Many of us in the United States are now a few days into “social distancing”. Many of us are entering our first week of “e-learning” while parents are working from home. That’s a pretty big transition, and many of us do not really do transitions well. We must now work from spaces that are different than our routine. We must work with different tools, and expectations. We are being asked for self-discipline, self-motivation, and connection in ways we are mostly unfamiliar with.
It’s not just the humans, either. On a normal day, I work from home, and my 3 cats will come visit me, sleep in their favored places, and play with each other on a schedule that they have negotiated. With all the humans home, my cats lives are disrupted as well. They are finding new spots to sleep and new spots for quiet, alone time. They are playing more aggressively with their toys and each other. They seem happy to have us home at the same time that they seem confused by all of us being home.
These kinds of transitions require negotiation. They require presence and attention and love. We have to genuinely listen and hear the needs of those around us, as well as our own needs and find ways to allow space to be parceled out as lovingly as possible.
In my house, my daughter goes to a Montessori school from 7:30am to about 3:30 Monday through Friday. On Saturday mornings, she has Italian language and culture classes. On Sunday, she has her circus training. As of last Friday at 3pm, she has our house, and lists of things she is supposed to manage to ‘keep on track’. She is eleven years old. She has been raised in a house with routine, expectations, and support. But she is only eleven and cannot negotiate this herself.
I work very flexibly, although I do have a home office. My husband splits time between his downtown office and working in his home office, so this transition has not been as big for him. And for me, having him home has meant that I have not been in my office as it is across the hall from his, and we have different styles and needs for the space. But we have mostly adjusted, until now.
With our daughter home, we have spent time this weekend discussing what she needs to have success with her school work. What environment supports her? Can we create that in our house? We thought we had a great plan, but it was only great in theory. Monday morning, as my daughter and I attempted to implement our plan, we hit a major snag: I like to listen to music while I work, she likes to listen to stories. Neither of us can focus with the other’s preferred choice, nor do we like silence.
As I was citing neuro-research about focus and Ayurvedic principles of reducing the stimulation in our environment, she stopped me cold. “Fine, pull the Mom card, tell me I can’t have stories, and let’s move on.”
I stepped back, and asked her if we could try again. We looked deeper, loved each other a bit harder, and actually figured some things out.
She is used to a Montessori classroom where there is always a low level chatter. It is soothing to her. I mostly work at home, and constant talking means my work time is over and my family needs me. Suddenly, the original plan became very workable, so long as we took turns wearing headphones. What started as my resistance to her choice of “distraction” moved to an understanding of her need for consistency.
We are now on Day 2, and learning more about our working styles and needs. We are seeing ways we can appreciate the work the others do. We are being patient with our cats as they figure out what space they can carve out for themselves. And we are learning about our own habits and how we can be better.
Please be kind, and patient. With everyone, including yourself. Reach out if you need help. We are all in this together. Just at a physical distance.