Semi-Organized Chaos: What Our Life Looks Like in Isolation

Semi-organized chaos is the way I would describe our life for the past 4-5 weeks of physical distancing measures.

If you’re looking for the perfect recipe for life with two kids and two parents under one roof with nowhere to go, this is not that post.

At the same time, I’m not going to say that we’re suffering greatly. We are very, very lucky, and I recognize that.

My goal is to share our new daily “normal” in a way that doesn’t conceal the imperfections but also doesn’t magnify them, and that shares the good without making it seem like that’s how it is all the time.

I just want to be real with you. I hate internet-perfection.

Cast of characters

We were pretending to have a picnic on the moon last week. I was having a very good mood day.

In case you’re new here, there are currently 4 humans in my house, including me:

  • Jesse is my husband, and his job in the financial sector has moved completely to telework, so he spends his days in our semi-finished basement office.
  • James is 5; he’s in JK (“maternelle,” since he goes to French school). We’ve started online classes for him in the mornings through his school. It’s… not perfect.
  • Olivia is 3; she went to daycare until the closures started.
  • And then there’s me! In non-pandemic times, I do a mix of freelance translation/editing and being the main parent for day-to-day kid stuff. Since school and daycare closed down, I’m looking after the kids full-time during the day.

Daily routine (such as it is)

I think we’ve all seen that schedule going around, and then the tongue-in-cheek response schedules. Our reality is somewhere in between. Most of the time.

I did the thing where I researched schedules and tried to find the perfect way to organize our days. But I kept my overachieving inclinations in check and tried not to go overboard.

Still, I did brainstorm several iterations of a possible schedule for our days. This was one… it is not tidy or pretty:

I can’t decide if I find schedules calming or stressful. Creating them gives me a sense of control, but having to then follow them makes me feel claustrophobic and rebellious.

In the end, I’ve decided to (try to) follow two sources to guide our days:

  1. James’ school schedule, which is roughly 9 am to 10 am every morning. There is usually light homework and suggested activities, so I (try to) do that.
  2. The daily “blocks” recommended by Avital (The Parenting Junkie) in her recent video Organize Your Kids’ Day with These 7 Crucial Elements: play time, focus time, messy time, movement time, quiet time, family time, screen time.

Simplicity over perfection

I get overwhelmed very easily if I’m bombarded with ideas, suggestions, links, videos, schedules, and resources. It’s just too much, and my perfectionism and anxiety both kick in hard, trying to build the “perfect” way to live our lives.

It’s just too much.

Knowing this about myself, I’ve been very careful to limit what I let myself look at. I try to stick to the two sources I mentioned above. It may not be perfect, but if you struggle with anxiety and perfectionism, try to aim for simple over perfect.

Our very rough schedule

So, with all that said, here’s what our days tend to actually look like:

Act 1: Morning

  • 7:30-8:30 am: Wake up sometime between 7:30 am and as late as the kids will let me sleep. (Jesse starts work at 9 am.) Curse myself for staying up past midnight watching Contagion, The Captive, or similar Netflix traps.
  • 8:30-9:00 am: Chocolate milk for the kids; coffee for me. They play (read: begin living room destruction) for a bit.
  • 9:00-10:00 am: James has class. (It’s a frustrating process at the moment, but that’s a story for another post.) Olivia gets tablet time — not an ideal solution (maybe?) but… it’s what works for now.
  • 10:00-11:00 am: The three of us play together, or go outside, or do a craft. Also there’s a snack in there somewhere.

Act 2: Afternoon

My rule of thumb these days is to avoid interrupting them at all costs if they are absorbed in independent or cooperative play.
  • 12:00-1:00 pm: Lunch time. Jesse comes up and takes over for a bit, so that I can “exercise” (in theory — in practice, I have been retreating to the bedroom to be in the dark and quiet for a half-hour. I’m… rather introverted.)
  • 1:00-4:00pm: This is a big chunk of time where I just try to keep us occupied and relatively happy. It depends what we did in the morning, but we might go for a walk, play in the sandbox, do a craft, bake cookies — NOT from scratch; literally the pre-made kind that requires minimal maternal frustration and results in prompt deliciousness — get their baths over with, do the learning activities recommended by James’ school… or lots of Netflix. It really depends how my mind and mood are doing that day.
  • I forgot to mention the 2-3-4 cups of coffee that happen during the day.

Act 3: Late afternoon/evening

He’s their jungle gym; they’re his free weights.
  • 4:00-7:00pm: Supper gets made. Most of it gets eaten. Some ends up on the floor. Daddy plays with the kids after supper and I tidy up.
  • 7:00-9:00pm: Bedtimes happen. We each focus on one kiddo, alternating nights.
  • 9:00-??: I vegetate (like meditate but less trendy). We aim to go to bed at 11pm… but it’s really hard to go to sleep when we finally have peace and quiet and free time.

Semi-organized chaos

“Semi-organized” because they are seated and non-bleeding. “Chaos” because HAVE YOU SEEN OUR HOUSE?

Some of it works; some of it doesn’t. I think the kids are happy. I think they’re learning. I do okay most days. I’ve started tracking my mood using a “year in pixels” printable — maybe I’ll share that in a future post.

The things that are falling through the cracks a bit are housework, blogging (me), and exercise (both, but mostly me).

(Why did I say housework? That’s always fallen through the cracks.)

But we’re managing, and James says he never wants to go back to school. (I’ve always been curious about homeschooling… he’s always said he wants to stay home. It’s an unexpected opportunity to try it out. Maybe that’s yet another future post.)

I recognize how privileged we are to have a parent who is able to work full-time from home while also having a freelancing parent who has the flexibility to not take on work for now. We are so lucky.

It’s not easy every day, but as a family of introverts (except maybe Olivia? too soon to say), we’ve adjusted quite well.

There’s a simplicity to this temporary cocoon we live in.

I find myself saying “If there’s time…” a lot less to the kids.

There was time.

This situation is not idyllic by any means, for anyone, but there’s often a way to find the silver lining, or “flip the script,” as The Parenting Junkie puts it.

But still, pass the coffee. No, no, the whole pot, please.

Hang in there. xoxo

16 thoughts on “Semi-Organized Chaos: What Our Life Looks Like in Isolation

  1. Living through times like these is like filming a movie while the script is being written. Sometimes you change the script on the fly to match what is actually happening. Sometimes you change what is actually happening to match the script. This is brand new to everyone alive today, except for the two or three people left who also lived through the Spanish Flu pandemic. So above all, never be hard on yourself or judgmental. Whatever you are doing is the right thing. For you. Maybe not for anyone else, but that doesn’t matter. To me, it looks like you are doing a masterful job. I didn’t know you could juggle so well. Hang in there. We’ll make it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. New normals are so cool. We as a species, are way more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for. Even western capitalists

    Keeping the printer functioning is stressful. Why are they printing so much for online school???!!!

    Our dreams are trending to schools/works (we worked in schools). We are kid, teacher, administrator, parent, grandparent. Asleep, awake, etc. Pretty trippy in a “can’t breathe” sort of way.

    We feel other people’s feeling and the house is full (Spouse world in schools, too). We want to give you breath. A break. Reassurance that you are enough. You are always enough

    Liked by 1 person

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