Lessons learnt from the Coronavirus pandemic
The past few months of the Coronavirus pandemic have been extraordinary times for everyone, in every walk of life. Our lives were unwillingly changed in an instant. Our normal daily activities and our tendency to meander through life in the rat-race came to a sudden halt. Normality was uprooted and turned on its head.
For us as parents there was first a lot of fear about the virus and how to keep our families and ourselves safe, a lot of worry about work (or lack thereof!) and how to navigate life on a decreased family budget. Then there were a lot of long, lazy days with our children. There was a fair bit of wine consumed too!
During this unparalleled time people will likely agree that they’ve felt a plethora of emotions over the past few months ranging from a feeling of ‘doomsday’ depression, states of calm and anger, to the almighty fuzzy feeling of love and adoration. Sometimes the emotions came rushing in all at once, leaving us no time to process before finding ourselves crying uncontrollably in the car. But more commonly, we’ve had extra time to peel back the layers of our thoughts and to try to make sense of it all.
The monumental impact that this pandemic has had on our children is not lost on me.
I think about it constantly. The scope of what has happened is beyond the comprehension of a child. They see it on the news, they hear it on the radio, it’s all people talk about. They write letters to their friends that would need be hand-delivered to their letter-boxes to avoid meeting face-to-face, with pictures that depict two friends playing together and the words “I’m sorry about Coronavirus.” Heart wrenching to witness the heaviness in the hearts of our children, apologising for the hurt caused by a global pandemic.
Then came transitioning to homeschooling, not being able to see friends, not leaving the house, being nagged to wash their hands more than usual, and, can you believe it, the playgrounds shut down! (The worst!)
Living in Adelaide we’ve been lucky to have felt relatively safe from contracting the virus, which helped make the lockdown period more enjoyable. It was like being grounded as an adult and sent to our rooms to self-reflect, urged to improve our lives and ourselves. We were finally able to do the things that sat on the eternal ‘to-do’ list.
The virus made life slow down. One day at a time, each day like the last.
Our normal lives like a film in slow motion, the chaos edited out. No rushing to dance class, no arranging alternate school pick-ups to arrive at work on time, no freezer meals (well, maybe a few). We now had the time to cook real, wholesome food, and to sit down as a family every night and talk about our day, as mundane as it may have been.
We’ve been forced to look at ourselves and re-evaluate the path we’re on. To do some real thinking about what we value in our lives, and how we plan to manage our integration back to a new normal way of life.
Many parents I’ve spoken to on this topic have said they don’t want to rush back to all the activities, that they enjoy the snail pace of life right now. Yet, we will go back. Because those are the things that create our community and our sense of being and belonging. The things we need and crave as humans. Those activities might look different from now on, but we will run back to them when we can.
However, there are plenty of things we may choose not to rush back to. The work meeting that had to be face-to-face, the extra hours of work to simply catch up or to get ahead, the sitting in rush hour traffic just to get to the office where we begrudgingly spend most of our lives. The employment we keep so that we can have two days of freedom per week with our families. We can now change and reconfigure those essential parts of our lives based on what we deem important at the end of all this.
New Zealand has recently began considering the creation of a four-day work week. Coronavirus may have helped their decision by quashing traditional ideals of what work needs to be done where, with whom, and for how many hours. Perhaps the best thing to come from this pandemic will be a new work-life balance for many of us. For those tired of working to live, longing to spend more time with their kids. For those with parent-guilt seeping from their pores on a daily basis. It could provide a new platform to initiate conversations in business and in leisure about how we want to spend our time. After all, the virus provided a stark reminder that none of us are invincible.
When our kids finally returned to school I basked in my newfound free time. But gosh did I miss them! All the time we spent together during this pandemic taught me that they are all that matters. We can live without a lot of the luxuries we had before, and the freedom to do and go where we pleased. Really taking the time to see the world through the eyes of a child, in its most raw and simple form was the biggest gift. Kids don’t need much more than love to be happy.
Essential and non-essential were key words throughout the quarantine period, used to urge us to consider whether we really needed to do something. Was it necessary for survival or for mental or physical health or could it wait? Did we really need to be doing all that we were doing? It was amazing how things that used to seem so important and so urgent, suddenly fell from the pedestal of importance in our lives into oblivion. We found we could live without it for a while. We could even eliminate it altogether.
As international borders, workplaces, sporting venues and restaurants begin to open, go forward with a new sense of purpose.
Life is short.
Love your kids as much as humanly possible.
Scrap the social event you’re dreading.
Work from home when you can (it’s a win-win for you and the environment!).
It’s non-essential. There is so much non-essential in our busy lives as a family that, like this pandemic, will dissipate into a distant memory.
Coronavirus has reminded us that love, more than anything else, is essential.
Love is all we need.