Once lockdown became the new normality for countries affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, society as a whole felt its consequences, short-term as well as long-term. It soon became clear – to me, at least – that the smaller parts that make it up had been just as affected as the whole in itself. I took a special interest in families.
Take mine, for instance.
With us being a pretty close family already, and with all of us more or less introverted, I hadn’t expected the social distancing and then the isolation to produce any major change in our dynamics. Of course, the situation itself proved me wrong quite soon. First, my little brother started reading books thick enough to intimidate a teenager, let alone an 8-year-old. My brother, the same kid who hated reading even the small texts he needed for his homework. Then, we started playing games together, all of us. From Rummy to Uno and even role-playing games, we started to spend at least an hour daily playing something and laughing hard and often. Which we kind of never did before with such regularity.
So I started asking myself why this happened when we could have just perceived it all as nothing more and nothing less than an early summer holiday; when everything could’ve stayed the same as before.
The answers weren’t too hard to find.
The stress, the mere fact that the whole thing had been imposed on us – for our own good, yes, but imposed nonetheless –, the sheer need to escape the grim reality the news kept showing over and over, took a bigger toll on us than we had expected. And led to our finding coping mechanisms that might actually survive longer than the lockdown and the virus.
And, of course, let’s not forget that natural instinct that warns you that a faraway danger is still a danger.
But more questions appeared, with one summing them all up: how have this lockdown and pandemic affected other families?
So, in order to find out more, I asked a series of people – friends, strangers, people who work essential jobs, people who can’t work at all anymore, people who need to work from home… – how their families perceived and coped with everything.
The answers were, as expected, as varied as the people themselves.
To some, the consequences have been barely noticeable or the same as they were for me and my family. Although the lockdown or the virus itself hasn’t affected them in too dire a way, their families did become more united and they did start spending their time together in more enjoyable ways – from playing games to watching movies, or simply talking for hours on end. Someone, for instance, admitted that although the nature of their parents’ jobs made it so things haven’t changed too much in terms of daily schedules and time spent together, they still feel like their family got closer.
Still, only seeing this part of the quarantine leads to it being romanticized. Sure, some families don’t have it that bad. Sure, some families can bear the stress and the tension, both from outside as well as from inside. Some cope well.
That’s not really watching life through pink lenses, but it’s not the whole picture either.
Both good and bad make up the whole picture.
Someone admitted that this whole situation led to family life becoming more tense and arguments happening more often. The general emotional state and the ever-increasing sensation of ‘uselessness’ have been taking their toll, even more so as one of this family’s members deals with a certain medical condition that needs special attention.
Moreover, Jillian Hastings Hard writes on Bionews that families with special needs children, although used to adjusting in unpredictable situations, now have to face the lack of support that usually comes in the form of all kinds of therapies and direct expertise, as well as the underlying fear that life-saving treatments could be lost in a competition for scarce resources.
Then there are the front line workers, the ones directly exposed to the virus, who felt the need to move out from their homes in order to protect their families. A ten-year-old girl simply said she misses her mother; a university student who studies in a red zone told me how not only his parents had to move away for the time being, but how he needed to isolate himself just as well for a while upon returning to his home country. It becomes obvious that situations like these affect everyone, from small children to adults. All this leads to them feeling too stressed out, too tense, and too lonely.
Money is one of the main problems too.
Too many people have been laid off from work, had their pays cut, or simply can’t find work at the moment. Someone pointed this out, saying that one of the more immediate problems her family is currently facing is the rent.
There’s also the panic that affects so many people whose behaviors, in turn, affect their whole families. There is a constant worry for their health and general well-being. A simple cold can set off alarms and trigger veritable panic attacks.
And let’s not forget the people too old or too young to even understand what’s happening, why lockdown is necessary. Or the families that have never been close to begin with. Things just become more stressful, more tiring, or more difficult, if not all at once.
This is our current reality just as much as those wholesome stories from the first part of this article.
Is this about social class? About living in a certain kind of area? About having a certain kind of job?
I believe, sometimes, it’s about sheer luck.
There are too many variables for only one detail to be at fault. We need to see and accept both the good and the bad; after all, everyone does what they can. Everyone copes however they see fit and however they manage. And in the end, we simply need to make the most of it, both as individuals and as families.
If you want to read more about the effects of lockdown and Coronavirus Pandemic, click here!