A Day in the Pandemic

The days are repetitive and exhausting.

an abstract watercolor illustration of a lonely house in the middle of a field underneath a cloudy sky
Image created via Midjourney

We have been home for 262 days. Five people, contained within the walls of this house. The days are repetitive and exhausting. I felt like I should capture a single day in this strange world we live in. And yet, at 262 days, we have been living it for so long that it is "normal."

5:15 a.m. I wake up. This is my best opportunity to be alone all day, so I take advantage of it. Coffee, read emails, journal. Our Elf on the Shelf is in quarantine in a mason jar for 14 days after his arrival, so thankfully, that's one less thing to worry about for the next two weeks.

7:00 a.m. Other people wake up. My husband gets the 3-year-old ready, and the older kids appear in the kitchen for breakfast. 3yo is wearing the same Mickey Mouse Christmas pajamas she's been wearing for four days now, but she's not going anywhere, and it's not worth the battle.

7:15 a.m. We've been having trouble with screen time limits with the 3rd grader and 5th grader, so my husband changed the Wi-Fi password. We then had to race around the house, reconnecting every critical device. Our Amazon Echo devices have constant reminders for the kids to help them function during the day with remote learning.

7:40 a.m. I sit down to work. My entire company works remotely, and my husband's employer has all employees working remotely for the time being. I have to start early because my day is so condensed and full of interruptions. My husband brings his laptop downstairs and keeps an eye on the 3yo.

8:15 a.m. My 3rd grader is having trouble finishing an assignment. My two kids have been 100% remote for school since March 13th, but we still run into issues. He had his assignment written on a piece of paper and then typed it into a Google Doc. He needed to include a photo of himself, so he used his Chromebook to take a selfie. But then he was having trouble positioning the image with his Doc and was frustrated. I convinced him that it didn't matter so that he could submit the Doc.

8:45 a.m. An Alexa reminder goes off, alerting us that remote learning starts in 15 minutes. All three kids brush their teeth and their hair.

9:00 a.m. Remote learning begins. The 3rd grader and 5th grader sit at desks in the living room with their Chromebooks and headphones. My husband is still responsible for the 3yo while I work. 3yo watches Sesame Street.

9:05 a.m. I receive an email from an employee that she has a fever and will not be working today. My mind immediately goes to Covid, but my response is only "Hope you feel better!"

9:30 a.m. I have a work meeting, phone.

10:35 a.m. My meeting wraps up. My husband usually leaves around this time to pick up lunch from the elementary school. Lunch is free to all students during the pandemic, so we've taken advantage of this. My husband mentions that he has been asked to join a meeting at 11:00. He must see the look of horror on my face at the idea that I would need to leave to pick up lunch (and lose some of my precious work time), so he hastily says that he'll message his team that he can't make it. He leaves with the 3yo to pick up lunch.

11:15 a.m. My husband arrives back home with lunch. Usually, the kids would eat at 11:30, but Mondays are a short day, and remote learning ends at 1:00 p.m. instead of 3:30 p.m. So Mondays are more like "grab a quick bite when you can and eat lunch at 1:00." Husband and I switch, and I'm now responsible for the 3yo until naptime. He heads to his home office to work.

11:45 a.m. 3rd grader complains that he has a bad headache. It's so close to the end of remote learning that I ask him if he can make it through for another hour-ish.

12:05 p.m. I'm supposed to be putting the 3yo down for a nap, but a work contract comes in via DocuSign that needs my signature, so I dart into my home office to take care of that.

12:15 p.m. I receive an email from the 3rd grader's teacher that he has his camera off and is not responding to her chat messages. She wants me to check on him. I find him lying on the couch with a blanket pulled over his head. I tell him to go to his room to lie down and email the teacher back that he isn't feeling well. Then I have to email another teacher that he won't be in his final class of the day.

12:35 p.m. I receive a phone call from our mortgage company. We're refinancing and closing in two days, at our house. I'm told the notary public will not come into our home (fine with me) and that I should probably set up a table in our garage for closing.

12:40 p.m. By now, the 3yo has moved on from the idea of "nap." It is a struggle to get her upstairs to her room and into bed.

1:00 p.m. My 5th grader has a telehealth appointment. He started seeing a therapist a few weeks ago when his mood and behavior crossed a line from what we felt we could handle as parents. I fear we don't yet know the effects of this isolation and loneliness on kids. I sit in on the first 20 minutes of the appointment, but then he talks to the therapist alone.

2:00 p.m. The 3rd grader's headache is gone. He joins a "Minecraft Social Club" through Outschool. Much as I have hated adding more screen time to the day, it gives him a chance to interact with other kids in a safe setting and have fun. The Minecraft server information has changed, and he needs help reconnecting. I have no idea what to do an enlist the help of the 5th grader.

2:25 p.m. I realize I have forgotten lunch for myself. I eat some crackers with an artichoke spread and grab some applesauce leftover from the kids' lunch.

3:00 p.m. The 5th grader joins his own "Minecraft Social Club" for an hour. The 3rd grader catches up on work he missed from remote learning earlier in the day.

3:45 p.m. I've been immersed in work and have forgotten about the napping 3yo. I wake her up, and she's not pleased about this.

4:00 p.m. The 5th grader goes outside, but it is chilly, maybe in the mid-30s. Our days outside are numbered. The 3rd grader settles in to watch tv, and the 3yo watches Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I bring my laptop to the kitchen table so I can keep an eye on everyone.

4:45 p.m. My husband appears in the kitchen to make dinner, his task every evening. I begin listening to Dr. Fauci in a live interview, talking about the Covid vaccine. This is my "file away" time when I save important things to OneNote, reply to emails I haven't gotten to yet, make lists. My husband and I catch up a bit on the day.

5:30 p.m. We eat dinner, enchiladas.

6:00 p.m. My husband leaves to do our grocery pickup. Groceries are ordered online the day before. We only need to go to the store, and our purchases are brought out to our car.

6:15 p.m. I start getting the 3yo ready for bed. We split which parent tucks in the kids throughout the week. Monday is my night.

6:45 p.m. I read a chapter aloud from the book The Ickabog, by J.K. Rowling to my two older kids.

7:00 p.m. I take a bath. This is partly because baths soothe me and partly because our shower head is acting up. But, because of Covid, we haven't had a plumber out to look at it. I haven't had a haircut since February.

7:30 p.m. I pick up a kid's book to read, The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. My kids are in a book club via Zoom through the library, and this is December's selection. But my mind wanders, and I put it down.

8:00 p.m. My husband and I say goodnight, our evening ritual. Our time alone is so limited. We haven't had a break from the kids in 8 months, yet we are exhausted by the evening. Sometimes we spend only a few minutes talking. But part of our ritual - and has been for years - is saying what we are thankful for.

8:30 p.m. I start writing this...

9:00 p.m. I'm done writing. I settle in to watch The Great British Baking Show on Netflix and will likely fall asleep before the episode is over.

A sign that says "Virtual School in Progress"
In case we needed a reminder...
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