We are well into self-isolation due to Covid-19, and I am cautiously optimistic that this curveball may not be as horrible as we thought in terms of surviving this new “always at home” normal with my family while we await the day the virus is gone.
Background: My family consists of my husband (who works from home normally, and is on at least 4 conference calls a day), 3 active kids (ages 15, 13 and 11) and a sweet dog. We live in a mid-sized bungalow (without a dedicated office) and are generally in close proximity of one another, whether we like it or not. We were early adaptors to self-isolation when this outbreak was identified. I have an immunosuppressed family member who cannot be exposed to any sort of germs without very serious consequences, as well as older people close by that we worry about. So, it’s a no-brainer that we, along with millions of other people, are doing our part to flatten this curve.
When we first came to grips that we will be home for at least 3 weeks, I admittedly panicked. I started downloading charts and graphs for my kids, thinking I would schedule every hour of the day from 8am to 5pm. I told myself “yes, I can do this and we need this.” But fairly quickly, I had to acknowledge an important thing about myself – I don’t like fixed schedules. Never have. I like a lot of variety in my day and even an element of the unexpected if possible. Turns out, so do my kids.
So, I quickly switched gears into a strategy that’s all about “flexible structure” – this means we have a few scheduled events in our day, but lots of flexibility as well. I will say that the structured parts of our days have made a huge difference in the level of positivity, the level of satisfaction, and the level of basic survival in our home. The flexible parts of our days are very appreciated and have also been great. The two ideas seem to properly balance (so far).
I’m no expert but I’m going to share what we have found to work over here.
I don’t care when my kids do chores, but they have to do them daily. Making their beds, cleaning their rooms, doing laundry, sweeping and vacuuming floors, loading and unloading the dishwasher – these are non-negotiable tasks each day. Not all of these are done daily, but some are – and so far, so good.
Ok, so full disclosure, not all members of my family enjoy exercise. I respect that. But I’ve been successful in implementing a twice-daily “short” walk. If I say “let’s go for a short walk,” I find it eases anxiety, and we tend to be able to walk for 30 to 45 minutes without grumpiness setting in. We walk around the block, to our local park, and we wave at neighbours while keeping our distance. The dog loves it. When we get home, there is a sense of calm and quiet for us all.
I’m a huge fan. Not everyone is. But I’ve found a few online sites that take us through a 60-minute practice and leaves us all more relaxed and peaceful. I try to get everyone on board once a day, but often it’s just a few of us to join in. No problem, I’ll take what I can get. There are tons of online sites that have free classes, and Instagram is also a great way to find new ones each day. I do have to move some furniture around to make room for our mats, but hey, I have the time!
Two things have worked here. First thing: I asked each member of our family to create 1 meal plan a week. This means planning 1 breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and a dessert. I challenged them to use at least 3 things we have in the pantry or fridge, and if we need to supplement, we can make a trip to the grocery store, knowing that stock is limited. The kids have to write out the menu, and then execute with sous-chefs available (my husband and I). The kids love it, and so far the meals have been great. The bonus is, it’s a great way for them to learn about planning, measuring, oven temperatures, cooking procedures, and portions.
Second thing: we are learning simple techniques for cooking things we enjoy eating, but can’t find in the stores right now. Pizza dough, pie crust, hummus, simple soups – we are researching how to make these things in the most basic ways possible. Failures are expected and totally fine!
An hour a day, that’s the mandate for us all while in quarantine. I have some avid readers in my family, and some non-readers. Everyone seems to enjoy this quiet time.
I need screen time as much as my kids, so this is allowed in the morning and evening, and I’m not being fussy about it. Period. The only thing I’ve introduced that’s new is online tutoring, online learning sheets and online games that have a math element. So, learning apps are being downloaded and tested in abundance.
On The Horizon
I’m actively taking notes on things my friends and family are doing that I may need to introduce as time goes on, and we need more ideas to get us through the day. Lip sync contests, short plays, music lessons, at-home art exhibits, gardening, outdoor housework, window cleaning (yay!) – I’m sure all of these things will come into rotation as we need them. But in the meantime, I’m going to stay flexibly structured the best I can to get through this pandemic in the safest, most efficient way possible.
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