Op-Ed: Living with COVID-19’s Unprecedented Confusion- The paradox of what is now

By: Beth Moore
Family Services Coordinator at the Partnership for Children of Johnston County

I have heard and used the term “unprecedented” more the past 40 days than I have used the past 40 something years combined. But, there is not another word that describes what is happening, except maybe paradoxical confusion.

We have now been on a “stay-at-home” order for almost a month. My office started “working from home” 2 weeks before that. So about 6 weeks of life abruptly changing and 6 weeks of figuring out a new way of being while the world deals with a pandemic.

Because the situation is unprecedented, what that really means is the people we would generally go to for help or support, do not have any experience to share. Because no one has experienced anything like this, the entire globe basically shut down, and no one knows what to expect when it opens back up. Because no one has had to move the entire world onto a global communication and education platform, we have little guidance as to what effect that may have.

We are taught from a young age to ask for help when we do not know what is happening around us, or when a new skill is difficult to master.  Someone has always had the experience we needed, and that fostered a feeling of safety and what we are experiencing is a normal part of life. When a toddler is learning to walk, they look for a grown up to pick them up when they fall. When a preschooler is constantly asking “why”, they rely on someone having the answer, or when a teenager goes through their first break up, someone has gone through it before. Fast forward to COVID-19- and nobody has the answers we need for that feeling of safety to kick in.

The paradox part. Every day is different, confusing, and just weird. Everyone is handling and managing things differently day to day. Some days I have embraced the idea of stay at home and stay safe, other days I have felt trapped. Some days have been extremely productive and overdue projects have become complete, other days I barely get out of bed. Some days work is efficient from home, other days I can’t remember how to do simple tasks. Some days I have been a domestic goddess, cooking, cleaning and being content at home, other days I am like a caged bird trying to escape. And the emotions are just as opposite, happy: sad, joy: sorrow, content: frustrated. Just living a bunch of opposites, not knowing which each day may bring.

The globe is also in a paradox. The economy is halted, but the ecology of the planet has improved. People are out of work, but communities are coming together for support. Children are out of school, but each day learning something new.

I have read countless articles about working from home in a pandemic, managing a team in a time of crisis, mindfulness for global trauma and the list goes on. There are some great points in all, and I take the suggestions and share them, but since there is no experience on how we really get to the other side, it seems as I am still looking for that safety and normal. We are all looking for the same answers, and all the questions start with “when”. “When will this be over?” “When will we be back to our lives?” “When will the stores have toilet paper?” We are grown-ups reverting back to our preschool days of “why?” Because no one knows what to expect, we cannot find the answers we want right now.

I can’t even imagine being a parent of young children juggling work, homework, and a global pandemic.  Families are faced with the harder question of “how?” “How am I going to keep working if childcare or school is still closed?” “How do I stay calm?” “How do I keep the kids entertained and learning?” Research and experience tells us children feel safe when they know what to expect, which is why limits, rules and routines are critical for emotional health. While in normal times, routines and schedules are relatively similar for most families with young children; we have found whatever schedule or routine that is safe for your family is really ok! We can work to get back on societies time’ when society figures out what that looks like again.

While we cannot answer the “when” questions, The Partnership for Children of Johnston County can help with some of the “hows”. We have free resources for families to help find child care, provide one-on-one or group support, and many free activities that are both entertaining and educational that you can do at home. If you need help with the “how” questions, please call us at 919-975-2515.  We are here to help!

In closing, humans are resilient, and will manage to gain unprecedented knowledge and experience from this pandemic. But until that happens, until it is finally over, we can know that we are doing the best we can with the unknown.

Be kind to each other and stay well.