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An Introvert Mourns the Loss of Quiet in Quarantined Family Life

An Introvert Mourns the Loss of Quiet in Quarantined Family Life

"I know there are many people home alone during this time—and I feel for them. I also often want to be them." 

“Mom! What do you have that erases Sharpie?” 

That’s the first thing I heard this morning. 

The good news is that my 8-year-old was being creative. The bad news is that his new white IKEA desk is now striped. 

For months that desk sat idle (and white). Mack preferred to do his homework in the playroom at the mini play-table. A few months ago, he only had about a half hour of math homework—after which he could smoothly transition into playing with LEGO. But these days, he sits at his desk for 3-5 hours a day. And not for homework, but for home-school. A concept I never even considered before March.

Let me just say that I feel incredibly lucky. There is tragedy everywhere these days and my family is healthy and safe. We are together and stable and making it through. But the last 10 weeks have been challenging

I now spend my days on command—making breakfast, teaching and monitoring schoolwork, cooking lunch, cleaning up lunch, breaking up zoo-like rumbles, shuffling the boys outside even for a few minutes, then forcing them back to work, to finish their studies. There are desperate projects and games to fill the afternoon, and then it’s time to put the trashed house back in order and start dinner. Oh and somewhere in there, thanks to my generous husband Michael, I’ve managed to spend a few hours a day working at my job. 

My new “office space” is currently the bedroom closet. It’s a big closet, a walk-in, and there’s a vanity where I’ve perched my laptop. If you Zoom me (a term that now needs no explaining) you’ll see a row of sweaters and a shelf of hats behind me. Clothes I’ve stopped even considering every day when I throw on my favorite jeans and long-sleeved shirt. And those are the days that I actually get dressed. 

What has happened to us all, I ask myself not infrequently. How did we get here and adapt so seamlessly to this completely absurd lifestyle? All those plans for spring break, camp, soccer, baseball, piano lessons—discussed, debated, and made—now moot. The last time I spent this much continuous time with my kids, they were newborns. 

Again, I am so grateful that we have enough resources to get us through this surreal period, but I am a person who likes her quiet, an introvert who embraces those few hours in the day when no one is home and I can be in my own head. Ever since we’ve been stuck in this coronavirus quarantine, that quiet is gone. 

Every half hour or so I hear: “Mom! Where are you?!” Or: “Mom, can you help me with this?” We recently adopted a rescue dog who also now needs my attention at all times. I’ve started hiding out—sometimes in my car in an empty parking lot—hoping for a few minutes of peace. Occasionally I’ll turn on a white noise machine or even use earplugs for some silence. I desperately miss those days when the kids were in school until 3pm and I didn’t have to be the one to make sure Mack did his science experiment or Nate finished his ELA assignment. I miss my own private lunchtime without dishes or discussion. I know there are many people home alone during this time—and I feel for them. I also often want to be them. 

One day soon we’ll return to our distinct daily lives, back on our own, with stories to tell. Will we mourn the loss of this quarantined existence—the connectedness, the quiet domesticity, and family intimacy that this isolated life has provided? 

I think we will. 

But for now, we soldier on to tomorrow when we will do the same thing again—minus the Sharpie drawing, I hope. 

RELATED: What it's Like Being Postpartum in a Pandemic

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Shana Liebman


Shana Liebman is the features editor of NYMP. She’s a writer and editor who has worked for magazines including New York MagazineSalon, and Travel & Leisure—and she is the mom of two energetic little boys.

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