Our household has been following local Shelter in Place requirements for three weeks now and I feel that we are handling it exceptionally well. This is not something that I take for granted, as I am seeing that some of my friends are struggling with this new reality. I feel our handling of at home confinement is going well for a number reasons that are unique to our family.
One advantage that we have is that my husband and I are individually motivated people. My husband has been working for his company, based here in Colorado, for four years. For three of those years we lived in Texas. He worked remotely from our home for about 50% of the year, but there were times when he was on location at one of the companies many international offices, meaning there would be as much as three months when we would not be in the same location. During that time I maintained the household, managed an intense remodel of the house, continued our homestead plans, and, eventually, prepared our house for sale, and packed the household to move across the country. With these experiences we have developed time management and decision making skills that keep us from some of the struggles other couples we know are having spending all of their time together.
Along the same line, as part of the process of deciding to move my husband and our children spent the previous school year staying in the basement of a friends’ home. We didn’t want to have the girls change school in the middle of the school year and we needed to be on location to find a property in the incredibly fast moving real estate market. In that time my three girls shared one bedroom. Most of their possessions were in storage and, for the first time in their lives, I was not available to them. For myself, I was the only person in a 3,000 square foot house, with dogs, cats, and a rabbit for companions, trying to keep everything obsessively clean for the sake of generating a sale, and no longer doing any of the activities, such as gardening, that offered me comfort and normalcy in my life. These were intensively stressful months for each of us and are not so distant in the past that any of us have forgotten. Our girls have developed coping skills that are often beyond their ages and none of us are afraid to say,” I need some time alone, right now.”
Speaking of coping, while I often feel technically illiterate, my husband is an IT professional. Our kids have seen him complete meetings remotely for years, which took some of the intimidation out of completing their own schooling from home. Also, they know that he can handle any computer-related problem they run into. So much of the of the transition from a brick and mortar school to exclusively online learning has been challenging, yes, but not nearly as scary as it could have been.
In addition, everyone in our household is a maker. I cook, bake, and can because I enjoy it. I garden for my soul and to provide for my family. For the shear joy of creation I quilt, sew, do art, and make soap, which is slowly becoming a profitable business. My oldest daughter makes jewelry. My middle daughter has taken up crocheting. All of the children draw and craft for artistic expression.
We have learned quickly that Colorado is a very active state. It seems that nearly everyone walks, bikes, jogs, skis, skates, or otherwise spends significant outdoor time. While we are respecting social distancing and we now only have 2 acres (as opposed to the 10 we had previously) we do have the space to get out on our own land to play and soak up sunlight without having to actively “go” anywhere. Already we have been laying out a new garden, planning pasture for animals, and soaking up vitamin D. This keeps the cabin fever at bay.
Finally, but certainly very critical to everyone’s well being, it has become increasingly clear that we are no longer “weird.” This has slowly been becoming clear to me in the 11 months since we moved, but never more so than when I heard one of my youngest daughter’s conversations today. In previous years I have been questioned as to why I make many of the decisions I make; why have such a big garden?, why can food when it takes so much time, resources, space, etc?, why bake bread when it can be had inexpensively?, why make wine or beer when these have been perfected by companies? Always, I have answered that I am more interested in the experience and the quality of the resulting product than I am the availability of commercial products. Tomatoes that I take out of my garden are so much richer in flavor than even the best I can purchase, as an example. Choosing to make something unique, like dandelion jelly, lets me learn about previous horticulture and the health benefits of plants outside of the commercially recognized food sources. These things, while they made me and my family happy, were often considered odd and hard to comprehend by friends and family. Interestingly, since moving, the way these conversations have progressed changed; instead of being received with shock and confusion people have instead been curious and overwhelmingly positive. Today, however, my youngest child was part of a classroom conference in which everyone was discussing their individual breakfasts. As the conversation continued one boy was eating a homemade muffin. He and my girl began a competitive discussion on whose mom made more things,” my mom makes all our bread”, “well my mom makes jams and jellies”, “well my mom makes homemade tomato sauce”, and so on for several boasts each. As I listened I realized that there was no embarrassment being felt by either child that they might be considered odd or unusual.
I can barely remember a time in my life when I was not considered something of an odd duck. There was a period of my adolescence when that knowledge made me uncomfortable but it was not long lived. I saw some of that feeling in my children on occasion. Seeing my child enjoy the uniqueness of our family, household, and lifestyle made me realize that we have found a place that accepts our feathers, whatever their color.
And the stress of life can roll right off our backs.