Unprecedented. Unpredictable. Uncertain. Unusual. Unheard of.
These are just a few words that have been used to describe 2020 and the current Coronavirus Pandemic. Wherever you are in the world, you have no doubt felt the negative impacts of COVID-19. Whether it be on your local economy or bank account, your mental health or physical health, your employment or education, this microscopic virus has no doubt had a massive impact on the global community.
The pandemic has caused many disappointments and challenges as families have had to miss out on planned vacations, school activities, big life events and social gatherings. Quarantine has cancelled concerts, postponed weddings and bar mitzvahs, kyboshed graduation ceremonies and generally ceased any fun and social events. Families have been forced to work and conduct class from home, causing much added stress on the typical average household. In short, we have almost had to re-invent ourselves, constantly analyzing what we do and how we do it.
So has there been at least some positive impact on society as a result of COVID-19? The optimist inside of me says yes. Or at the very least, I hope. Before the cynic inside of you counters my optimism, at least read through to what I think the four unexpected benefits of this pandemic are:
Carpe Diem (seize the day)
When I found myself suddenly unemployed in March 2020, I felt lost. My teaching contract had abruptly ended and not being able to go back to a classroom left me feeling useless and a little bit depressed. Add to that the fact that everything was canceled, including our March Break trip and our summer plans to see the in-laws in the UK weren’t looking very likely either. And yet, after the initial shock of the spring lockdown sunk in and I started to accept the current reality of homeschooling my two daughters and not teaching for awhile, I started to at least try to look on the bright side.
As parents, we are always spinning many plates: planning dinners, making lunches, running errands, managing the calendar and extracurricular activities, attempting to keep up with chores, all the while working and trying to maintain some kind of quality family unit. Let’s face it - we are a busy society, and this busy life can cause exhaustion and have negative effects on our mental health. For our family, quarantine and cancelled extracurricular activities has given us the chance to reduce the places we need to be on any given day. And I love it. No commute to work or school meant we could sleep in and enjoy a half decent breakfast for once. We now have more time for leisurely activities, like going for a walk or bike ride after school, that we didn’t have time for in the past. I could barely sit through a movie with my family before the pandemic as I always had a list of to-dos swirling around in my head and guilt often got the better of me by the time the opening credits concluded. The Pandemic of 2020 has allowed my family to just breathe. And you should, too.
GSD (Get Stuff Done)
Any family or homeowner will tell you that chores around the house and home improvement projects are never ending. We literally had a new shelving unit sitting in its original packaging for six months, just waiting to be assembled. It wasn’t until lockdown was in full effect and all extracurricular activities were put on hold that we were able to bust out that storage unit and get it put together!
Quarantining has definitely given families a chance to catch-up on projects around the house and perhaps even spruce up their living space. I even found some time to focus on my health. For years I have been trying to shed those last, lingering post baby pounds. Firmly into my forties, I found that I just didn’t have the energy or willpower anymore to be as active as I wanted or needed to be. I have, however, always dreamt of being a runner. Jogging seemed like such a free spirited and cathartic activity and I longed to be able to run long distances and even participate in a 5 or 10km run.
In April 2020, I laced up my Nikes and started to run. Before I knew it, I was able to exceed distances of 5km without stopping and was pleased to participate in this years virtual Terry Fox Marathon of Hope, clocking in my personal best 8km run. Sixteen pounds of shed weight later and I am hooked! Jogging has given me the opportunity to have some much-needed alone time while improving my cardiovascular fitness too.
Find yourself with some extra time? Make a list of goals or tasks you want to accomplish. Who can you get involved to help spread the load? This is also a great learning opportunity for the kids as they experience firsthand how to do new things and appreciate the value of hard work.
Decreasing our Carbon Footprint
According to many studies, one of the biggest upsides to the global lockdown has been a tangible improvement in the environment. Studies have shown that with much of the world in quarantine, the levels of nitrogen dioxide have decreased. A CNN article described how the skies are blue in Delhi, India, for the first time in years and that the air quality in China has improved dramatically. Another research paper concludes that there is a significant association between quarantine measures and improvement in air quality, clean beaches and environmental noise reduction. With many business trips and vacations put on hold and flights dramatically reduced, our carbon footprint has been decreased greatly.
I know this has not been good news for the airline and vacation industry, but perhaps the world can collectively cut the total greenhouse gas emissions since it is evident that the environmental situation can be improved substantially with a little bit of effort.
Family Bonding Time
Traditionally, busy families would only get together during milestones like weddings or funerals or key celebrations like Christmas or Passover. I have found that during the Pandemic, we have connected more often with our extended family than ever! With the help of virtual platforms like Zoom, Whatsapp and House Party, we have been able to connect with our family almost on a weekly basis. With my husband’s family over three thousand miles away in the UK, my daughters have been able to maintain a close relationship with their grandparents during the Pandemic. Yes, it may not be the same as a physical visit, but when in desperate times, it is best to just make the most out of a situation! Another benefit of the Pandemic is that parents are becoming more involved with their children than ever before.
When schools in Ontario shutdown last March, many parents found themselves in the position of household teacher and kitchen tables became classrooms. As a teacher myself, I took on this role with fervor, but I realize that not everyone was as adapted to the role as I. However, I knew that this opportunity was gifting me something very special – quality time with my daughters. I realize that I may never get this kind of quality time together again, so I savoured every second.
The Pandemic has also given parents the opportunity to teach their children something that they don’t necessarily learn at school – life skills. With everyone stuck at home, some kids have learned to appreciate their parents busy work schedule, learn how to balance the books or comprehend the demands of chores and feeding a family. Getting kids involved in cooking, cleaning and overall family maintenance has been a secret blessing throughout this experience. Once things return to somewhat of a normal state, we will be back to swimming lessons and dance classes and I can already feel that precious bonding time slipping away.
Overall, what I have come to appreciate during this Pandemic is that time is indeed precious. I hope the bonds that families have built over the past 7 months will last a lifetime and the extra family time during quarantine will make for great memories for years to come!
It is important to understand that having extra time at home can be fun and relaxing some days and other days it may cause anxiety and feelings of loneliness. Everyone experiences things in a variety of ways and all feelings, no matter how different, are normal and acceptable. Talk to your kids about how they feel during these tumultuous times. Ask them what they are disappointed and sad about in an age appropriate way. Ask them about any positive outcomes of being quarantined. Acknowledging these feelings will help everyone work through the negative effects of COVID-19, while allowing us to celebrate the positives too. It may be a global Pandemic, but we are in this together, after all.