It’s the 16th week of working from home. At this point, it feels like going back to the office someday will feel like starting a new job. We will have to relearn all of our daily rhythms and habits. We will have to adjust to new policies in an old environment. I will have to start setting an alarm again to get my kids (and me) up in the morning.
It’s been so long since I’ve worked in the office, that it feels like I’ll always be working from home, even though I know that’s not likely to be the case. On the other hand, I suspect a lot of us will be working at least part of the time from home in the future, and that’s a good thing. For years, there has been speculation about how increased automation will change our economy by making more jobs obsolete, and that remains a real threat. Most of us never imagined that the biggest threat to our health and future employment in 2020 would be working in close proximity to other people.
I wonder if we will ever go back to shaking hands with each other?
There are some things I hope will change permanently. First of all, I have never worked in a fully open office — no offices or cubicles, just desks in a big, airy space. I treasure the privacy of an office, or even just a cubicle, and know that I work more efficiently and effectively when I have the security of my own personal space. I feel like infectious disease is forcing us to confront a threat to not only our respiratory health but also our sanity. Bring back those walls, I say, and we will work better, and be healthier and more productive. I am fortunate to have a private (though small) office at work, and it’s an amenity I appreciate and hope others will have in the future.
Also, I loathe crowded meetings. For the last few months, my workplace has been having regular staff meetings by Zoom instead of the densely packed in-person meetings we used to have. I hope in the future when we need to gather as a large group, we can do so in a larger space, as we do for our annual Chanukah party. Aside from that, I hope regular staff meetings continue via video conference.
When my patience is wearing thin, I try to warn my kids not to push me any further. This often happens around bedtime, but depending on the difficulty of a day, can happen a lot earlier.
Unfortunately, there’s no way of putting the breaks on the pandemic or my daughter’s injured leg. No matter how much I scream at the universe that I am all out of patience, and it’s time to back off, the challenges of reality are still there, pressing on me.
Today we took my daughter to her follow up appointment with the surgeon. It went well, and showed she is healing as expected. That’s really great news. The only issue is that she needs to begin using her leg more because the muscles are starting to atrophy. No problem, because she’s cleared for physical therapy.
However, when I called to schedule her first PT appointment, I learned that it will be a full week until there is an opening. I was disappointed, and realized I would have to dig even deeper into my already depleted reserve of patience to cope with this. We are so close to really beginning my daughter’s return to full mobility, and yet, for another week, still so far away.
It’s incredibly frustrating, just as it’s frustrating that every time we let our guard down about the pandemic, thinking things are improving, there’s another surge in cases, making us realize that it will be a very long time before life goes back to “normal.”
On the other hand, rather than wallowing in frustration, it’s helpful to see the small improvements. In terms of my daughter’s leg, I see her getting stronger and incrementally more mobile each day, even without the PT. She’s allowed to bear some weight now, so we are working with her at home to use her muscles as much as possible.
In terms of the pandemic, while cases continue to rise, the death rate is not as high, perhaps reflecting the benefits of treatments developed in recent months. It’s still a disease that should not be taken lightly, because its effects are debilitating and some are long-lasting, but the lowered death rate is a bit of good news about a disease that is likely to be with us for quite some time.
Just when we think we are all out of patience, sometimes a glimmer of good news helps us tap a little more into our reserves so that we can keep going.
I don’t care. I found myself thinking that today when I picked up my son from an outdoor playdate and he was walking around in just one sock and no shoes. Apparently, he had accidentally stepped on a dead bee in the missing sock. He had checked his foot, and it was fine, and he never bothered to put the sock back on because it had a bee stinger stuck to it. Sound reasoning, if you ask me.
Typically, I dislike when my kids walk outdoors with just socks on, which invariably gets the socks dirty and eliminates the protective benefits of wearing shoes. Many times in the past, I would have lectured my kids about the need to keep the shoes on to avoid stepping on potentially sharp objects. (I will probably later give my son at least a gentle reminder about that though I suspect his experience today was a more effective teacher.)
I realized today that lecturing him didn’t even cross my mind. I was glad that he had not been injured, had been resourceful enough to deal with the problem on his own, and had been playing outdoors for two hours in an environment where I didn’t have to watch him constantly. Dirty socks? No problem.
That, for me, sums up how I have learned to prioritize my reactions to the little things in these crazy times. This is not to say that I have become an impressively chill person. That’s definitely not the case because I still freak out plenty about stupid little things. But maybe this is a sign that I have learned at least a little bit to stop sweating the small stuff. Or that I am just too tired to care about much of anything. I’ll let you decide this time. Why? Because I don’t care.
My husband keeps remarking on how tired he is, even though he’s getting plenty of sleep. It’s no wonder with the extra challenge of focusing on work while parenting and navigating the endless distractions of working from home. I am glad for him that he is able to get enough sleep because I am not. These days, the kids are up late at night, and I stay up later to finish housework and unwind. It’s a really unhealthy pattern, and I am trying to get my kids oriented toward bedtime earlier in the evening so that I can go to sleep earlier too. The last few nights have been better in that regard than the previous week or two, and I am hopeful things will continue improving.
The New York Times had this helpful opinion piece today which reminds me how fortunate I am to have an adequately sized home with outdoor play space, and children who are old enough to not need constant supervision. Parents across the United States and all over the world are engaged in an impossible juggling act because our lives were not set up to simultaneously manage our office jobs and supervise/educate our children at home, and that is what we are doing right now. Something’s gotta give.
Because I like to focus on the positive, I will note that I feel encouraged that the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out in favor of reopening schools this fall. I think that’s the correct move because the risks to children of not being in school are greater than the risk of them becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 or transmitting the virus to others. I know that figuring out how to safely open schools is a monumental task, and I am deeply appreciative of the educators and administrators who have to figure out how to make that work. As a parent, I will do my best to be patient and flexible, as I look forward to the day when my children will be in a positive learning environment and I can direct my undivided attention to my work.