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Our Family Time During COVID-19 Quarantine Looks Different -- and That's OK

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The stay-at-home order to combat the novel coronavirus, which causes respiratory infection and can lead to serious or fatal health complications, came as an unwelcome shock to many. The majority of my family and friends felt sudden trepidation about having their work lives disrupted and their children wrenched from school, but my initial response was completely different. I actually relished the idea of staying at home around the clock with my husband and children. I had romantic notions of evenings spent together playing board games, the long ones like Monopoly, or lovely morning walks as a foursome filled my mind. Finally, we would have the time.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, I had assumed that insufficient time was the only reason we had not had developed a routine of organized, quality family time, the kind you see depicted in movies. Turns out, time had been falsely accused as the culprit. The truth is, my family craves its alone time.

Once the quarantine began, the four of us immediately quarantined within the quarantine. We each found a spot in the home and claimed it. No words were uttered, it was just understood. A few half-hearted suggestions were made, but in all honesty, I did not make much effort to rouse my family from their perches and this made me feel guilty. Tremendously guilty, as a matter of fact. I began to wonder, why am I not more invested in cultivating the togetherness I always thought I idealized? I was certain I would regret squandering this time to build that organized and structured togetherness until something wonderful happened.

The instinct to come together during this period of time seems to be universal. My family of origin started a group text and this evolved into weekly Zoom videoconference meetups. Seeing everyone’s faces and hearing how they are spending their days was incredibly enlightening. The first meeting, and every subsequent one, freed me of my guilt. Every family member in every household craves their space. In fact, one of the first things everyone shared was how they got away from the other people in their house. It was not said with malice. On the contrary, it was an authentic acknowledgment about how this moment in time is difficult. Being alone to watch your own show, listen to your own podcast, or complete your own craft is totally normal and necessary. Children need this too. People need downtime alone and that does not negate how much family matters.

Once I rid myself of the notion that we needed to be in unison and joined in a simultaneous task together, I realized my family has wonderful quality time nonstop. It is interwoven throughout the day. It occurs when my husband walks by and gives me a hug. It occurs when my son shows me a funny meme or when my other son tells me about a passage in his book. It occurs when we decide to bake goodies and divide up the bowl.

These moments are filled with demonstrations of kindness and gratitude for the presence of each other in our lives. They are not predetermined and grand, nor do they require three hours anchored to a table playing Monopoly. They are small and embedded throughout the day. What makes them especially wonderful is that they are spontaneous, and once they are over, we regain our personal space and our individual pursuits. My family is connected without board games every night. Plus, Monopoly gets boring real quick!

For more on parenting during quarantine, check out the following stories from our parenting community:

Getty image by Fizkes.

Originally published: April 6, 2020
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