Uncertainty. Fear. Two words that describe the mood across the world this past few weeks. Perhaps, one is leading to the other. In more than 3 decades of my life, I have never seen humanity grapple with a situation so unpredictable. In the midst of this panic and pandemic, I learnt that my son’s school will be closed for 3 weeks and that my husband will be working from home too. I must admit, my immediate reaction was relief. Three seconds later, it was more panic. I could see my already torn apart schedule falling apart completely. My work requires me to be at home for 2 weeks and travel for the remaining two. The travelling has stopped for a while now. How would I work with a kid around and ensure productivity and sanity alongside emotional and mental well being of my family? It was not all hunky dory in the beginning. But over the course of few days, here is the recipe that worked:
Talk about it with your partner: Yes. Communication can make miracles happen. Between USA and North Korea and in marriages. My first discussion, obviously, was with my husband. While it’s occasionally nice to have someone to talk to when you work from home, your husband being in your face 24*7 is counter productive to any marriage. Or at least mine. I had an honest talk with him. About how I need my space, how my working hours will be different from his considering my colleagues span across countries, about how we will ensure enough time is being spent with our son. Mundane tasks were also divided. I take laundry, you take groceries, I clean the rooms, you the bathrooms. This ensured we didn’t bite each others head off only because it’s the nearest thing available in the isolation that we were thrown into. We also checked each other’s calendar before scheduling virtual meetings to make sure at least one of us stayed with the child. While getting famous was on both our bucket lists, we did not want to be one of the BBC Dads. I was to keep my early mornings and he, his late nights. This way we both got time to complete high priority tasks without anyone or anything else bothering us.
Bring in the family too: Once we were clear what to do, we had a talk with our son. He is only 5. Too young to understand or comprehend the gravitas of the situation. But old enough to to celebrate that 3 weeks of school break. We sat him down and told him mom and dad may not always be able to play with him. He will not be able to attend his tennis or his swimming or his dance class. We will do our best to be with him. But, we have to work too. Because mommy and daddy have jobs. We also spoke to him about the virus and why this is happening. Why he should wash his hands all the time. All he cared about was his holidays and how often he got to have his chocolate milk shake. Atleast, one person in the family wasn’t panicking. But having spoken to him helped set expectations. He knew not to run to his parents all the time or not to shout when one of us on a professional call. One less stress to manage.
Don’t skip the exercise: If you live in a country that has shut down or is asking you to self quarantine, chances are , your sport clubs and health centres are shut too. Don’t rely on them to do your physical activity. Keep moving. Pull out at least 30 minutes to stay active. This plays a huge role in keeping your mental well being intact. Humans are not meant to live in isolation. It can cause tremendous mental and emotional imbalance. Staying active will get your body and mind, the much needed endorphins. Give it as much as you can!
Focus on the goods : Given how grim the situation is, it’s easy to get lost in the bads. But put in an effort to see the good. And there are plenty. This may not have been the ideal way for me to spend time with my son, but I did. I read to him a lot more than usual. Played more than usual. Found out who he has stopped talking to in class because they both wanted to be Spiderman. He got to know his mommy too, he saw me working, interacting with people on camera. At some point, he also had a genuine doubt , “ Does everyone in your office always listen to you”? Our monthly expenses came down drastically as we stopped dining out. This meant more family cooking time. My son and I went bezerk topping pizzas with whatever we liked. I also got to see The Lion King on loop.
Avoid Panic: This is easier said than done. The media coverage, information overload, I’m sure we have all hit the panic button at least once in the last few weeks. It doesn’t help. Panic cripples you. The mind is unable to process anything else. Every information you read feels like an impending doom is right outside your door. In the Netherlands, most super markets were striped within hours. I had only heard from friends about the mayhem there. When I went the next day to experience the commotion, there wasn’t any. There were only empty shelves. It’s hard to think or behave logically in times of crisis. But it does no good to panic. I refer only to official government run sites for information, turning a blind eye to whats app forwards and suggestions from people who have obtained their medical degrees from Google overnight. Facts help reduce fear. If you have been thinking of digital detox, now is a good time to start.
Connect with Family and Friends: This sounds ironic considering how social isolation is the new buzz word. But talk more to your family and friends. Especially if you are all spread across the world. My brother is in the USA, my parents are in India. Both those countries have more than hundreds of confirmed cases. Check on people in your circle. It helped me to not talk about the virus. It was hard though. The key is to not isolate yourself even in the virtual world. The phones and laptops are Corona Immune. Use them wisely.
Know that you are not alone in this. As Lincoln said in his speech before becoming the 16th US President, This too shall indeed pass.