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Fundamental rhythms of life have been upended by the coronavirus. Suddenly, home has become the center of nearly all life’s activities – work, exercise, entertainment, school, the list goes on.

For many, this new normal has our children unexpectedly at home, even children who aren’t children anymore but are young adults in college or graduate school. The challenges of teleworking – which also has many benefits – are compounded by simultaneously having a full house.

Recognizing the many challenges, the pandemic also provides a chance to consider what’s positive about the ‘new normal.’ At our house, it helps to look for the upside as we manage an array of emotions, from joy and gratitude to sadness and loss. Here’s some positives on our list:

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  •  Having family dinners, which we’ve missed since our kids started college
  • Being home at night rather than at evening meetings
  • Playing ball with our dog in the house and laughing at her silly antics
  • Prioritizing connecting with people we care about and finding zoom group calls really are the next best thing
  • Being able to start a new television series that we can watch together as a family
  • Being able to share the difficulties, and the ways we’re finding to manage, the challenges brought on by the pandemic

The pandemic also provides an opportunity to create new ways of doing things, many of which can build closeness and a sense of teamwork.

The pandemic also provides an opportunity to create new ways of doing things, many of which can build closeness and a sense of teamwork. We feel both happiness, as well as trepidation, with our kids being home after enjoying several months of empty-nester status and the freedom it allows.

One of the things that creates stress in our house is when we feel our sons are not sharing the responsibility of caring for our family. You know, needing to feed and walk the dog, cooking, eating, grocery shopping, cleaning up, the array of things that make the engine of home work. Admittedly this is a bigger issue for Lisa and gender equality is a piece of that, as is her Italian-immigrant, work-ethic mentality.

What we’ve found in the past is moving from frustration and irritation, to finding new ways of operating, has provided not only a practical solution to a problem but also an opportunity to deepen our relationships. In that spirit, we offer some ideas for how this challenging shelter-in-place moment can be a catalyst for trying on new roles and deepening the relationships with those we love in the process.

  • If the kids typically set the table or clean up, what better time to have them in charge of planning and making some meals, since everyone is going to be eating primarily at home for the time being. For one of our son’s 18th birthdays, we had a surprise contest where the kids in teams prepared and presented their food creations. We were literally blown away by the amazing foods they made.
  • If Mom usually does the bedtime routine with the kids, it’s a great opportunity to have Dad be in charge. And if Dad is always the one clearing out the leaves, or walking the dog, perhaps it’s Mom’s turn.v Laundry can be ferreted out to children older enough to manage it rather than mom or dad doing it all. And for the environmentally conscious, it’s a chance to be more mindful of how often to wash clothes.
  • Families with busy schedules – who are typically going in many different directions – can safeguard time each day to have fun together, perhaps playing a game, starting a puzzle, listening to music, or any activity that brings joy. In a round robin fashion, daily each person in the family takes turns choosing.
Photo by Davids Kokainis on Unsplash
Families with busy schedules - who are typically going in many different directions - can safeguard time each day to have fun together, perhaps playing a game, starting a puzzle, listening to music, or any activity that brings joy. In a round robin fashion, daily each person in the family takes turns choosing.

What Lisa found in her research with couples in egalitarian relationships was that learning what it feels like to ‘walk in another’s shoes’ builds empathy, connection, and a sense of being on the same team. It also helps us to see and to break down gender patterns.

The pandemic, which has profoundly reordered our lives, is strangely a chance to slow down, spend our time differently, and find ways to nurture what is most important in our lives.

We hope you are able to find your own silver lining in the midst of this very challenging time.