Quarantine Dad

Much of the world is in some degree of quarantine or another at this time. And being stuck at home with a child can be… challenging.

How it came down

A month ago, I hoped the Covid-19 virus could be kept under control in China. Then, it turned out, things went to shit in Italy, very horribly to shit. Things escalated quickly from there, and last Thursday the Netherlands imposed the first set of quarantine measures.

Initially, the Dutch government decided everybody who could, should work from home, but schools would stay open. Then, during the weekend, with medical experts screaming bloody murder, the government closed the schools down as well.

And here we are.

Now, I’m not going to discuss the validity of measures, the science behind pandemics, or anything like that. There’s enough of that flooding the internet already. I’ll zoom in on the ‘I’m (more or less) quarantined with a child’ aspect of things.

The roller coaster to hell

I wasn’t worried when the first set of quarantine measures came down. My wife and I would have to work from home, but my daughter would be in school. No problem. In fact, my day job has a meeting problem, with my days normally filled with ritual gatherings while I’d rather be developing software — which is my actual day job. Happily, working from home would seriously cut down on possible meetings.

Secondly, I’m not an outgoing person. I like sitting in the garden, or going to the park, but I don’t need to go out to have fun. There’s reading books, playing video games, and watching Netflix. I can stay in touch with my friends on WhatsApp, Discord, or whatever, so I’d be fine. Some people chafe at the very idea of being at home more than a few hours, but I don’t mind at all.

Then, a few days later, the next set of quarantine measures hit: schools were closing. ‘This is gonna be great’ turned into ‘oh my god, this is gonna suck’.

The Job of Childcare

Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter and I love spending time with her.

That said, I also love snorkeling, but I wouldn’t want to do it from sunup to sundown, while also trying to hold down a job. Aside from the physical toll of swimming that long, of course. A dutch swimmer swam 200 kilometers last year, and that wasn’t very healthy, even well prepared. So, even things I love should come in limited time frames.

You see, taking care of a child is a job. Don’t believe me? My daughter goes to school and daycare, and both have people employed called ‘teachers’. We pay them to take care of children and teach them things. My daughter requires attention, and somebody to teach her things. That, and social interaction with kids her age. Taking care of a child is a job, and it starts when that child wakes up, and stop — mostly — when they go back to bed. Now, I chose to be a parent, so yeah, I knew I had to do these things. But like snorkeling, or — in fact — my day job, I love it, but not all day long, every day.

Of course, my wife and I can tag-team this, and we do. But this is where a second problem appears: we also have to hold down our regular jobs. So, basically, we’re holding down three jobs between the two of us. Jobs that have all shifted into high gear to switch to a work-from-home set-up.

I have it easy

It’s annoying, but doable. Our house is roomy enough, and we only have one little girl. I feel for people with more children. I also feel for single parents. This is probably really hard on them.

And some have it worse than that. There are families close to divorce. If mom and dad can barely make it work normally, things could get really unpleasant for all involved under these circumstances. Worse than that, there are situations where ‘home’ isn’t exactly safe. Imagine a family with domestic abuse problems suddenly thrown into a stressful situation like this. I’d rather not.

And, of course, let’s not forget what is going down in Italy. Actually getting this disease is no picnic, especially with an overstressed healthcare system.

So, yeah, I have it easy, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck at all.

One week down

In short, this past week has been… challenging. Swapping tasks with my wife, planning meetings around each other, and trying to code with one hand while playing with stuffed animals with the other. Of course, putting my daughter in front of a TV helps, but you can’t do that all day.

This quarantine is shaping up to be a trek into exhaustion funland. Over the video streams with colleagues I see I’m not alone. You can recognize people with children because they’re not sitting at the kitchen table but in the attic between washing lines. They have a slightly hounded look, and there’s often the noise of children in the background.

The next couple of weeks, this will get worse. When this quarantine ends — hopefully in a month or so, but who knows –some of us will be rested and ready for more. Others, like me, will be in dire need of a long child-free vacation.

And my daughter? She’s very social, and at the age where she still loves school. She can’t wait to get back there.

Martin Stellinga Written by:

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands

2 Comments

  1. Kim Visser
    March 23, 2020

    Nice said Martijn, we have exactly the same problem. We work 32 and 38 hours, and have 2 children. When the schools were closing we made a plan. My girlfriend works the mornings, and can start early. I work from 1300 till roughly 1800. But then, you might feel the problem, how are we going to do all those hours!? It could result in 7 days working, without any necessary personal spare time!? We could work the evenings, too. But, once the children are asleep, and everything is cleaned downstairs, it is 2030. Our batteries tend to have become quite empty at that moment of the day. Some evenings this will work out, most of them not.

    We’re just trying to do our best. I must say, dividing the day in half helps, as we both have a decent amount of hours in one block per day to spend on work, without interruptions.

    Good luck upcoming weeks!!!
    Kim

    • March 27, 2020

      Good luck to you too, Kim.
      I guess most people with children are in the same boat. It’s now the end of week 2 and we’re managing. Seeing how the shit is hitting the fan all over Europe and the US… well, it could be a lot worse.

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