A partially folded pile of laundry, an essay left undone, kids’ toys everywhere. The coronavirus has turned my life into an unfinished thought – well-intentioned in the beginning but falling flat during execution. Pre-quarantine things were going fairly smooth for my family. We moved to the town where my daughter attends school, which cut my commute down by 30 minutes. My son was finally adjusting to being left at the sitter. My marriage was stabilizing after a rocky winter. I was fully focused and succeeding in school and sharing my perspective as a parent to programs like Ascend and Family Futures Downeast. Then all of that was thrown up in the air.
When the quarantine started, I was excited. My classes were already online so there was little adjustment to make there. I was happy to get the extra family time. We ordered some groceries, created a schedule, and started some art projects. One of them was a cardboard dome. My husband and I started the dome with vigor. We measured each cardboard component and cut carefully. With music playing in the background and the kids running in and out, quarantine started off really fun. As the day wore on, our dome pieces got more erratic. We stopped checking the directions. I gave my five-year-old a Sharpie and said, “Go for it.” We had reached the chaotic shift. So far, our time in quarantine has mirrored that first weekend – well intentioned, lovingly planned and thought out, and yet still coming apart at the seams.
I used to get all my schoolwork finished in the middle of the week. I worked part-time at the school library, which allowed me to get the bulk of that done. Now I’m doing all my assignments at the last minute and I’m positive their quality, despite my work ethic, has gone down.
I started my daughter on a schedule to keep her routine. She is in Pre-K, so her homeschooling was fairly simple and easy going: number recognition, learning what sounds go with what letters, things like that. We started strong but as the time wore on, the schedule basically became a piece of paper on the wall. She tells me, “Just let me do this MY way” whenever I try to show her anything. I worry she’s lonely for her friends. Pre-K is such an essential place and time for social-emotional development. I know she loved school and that it was really good for her to be around other kids and adults.
My son, who is now 20 months old, loves being quarantined, but has become so clingy. It’s like peeling a piece of staticky laundry off. He follows me around crying. He has a sensory disorder that we’d gotten under control but has come back with a vengeance. He also developed eczema. I spend a lot of the time of the day wishing my kids were anywhere but near me. Then at night I have nightmares. Someone is trying to take them away from me.
The only consistency in this weird time has been my husband, who has been like a rock for me. He takes the kids for walks, listens to me rant and rave, and encourages me with school. He even does the dishes – the chore I hate more than any other. I’m not sure where my family would be without his presence and energy.
I log onto my school’s online curriculum page multiple times a day. I can’t remember what I’ve turned in and what I haven’t. I have no idea what’s due. I don’t even know what week we’re in. I’ve got an intense May term class coming up, then I have two online summer classes. I’ve got my fall classes scheduled. I’m supposed to do an internship but I’m constantly anxious about how all this will work. What’s going to happen next? Will America open up too soon and will more people get sick? I’ve been fortunate that so far no one I am close to has had a known case of the virus, but I’m waiting for that call that my parents or siblings are sick, or my friends (who are like family), or that my immunocompromised baby will get it. I’m worried that I won’t be able to graduate next May like I’m supposed to. I’m also feeling a huge weight of existential dread.
The laundry isn’t going to get folded, my essay will get haphazardly finished. The toys aren’t getting put up. Social media tells me what I’m experiencing is normal. I’ve got a support system. I’m not alone in this, and yet I still can’t finish anything. I can’t sleep, and I find my ability to care about most things diminishing. Just like this post, everything feels incomplete. Like the cardboard dome we started but didn’t finish. Like my homework, like the laundry, it’s supposed to be normal; but really it isn’t.
Savannah Steiger is a participant in Family Futures Downeast and the Caring Community Collaborative. She is also an Ascend Parent Advisor supporting the Aspen Postsecondary Success for Parents Initiative.