Families Can Be Less Frenzied

By Kerry Grannis

Post-pandemic, will we be able to preserve some of the slower pace we’re currently enjoying, or will we quickly return the old frenzy? My family is fortunate enough to live in an area with access to a multitude of activities that speak to our three teenagers’ varied interests, and to have the resources to afford many of them. But since March: no extracurriculars, no lessons, no practices, no recitals, no games or meets. While staying home for several months has had its challenges, the sudden absence of these enrichment activities has been…enriching.

Here’s what a typical Saturday project looked like before the pandemic:

1. Wake to alarm clock and rouse youngest child in time to leave house at 7:30 am to drop him at dive practice. Think as you drive on a sunny morning that you wish you’d remembered to bring that coffee you started, and also it would be a good day to get the deck cleaned up for the season.
2. Arrive back home at 8:15. Drink not-so-fresh coffee. Wake up middle child. Drag the power washer out. Find extension cord. Hook it all up and have the garden hose leak all over you; replace with different one that actually works.
3. Look at the clock and realize you only have half an hour before you have to leave to pick up from dive practice. Change into dry clothes. One parent back to dive, the other to drop middle child at art class and oldest child at Latin competition.
4. Arrive back home at 11. Restart the power washer. Clean about a third of the deck before it’s time to pick up middle child from art class.
5. Arrive back home at 12:15. Restart the power washer. Work for 15 minutes before stopping for lunch.
6. Back outside at 1 pm. Restart the power washer. Work for an hour before running inside, to scream at youngest child to grab his cleats and shinguards. Rush out the door to soccer game, arriving ten minutes late for warm-ups. Hope your spouse remembers to pick up your eldest from Latin.
7. Back home at 3:30. Restart power washer. Notice your whole body is sore from the vibrations. Do a half-hearted job on the furniture then drag the power washer back to the garage. Shower.
8. Sit on wet furniture for approximately 30 seconds before realizing it’s time to start dinner. Grill something while looking longingly at the vacant Adirondack chair.
9. Eat. Clean up from dinner. Retire to the deck where the evening sun is no longer warm enough to sit without a jacket. Come inside after 15 minutes.
10. Collapse from exhaustion.

Here’s the same project this year:

1. Wake up and make coffee. Look outside at a sunny Saturday morning and think that it would be a good day to get the deck cleaned up for the season. Gather the family and recruit them to help.
2. Take out the power washer, extension cords, and hoses.
3. Clean the deck and all the deck furniture. Work until job is done.
4. Eat lunch, then retire to the deck to enjoy the fruits of your labor all afternoon.

Post-pandemic, I hope we will be better equipped to insist on a robust domestic life that includes collective work and play—sometimes at the expense of maximizing the individual pursuits of each child—and will be better prepared to resist the pull of parenting norms that privilege resumé-building over rest.