The other day, I found myself with a bit of “downtime” during quarantine. My baby was actually napping. My five-year old had been sucked into some screen time (non-educational, of course). My husband was involved with a conference call. What to do with this magical moment?
Work, of course. So I fired up the old laptop, and started to write this blog about how to use your new free time most effectively during lockdown. About three minutes into this endeavor, the baby woke up screaming. My husband rushed out from his business call (wearing just a button-down collared shirt, tie, and his underwear) and gave me the urgent sign of slitting my throat if I didn’t quiet the baby whilst he conducted his important call. And my son decided he was ready for his eighth snack of the day.
Quarantine is so relaxing! I have so much free time!
As I give ideas to others about how to spend their newly acquired free time, I find myself cringing. Normally, I write when my son is in school and my daughter is taking a nap. Or while they play together in public at some playground which has been deemed “way better” than the giant one in our own backyard. But school and public playgrounds don’t exist right now. So I find myself having to get very creative to find time to work.
Sure, with less work coming in, I technically have more time for other things. But my family doesn’t allow me to spend this time doing the things that I need to do.
No joke; as I was writing this blog on What to Do in Your Free Moments During Lockdown, I also successfully wrestled a knife out of my young daughter’s surprisingly strong hands, washed poop off my son and out of his jammies (trust no “fart,” young one), cooked separate breakfasts and lunches for everyone (even my husband, who is now home far more), bleached the sheets that my daughter peed on last night, and rescued the kitty from being loved to death by that same daughter, amongst other things too mundane to mention.
As I stared down on Monday morning at my son’s Friday Day of the Week undies and realized he hadn’t changed out of his pajamas all weekend, I considered the strong possibility that not everyone sees this quarantine as downtime. While most people do have less paying work, our jobs have increased tenfold as we take care of the entire family home together now, making meals we used to eat out, teaching children who used to have teachers, and entertaining everyone (or at least keeping them occupied) so we don’t kill each other. And we don’t have our normal support team of house cleaners, teachers, babysitters, etc. who used to help us do all that.
We don’t have much social stuff to do, but that’s hard, too, because there isn’t much for us to look forward to when our chores are done.
And it’s not just us caregivers who are taking on more responsibility in our households. Many jobs, like my husband’s, have become even more difficult and time-consuming, as he assumes responsibility for the lower level tasks that his direct reports, now furloughed, used to perform, while still accomplishing his upper level duties.
And, while we are very relieved that he still has a job in this environment when many do not, he is also the executive who has to make those tough phone calls to folks to tell them that they have been furloughed. That wears on him, and you can have no doubt that his extra stress affects our family life.
If you suffer from quarantine guilt, you’re not alone. If you find your heart rate rising as others discuss their boring free time and all you can think of is your list of new and overwhelming chores, find solace in the fact that it’s not just you. Many folks feel quarantine guilt. After all, they’re supposed to have all this free time to tackle big tasks for which they didn’t have time in the past, when in reality, they currently have more chores to do, less help, and less fun stuff to look forward to.
For many, lockdown is an opportunity to tackle items on their “to do” lists. But if you’re like many others who have found that they have even less available time now, don’t beat yourself up for not also cleaning out your garage or learning a new language. Your quarantine doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s quarantine. Sometimes it’s enough to do what you can just to get by, and to tackle your “to do” list once this crazy time has passed.
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About this week’s author, Lori Skipper.
Lori received her Juris Doctor with honors from the University of Florida Levin College of Law in December 2004, from which she graduated with honors. Proud to be a Florida Gator, Lori had also attended the UF as an undergraduate, graduating with honors with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, as well as a Minor in Education. Choosing her law school focus early, as a student member of the Virgil B. Hawkins Civil Clinic, Lori assisted indigent clients with family law issues.