the Marketplace and my town’s Buy Nothing Project page, there were too many times when I couldn’t just keep scrolling when I came across yet another post debating the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of masks, or whether or not schools should reopen this fall. Too often, I found myself engaging; bickering with distant family members or, even worse, internet strangers on these touchy topics.
At best, it was a waste of time. At worst, it was disastrous for my mental wellbeing as I was actively trying to climb out of the hole that social distancing had thrown me into. By the end of the day, I was disgusted by the amount of time and energy I had expended in arguing on social media, and the best thing to do for myself was to simply delete it. Permanently deleting your account isn’t easy. It took me some time just to find the option to delete or deactivate, and then I had to click through a seemingly endless series of questions that were basically asking if I was sure I wanted to proceed as though it were a life or death decision. Yes. I was sure. After 30 days, my account would be gone forever. Good riddance.
Facebook wasn’t the only thing that got the boot. Throughout the first half of shelter in place, I found myself indulging in a glass or two of wine far more frequently than I had in the past. It was fun at first. My girlfriends and I would giggle as we got buzzed and watched TikTok videos or loaded up our Amazon carts. Eventually, I was polishing off an entire bottle of wine and TikTok was nowhere near as funny as it had been. All I ended up with was a headache and some serious bloating. I was miserable.
So I swore off alcohol completely. And while that earned me a few sideways glances from friends at first, I started feeling better almost immediately. The absence of alcohol coupled with a conscious effort to eat portioned meals helped me shed the weight I had gained during shelter in place, which helped me feel better in general. Now, I’ll have a (as in one) drink once a week. With school, my home, and myself cleaned up, I feel better. I’m happier, my family is happier, and there’s some semblance of normalcy back in our home.
As I sit here thinking and writing about my COVID-19 experience, I realize that I never had much to whine about over here in my privileged little bubble. I always knew that my daughter would be okay regardless of whether or not school reopened. I was never anxious about the virus itself and thankfully, no one in my immediate family ever got sick or, worse, passed away. We have several friends who did contract COVID-19, but fortunately they all recovered and are in good health. We didn’t have to worry about our finances, or losing our home, or buying groceries. We have been incredibly lucky, and not a day goes by where I am ungrateful for that. But that’s the thing about this virus. It has affected us all in one way or another, but hopefully, when this is all over, we’ll have all learned a thing or two about ourselves.