Not Ready for Real Life: Fond Memories of a Global Pandemic


real lifeHere are the things my family did this week, a summer week of 2021: two different day camps, in different towns, with different drop-off and pick-up times; two different work schedules, in three different towns, with days and times that change every week; one orthodontist appointment; one swim lesson; one visit to NYC; one OBGYN appointment; three playdates; two BBQs; two birthday parties. Back to real life. 

Here are the things my family did this same week, one year ago: played board games, went to the beach, read books, taught the kids to ride bikes, gardened, family movie night, made pasta from scratch, painted outside, created ninja courses, built LEGOs, ate dinner outside as a family every night, went for a hike, made slime.

I know I’m in the minority, but a small (decent-sized), secret (not so much) part of me misses “social distancing.” Sometimes even longs for it. Was it hard to go to work without childcare? Yes. Was it scary to try to protect ourselves from a virus that was still so unknown? Definitely. But the truth is, I wouldn’t trade those months for anything.

As someone who has struggled with anxiety for most of my life, I would have thought that a global pandemic would really make it soar. But as it turns out, my anxiety has never been lower than it was last summer. I went to bed every night at peace. At peace that I didn’t have to worry about whether I had packed all the right things for camp/school the following day. At peace that we didn’t have to be anywhere at any specific time the next day. At peace that my children would be home the following day; whether that was with my husband or my parents or my sister or with me, it was a place where I knew they were safe and loved always.

It turns out that this – real life – is what gives me anxiety. There are endless schedules and to-do lists at all times. I worry about where my kids are, who they’re with, what they’re doing, how they’re feeling. Do they have all the right things? Are their caretakers kind and patient and responsible? Are they getting along with their peers? Will someone forget to pick them up? Will I forget to pick them up? Will they be able to advocate for themselves? Will they eat their vegetables? What if they fall and get hurt? What if they need me?

Of course, these have been the worries of parents for all of the time. The difference is that I got a year off from them. I saw what it was like on the other side. Now we’re all just expected to jump back into reality head-first as if it never happened, and I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if I’m ready.

We are so lucky to have family and friends we want to spend time with, jobs we like, and enriching and fun opportunities for our kids. But I think my mid-year resolution (not a real thing, but go with it) is this: sometimes say ‘no.’ Carve out downtime. Don’t overschedule. Play hooky.

Are any parents out there able to transition back to real life? What does that look like in your family?


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