Posted on May 6th, 2020
I was excited for 2020 to begin. The docket for the year includes my daughter turning six, the completion of my master’s degree, my thirty-fifth birthday and hopefully me becoming a certified food scientist. In January I received an email about a new job opportunity. One that would allow me to leave the world of luxury food items to work for a company with a mission very much aligned with my own personal values and a promise of prioritized employee work-life balance. I accepted the job and gave my employer four weeks notice in order to finish (mostly) the projects I had open. Twenty-twenty was off to a great start.
One of those open items included a trip to Italy for a jetlagged 50-hour work week. I returned home on February 15th, a week before the first cluster of COVID-19 was reported in Italy (hundreds of miles from where I had stayed). I worked the remaining week and half feeling both very lucky and very anxious to begin the next chapter of my career.
I began my new job with the option and intention of working two days a week from home. The commute is long and my daughter is small so I was looking forward to a scheduling reprieve. But I am a social creature and I was also looking forward to the social camaraderie that comes with working amongst like-minded peers. By the middle of my second week it became clear that anyone not directly involved in operations should be working from home. By the start of the third week it was mandated that we work from home and also public schools had closed. My husband was still going into work and I was about to be working from home while also homeschooling my daughter. I have never been a paragon of patience and this was certainly not how I imagined my new found work-life balance. And yet it had to be done, and I am so grateful to have the flexibility to do it. Since I’ve managed to all but entirely clone myself I knew she and I would need a schedule to live peacefully through this unprecedented time. A schedule and a quite a bit more luck.
Sunday night I made the schedule and showed it to her. Monday morning we went over it again. Her response this time was “I know this isn’t on the schedule, but it’s important to me, I want to get to make your coffee. First thing in the morning, and if you want another one later.” I said okay.
I didn’t drink coffee regularly until after I became a mother. It wasn’t for the caffeine – strangely enough, I’ve slept better since motherhood than I ever did before. It was for the ritual, the adultness. It was to have something that belonged to me, that was unequivocally mine, that I wasn’t expected to give up for motherhood or share with a baby. Over the last six years it has become a ubiquitous part of my morning routine. On weeks when I remember I make a gallon of half-caff cold brew and have it in the fridge and parcel it out each day into to-go cup and rush out the door trying not to finish it during my daily commute. On weeks I don’t remember I shamefully squeeze a mobile order and corresponding stop into our morning routine. On the weekends I use the milk foamer Santa brought us to make evaporated milk cold foam to add a little bit of luxury to my life.
That first morning she made me my foam cold brew in the ‘Best Mom Ever’ mug she gave me for Christmas. It’s clear glass and displays the visual magic of the cold foam cold brew quite nicely. It has melted away my previously long held disdain for mismatched mugs. I sat in my new ‘office’, the far end of the dining room table by the window and sipped my coffee. It was the first weekday morning coffee I had consumed outside of a car in several years. It was the best coffee I had had in a very long time. She likes to put the ice in last often causing the foam to overflow down the sides. Some days she forgets to put the whip in the foamer and it’s just flat iced coffee. It’s always in the same mug and it’s always the best coffee ever.
We worked our way through our new daily schedule. It began to include several more 7-minute HIIT workouts than I was ready for – two before breakfast, two before lunch, one after lunch, one before the daily late afternoon dance party – I assume this is what it’s like living with a personal trainer. By the end of week two it also included A LOT of KidzBop which at the very least has a redeeming entertainment factor. Remarkably, something about a six-year old singing sanitized Ke$ha songs doesn’t get old. She spent all of her art time, free play time, and the majority of the time originally allocated for television making perler/fuse bead crafts. (Little plastic cylinders that can be formed into patterns and pictures, then ironed to make the ‘fuse’ magic happen). She started to make gifts for everyone she could think of – coasters and magnets for all the grandparents, neighbors, friends, always asking what the intended receiver’s interests are. She suggested we mail out her gifts since everyone was under quarantine. She made me a Wonder Woman coaster to keep by my laptop. My husband was deemed essential and continued to go in to work five days a week.
One morning after I emptied my ‘Best Mom Ever’ mug of the finest cold foam cold brew around I requested a second cup of coffee. She responded “Sure. I would like to make you a cup of coffee. I would like a cup of tea. Can you make me a cup of raspberry herbal tea?” It struck me that her natural response was for each of us to make the other’s beverage instead of each making our own. But I remember she is filled with kindness and again I feel very lucky.
I don’t know if anyone is actually feeling that they have more time on their hands during this quarantine. I know I certainly don’t – working, homeschooling, continuing graduate work, keeping everyone fed….I am mentally exhausted and often asleep on the couch by the time my husband reemerges from putting my daughter to bed. But I am also feeling very peaceful. I have tapped into a deep well of patience I never knew I had. I am reaffirming my confidence in the choices I usually take for granted: home, husband, child. Today as I sat at my laptop in my new ‘office’ at the far end of the dining room table I saw, through the picture window, the blossoms on the magnolia tree in the front yard slowly start to open over the course of the day – something I haven’t taken the time to see in the ten years I’ve lived in this house.
This is 2020. I drink my coffee at home. I am very lucky. Is it the 2020 as I imagined? Notably not. Is it the end of the world as we know it? Probably. Am I scared? No – at least not when I lift my cold foam cold brew from my handmade Wonder Woman coaster, look across the table at the maker of both and catch a glimpse of what’s coming next.