It’s really easy to feel claustrophobic and overwhelmed by the negatives of self isolation. We’re on week four, and though there have certainly been ups and downs, this week I find myself thinking about the positives of quarantine. When we zoom into the effect it’s having on our households, for the majority of us who haven’t been impacted by loss, and put to the back of our minds the severity of the wider situation there are many blessings to embrace.
Quarantine of course looks different for everyone, but for us, we’re a family of four: myself, my partner and our two young children. As we have been totally isolating for around 4 weeks now, we haven’t even been to a supermarket, so one of the biggest impacts on us has been food. Up until now, the way to minimise food waste was for us to plan out which meals we wanted, and buy the ingredients we needed. However, with many food items being hard to order online, we’ve shifted to getting a seasonal vegetable delivery, and eating around what we have. We’ve always trued to be mindful of food waste, but find ourselves enlightened as to how fussy we were being! I’d always say it was too boring to have soup for lunch 7 days a week; but now our staple foods are all vegetables, we’ve got really creative with the ingredients out of desperation! My favourite bizarre discovery is a cauliflower cheese soup, but instead of any cheese, it’s blended potatoes, nutritional yeast and cashews.
The food is a good example of how shopping for things is generally more difficult. This means that the home arts, have indeed become more of home arts; rather than home rush-around-and-clean-once-the-kids-are-asleeps. Creative cooking, darning holes in clothing, making our own cleaning supplies, making our own condiments, cakes and pickles have all been fantastically mindful activities. We have been forced to slow down, and embrace the mindful and creative moments of all the small things which make up our domestic lives. Domesticity and parenthood are parts of life so often overlooked as being boring, undervalued and menial. However, as I embrace a life centred around domestic life, I find there are so many opportunities to be creative and calm within this aspect of living. Feeling value in the insurmountable list of chores that arises in any home life reduces the sense of it all being a chore, and brings out a joy in these tasks.
Of course, when we talk about the need to slow down, it would be impossible not to mention life with children. First of all: no playgroups! No parks! No playdates! This is a huge shift for me, as I often pinned my own mental health on trips out and functioning at a busy and productive level. (And I must say, never achieved that fast-paced aspiration). There was definitely a week or two of adjustment in the routine. The little ones expecting to go out, to fill these days with trips and friends and play-school. At first, it broke my heart to tell my four year old ‘no’ to the things I felt she deserved. To tell her we were staying at home for the foreseeable made me feel a little withered inside. I felt she was being deprived. But what a lesson she has taught me! I’m realising now more than ever, that boredom is fantastic for little minds. My four year old is telling stories, inventing games, cycling further (4 miles most days, no winging), cooking, cleaning, gardening…so much more independence than she had before. My 1 year-old just loves cuddling her Daddy. We’ve actually realised that busy-ness really stresses her out, and taking a break mid-afternoon for some calm music and a cuddle is her idea of heaven. I truly wouldn’t have learnt these things about my children without self-isolating. The main tool I believe to be a necessity in adjusting to quarantine-life with young kids is to have a predictable day. A routine. To have wake up times, meal times, nap times, excercise/outdoor time and bed time at the same time each day is really powerful. Making a routine chart with your kids is a super empowering way of implementing this. The more involvement your little ones can have in it’s creation, the better.
Self-isolating has, thus far, given us a glimpse into a future which we hope to maintain long after the world resumes life-as-normal. A slower pace of life, a focus of local business and community and an embracing of those slow, and quiet moments in domestic life.