Better home life on lockdown

We ordered barbecue last night for the family, carryout. Margaret and I were both knackered after hard-charging days at work and we pressed the Easy button on dinner.

Before the pandemic Margaret and I used to have dinner out twice a week — sometimes three, once in a while four times. We didn’t really want it to be that way. But Margaret often worked late, and I had a 30-minute commute. We often came home too tired to face the kitchen.

We’ve welcomed making more dinners at home. Margaret, I, and our daughter all have dietary restrictions and cooking at home lets us confidently avoid the troublesome foods on all of our lists. We eat more healthfully — a greater variety of foods, more vegetables, fewer calories.

Because I’m working at home, I can sometimes even start dinner between meetings and have it ready when Margaret gets home. That plus losing my evening commute has made our evenings feel a lot longer — there’s more downtime in them.

Losing the morning commute has given me more time to write in the morning. (You might think I’d sleep later instead, and I did that for the first week or so. But I learned quickly that it’s best for me to keep as many of my old routines as possible. Back to my normal waking time I went.)

I also see a lot more of the three children who live with us. They’re all young adults figuring out how to step into independent lives. The pandemic paused their employment. One went back to work two weeks ago and one returns to work this weekend.

Flag over Chick-fil-A

The third, our daughter, hasn’t been called back yet and she’s still hanging out here most of the time. But her night-owl ways and my 8-to-5 work schedule meant that until the stay-at-home order we seldom saw each other. It’s been lovely to talk to her more. She usually comes downstairs about the time I’m breaking for lunch. Sometimes I run over to Chick-fil-A and get us both some nuggets and fries. It’s a nice moment of connection.

I’m also able to keep the house up better. I can give a toilet a quick swab or a countertop a quick wipe whenever I notice they need it. I’ve even run the vacuum a time or two between meetings, and have run a few loads of laundry. Despite these distractions I’m getting as much done as I ever did at work. In the office, I spent time chatting briefly with people I encountered in the hallway or at the coffee pot. That’s all gone while working from home.

Also gone are the morning coffees I used to have with past colleagues. I’ve met with a few of them over Zoom, which tides us over. I also miss the good energy of my workplace, the serendipitous conversations I had with VPs at the coffee pot, and going out for lunch with the engineers. I miss Downtown Indianapolis, where our offices are located. I miss singing in the car to my music on my commute — singing is cathartic for me. I miss occasionally meeting my brother for a whiskey after work.

Like you, I suffered some loss when the pandemic changed our lives. But when things start to edge back toward the post-pandemic normal and I’m working in the office again, I’ll suffer another loss. I will miss this better home life.


15 responses to “Better home life on lockdown”

  1. Marc Beebe Avatar

    Yesterday I went to the cabin for the first time this year. Alone. Even though I had to fight my way down a road that is in desperate need of repair and I did do several hours work while I was there, I got to see some beautiful birds – and listen to their songs as I walked through the woods.
    I’ll take that experience over the noise of the city any day.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I grew up in a city and that’s what I’m used to. I like the connectedness and the energy!

  2. tbm3fan Avatar

    I still go into my office from 11-3 to check the answering machine for a message or two. My county is still under a fairly firm shelter in place order as all six immediate Bay Area counties are. Things won’t return to normal here for quite some time maybe not till the end of the year. The on switch with people (my region) will be more like a dimmer switch assuming the last week of May and first week of June don’t crash around the country.

    In the meantime home routine stays the same. I cook 4-5 nights a week and my wife two. We might go out to dinner five times a year. Not a big fan of that nutrition wise and now might not go out except for birthdays. My trip to Asia is put off indefinitely now. I’ll miss that. Otherwise, I won’t have much of a problem in general since I am a person who doesn’t like crowds. I see a crowd and I head the other direction. Always feel safer outside the crowd. In fact note my city photos of New York and San Francisco and you wonder how I took a picture with nobody in it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The older I get, the less I like crowds, so I get you.

      I still think we’re reopening too aggressively here in Indiana.

  3. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I still have not ordered anything from a restaurant since this began. I am preparing everything at home. Probably being overly cautious, but that’s me.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s smart to do that. We have found that carryout give us a feeling of normal, but it isn’t something we’re leaning hard into because of the risks.

  4. DougD Avatar

    I’m surprised you went out that often before, that’s a lot of eating out. We were going out every two weeks maybe, but there’s some cultural differences between our countries, as well as going out being significantly more expensive.

    We are enjoying the family time with the 4 of us, although we had a talk with our university age son today about the amount of video gaming vs the amount of doing something useful.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We were going out way more than we wanted to. It was our relief valve when a day ran long and we were exhausted — just run over to the Mexican joint, or to Cracker Barrel, or to McAlister’s. We don’t want to run like this when we go back to normal. We’ve got to figure out how to have a better routine home life.

  5. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    Yes! I have worked from home for some years now, and I would not like to change it. Always available for work, but able to do pretty much as I please when there is a gap. I enjoy cooking, and my wife while a good cook finds it stressful. So I do the cooking and we eat out only for a treat… My wife is now coming to understand the joy of working from home and I am about to upgrade the wi-fi so she can have her own office upstairs. All our kids are independent and we do miss catching up in person, but our lockdown in New Zealand looks like it will be eased soon as the disease is well under control here now! So we have really enjoyed the change of pace, but I do feel for those who have found it stressful, especially those whose livelihoods have been interrupted.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I didn’t think I’d like long-term working from home. I still think I’ll prefer going to the office after this is all over, but I know now that I can do this and there are aspects about it that are pretty great.

      You all are fortunate in NZ that you will be able to return to normal soon!

  6. brandib1977 Avatar

    This speaks to me. My introverted self is perfectly happy working from home and I’ve built some nice routines and habits that have improved my quality of life. It won’t last forever but I’m trying to appreciate the solace and better quality of life while it lasts.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You know what I miss? Lunch. Going out to lunch Downtown. And having a drink someplace with a friend or colleague after work. So there really are tradeoffs here. But yes, as a committed introvert I do find it entirely agreeable to just be home.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        I miss getting up early on a Saturday morning and hitting the road. I would pack some snacks and have my camera close by for some quick pictures along the way. And I would just just go. It didn’t matter where but it often involved a museum, an antique mall and a diner. Sigh.

  7. J P Avatar

    There are just two of us at home. I keep trying to decide if that’s good or bad. I would enjoy more time with my children but I also enjoy the time alone with the Mrs.

    I look forward to going back to the office. I do “being home” at home much better than I do “being at work ” at home. I have as good of a home office setup as one could ask for, but I struggle with discipline and find I’m more productive when I’m in a dedicated place different from where I find my rest and relaxation.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My job is mostly meetings and 1×1 conversations, which I can do equally productively at home vs. at the office. It’s when I have a gap between meetings that I’m tempted to see what’s in the refrigerator or start a load of laundry.

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