Barely visible pre-teen holds T-shirt that reads "PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME DO STUFF"

There’s Too Much to Do During a Quarantine

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Barely visible pre-teen holds T-shirt that reads "PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME DO STUFF"
Really feeling my kid’s shirt this week.

A week ago, as schools and businesses around the country started to close for “at least two weeks,” social media filled with posts about “things to do when you’re stuck at home,” and I thought, people are worried about being bored?  All I wanted was an excuse to not have to go anywhere! All I wanted was permission to keep to myself on my own schedule, to do all the introverted home-based things I wanted to do!

My to-watch list is endless! My to-read even worse! I’ve got two sewing projects cut out and just waiting for me to sit down and finish them! I want to take advantage of every mild, dry hour to prep my garden for spring, without worrying that the only mild, dry hours all week will happen when I’m scheduled to be somewhere else! I want to bake yummy treats! And I want to write, uninterrupted, not called away to the real world just when the fantasy world inside my head gets on a roll!

Plus, I have a cold. Not a fever, but enough of a discomfort to make me feel even less like going out. And the week before I’d already taken three days off, and the “Just Keep Plugging!” culture is ingrained deep enough that I can call it out in an article one week and still feel beholden to it the next. I couldn’t wait for someone to give the word, to give us all permission: “EVERYTHING IS CANCELLED, JUST STAY HOME!”

I mean it sounded too good to be true! We didn’t even have any identified COVID-19 cases in our area! It was a dream that might never come to pass!

But by the next day, the governor had canceled school for the next two weeks, and my library followed suit. And I said, “YES!”

The next day I woke up feeling so hopeful. It’s Staycation Time! But I couldn’t settle down with all my hobbies quite yet. I had to get to the grocery store. As did, of course, everyone else who realized they might have that opportunity taken from them suddenly in the next few days. So the endeavor of shopping at the same time as everyone else (and not finding a single roll of toilet paper anywhere) took a few hours and all my energy. And I still had to cook dinner, and do dishes, and every other usual daily chore. Eh, tomorrow, I thought. TOMORROW the staycation starts!

You see where this is going?

And really, I’m privileged compared to many of you. My kids are middle schoolers, and experts at keeping themselves entertained. I only hear from the 13-year-old when he comes down for food. The 11-year-old does what she normally does: draws nonstop. A few years ago they would have been much needier of my attention.

My 45-year-old husband, on the other hand, does feel the need to regularly walk into a room where people are working/reading/playing quietly and announce, “Boy, you sure are exciting in here. Settle down!” At this moment he has, in fact, stood up and said, “Have I annoyed my kids yet in the past hour?” He’s supposedly working from home, but that work mostly involves very loud phone conversations. So he is the most disruptive person in the household, currently.

Still, it could be worse, and I salute all you parents of younger and/or more attention-craving children and/or spouses.

But how many of the things on my can’t-wait-to-have-uninterrupted-time-to-do list have I done this week? Eh, I’ve gotten a good bit of work done on a fanfic. 4,000 words or so. Still haven’t actually finished it, though. I watched one movie, Frozen 2, though that didn’t cut back on my To-Watch list since it was just surprise-added to Disney+ early this week. I baked a loaf of soda bread to go with our Irish stew on Tuesday.  And I, as usual, wasted time staring into space, rereading what I’d already written (without really editing any of it), and napping.

I’m not required to work for the library from home, but I transferred a few orders I was working on to Google Drive so that I can access them if need be. It seemed like a good idea when I was on my way out of the library. But I’m not so sure it wasn’t wishful thinking.

Meanwhile, the “things to do while quarantined” posts got more frequent, with links to virtual field trips, live-streamed shows,  and more fun, educational resources for parents who “suddenly find themselves homeschooling.” Wait… what? Are the kids supposed to be doing schoolwork? I didn’t get any assignment lists or anything from the schools, did I? Am I a terrible mother for not even considering that I needed to assign them a quarantine curriculum?

And, you know, virtual field trips and live-streamed shows sound fun. Another thing that, maybe, I should fit into my schedule.

Schedule? Wait, you’re telling me I need a schedule, too?

Now, schedules are very important for keeping a person with ADHD productive. We need that external stimulation, the sense of urgency a schedule requires. We also have a non-existent sense of time.

But that was it, see? I wanted a break from schedules! I wanted a week or so to let my mind and body slip into its own rhythm for once! I was being offered a chance to truly remove myself from the clock-based lifestyle, and now I was supposed to be recreating it in my own home?

I wouldn’t mind not getting to as many things on my personal list as quickly as I might, if I didn’t keep having new things ADDED to it. If time didn’t keep ticking on by whether I was paying attention to it or not. When I finish this fic, I’ll transfer that hyperfocus onto some other project, the sewing, or the garden if it’s nice. As long as the world still lets me. Even in quarantine, the world keeps poking me.

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