Chronicles of a Grant Writer in the Time of Social Distancing — Week 15

June 22

Today felt pretty normal. I’m still working from home, and my kids and husband are here all the time, but today my daughter needed less attention, and my son was in a cooperative mood. With school over, neither one of the kids is stressed out right now, and that contributes to a more pleasant atmosphere in the house. They spent way too much time on their screens today, but my son also spent a fair amount of time outdoors, and I managed to get my daughter to spend a solid hour helping me organize some art supplies and toys. I feel like this is as normal as it’s going to be for a while, and today’s rhythm seemed a lot more natural than anything we’ve experienced lately.

I’m glad my kids have the opportunity, for probably the only summer in their lives, to have a lot of unscheduled time. I can tell they are both enjoying it. We’ve managed to arrange several socially distant visits with friends, which counteract feelings of loneliness, and it is so wonderful to not be constantly rushing from place to place.

Without the pressure of school, it’s nice to have the kids around. I was very busy with work today, and we all kind of did our own thing, but at lunch-time and other points throughout the day, we had some nice moments together.

I remember feeling very bored at times during the summer vacations of my youth, and my daughter was expressing some of that today. But I also remember how nice it was to sleep in, or do creative projects, or just be carried along by the household’s daily rhythms of meal preparation, housework, or yard work. As a kid, summer was a time to see what grownups did around the house all day. Even though I’m not usually at home either, my kids are getting to see how my husband and I juggle our priorities and manage our time. I know they are noticing in subtle ways, and this sets a good example for them about what it means to balance work and home, and be a responsible adult.

I wouldn’t have chosen things to happen this way, but I’m glad for what we’re gaining from it.

June 23

A coworker and I have been tackling a tedious project that involves reviewing technical documents and answering a series of questions about the governance and fiscal management of our organization. When I realized the scope of the project and the fact that we would need to work together on this, I initially wondered how we could get the project done without being with each other in person.

Now, 15 weeks into working from home, you’d think I would have more quickly found a workaround, but it took a bit of thinking time for me to realize that I could learn to “present” in a Google meeting, so that we could look at the documents simultaneously. Before that, I was planning to e-mail my coworker PDFs of all the documents, and figuring out how we would make sure we were literally on the same page of each document as we discussed them in a phone conversation.

Instead, in about five minutes of playing with Google Meet, I figured out how to present my screen so we could look at the same things at the same time. 

I don’t think of myself as a techno-phobe, but this experience demonstrated to me that I am far from being a digital native. On the other hand, all of the creativity and flexibility we have developed in the last three months have apparently given me the ability to (slowly) find viable pathways to getting things done. As a bonus, I think my coworker and I were able to be more focused and productive in our video conferences than we would have been on a typical day in the office, where there are lots of interruptions.

When I stop to think about all of the Internet tools we have to help us work now, it’s really amazing. As difficult as this time has been, it would have been infinitely worse without these advances.

June 24

For the first several weeks of social distancing it seemed that nearly every time I was on a video conference call, my daughter would make an appearance to let me know that she needed a snack, or help with a school assignment, or she would simply pop in just to see who I was chatting with so she could say hello. Once, on a call, I mentioned sarcastically that my daughter rarely missed a meeting, and a colleague from another organization responded with the witty observation that my daughter was demonstrating impressive dedication. If only I could have extracted some work from her …

The novelty of the video calls eventually somewhat dimmed for her, and now that it’s harder for her to get around because of her leg injury, she is no longer interrupting my meetings (or at least not visually). I will know that she is well along in her healing when she starts popping into view again at the least opportune moments.

Meanwhile my son, who struggled mightily to focus with online school, and frequently disconnected from his Zoom sessions long before they were over, would steer clear of my online meetings. Quite comically, if he needed to walk behind me, he would duck down so that no one on my call would see him. If he wanted to talk to me, he would make sure he was out of the camera’s view.

Now that school is over, and he is in summer mode, he is suddenly the kid who is showing up in the background of my calls, and sometimes looking over my shoulder to see who I am meeting. More often, rather than speaking up, he is gone within seconds as he rushes off to play or watch a show. I suppose that now he doesn’t have to worry about me interrogating him about whether he is doing school work he feels more comfortable hanging out in my proximity, and he’s much less camera shy with my colleagues.

June 25

Some days my house feels like a three-ring circus, and today was one of those days. We had our HVAC guy doing annual maintenance on the air conditioner, neighbors dropping by with stuff to give us, or ask us to do, and a babysitter to play with my son in the backyard (this is an arrangement we have made for weekdays to keep him active). The doorbell kept ringing, which made it really hard to focus on work.

Fortunately, for me, my actual workload was reasonable. I was lucky to have a productive and relatively low stress week at work. However, several of my coworkers were having especially difficult weeks, which made them slower to respond to me, slowing down some of my progress. So it goes. In the work world, even remotely, one person’s lousy week can affect other people’s productivity.

Today was also the first time in more than three months that my kids and I got haircuts. Because my daughter is still using a walker and unable to bear weight on her right side, we had to enlist my husband’s help to drive us to the salon. We wore masks, and were the only clients when we were at the salon. Under the skillful scissors of our stylist, we all shed a few inches of extraneous hair. My son and I were both happy with our new hairdos, but my daughter fretted that hers was shorter than intended. I think it’s adorable (slightly above her shoulders) and reassured her that it will grow. I do understand the regret at getting a shorter than intended haircut, but given her mood of late, I am chalking my daughter’s feelings up to the general discontent she is feeling as a result of having limited mobility and socialization. This should be the worst of our problems!


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Susan Jablow, Free-lance Writer

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