Suddenly, as the coronavirus raced around the world, the home, that institution that we took for granted, became the most important place in the battle to contain the pandemic. We were instructed to stay at home for weeks on end in order to “flatten the curve” and stop the spread of infection and prevent more deaths.
Suddenly, too, the work of the Home Renaissance Foundation took on a new relevance. The UK-based think tank was organising an international conference on the link between happy homes and a happy society, which is to take place in November. In March, COVID-19 went to the top of everyone’s agenda.
Ángela de Miguel, Project and Media Manager HRF, asked a variety of people to write short testimonies about how they were coping during the time of quarantine and social distancing. Here is a sample. Read more: Home In the Time of Coronavirus
COLIN BRAZIER, Journalist, Sky News, UK
There was a moment at the start of this crisis when a heretical thought struck me. It was a Saturday morning. Normally, I’d be driving my son to a rugby match. But not this day. Nor would I be doing the other journeys that punctuate the schedule of parents who – like me – have a large family. No playdates. No theatre group. No choir practice. No Pony Club. No hockey matches after school. No school at all indeed!
It was a sort of epiphany. Clearly, nobody would wish to find themselves in this situation. It involves misery and loss for thousands of people. I worry about my septuagenarian mother. I’m anxious on behalf of my son, who has asthma. I have friends, as does almost everyone reading this, who knows someone who has lost a loved one. But given where we are, it is vital that we make the most of this enforced end to mobility and the mania that sometimes accompanies our busy timetables.
So, how to cope in this strange, sedentary time? I am a widower. And a ‘key worker’. My job takes me from a village some sixty miles from London, to the capital four days a week. I need to be sure that my six children – aged from 20 to ten – can be relied upon to spend their days wisely. And when I’m around, I need to ensure that I play my full role as a father.
How to achieve that? Actually, I don’t think anything should radically change. This is not the time to introduce lessons in Sanskrit. We just need to do what we normally do – but more so. We normally share a meal together. Now we must share more of them together. And my children must spend more time cooking when I’m not around.
We are normally quite a collegiate family. We discuss problems together. I like to say that ours is a quasi-democracy! We are not equals. I am the pater familias, but everybody gets a say. And it behoves me to listen. Now there are new decisions. How to carve up our daily schedule? Who does which chores? Who gets to use the treadmill, or the iMac? What constitutes too much television viewing? When should children be going to bed?
Most importantly of all perhaps, how do we stop tensions bubbling over?
It’s not natural – at least by the standards of modern history – for a family to be penned together like this. A lot has been written about how the internet changes everything. And, obviously, my children may be isolated, but they are not cut off from life. They talk to friends online and share memes with extended family members – and me.
If there’s one thing that has struck me about how my family is coping with coronavirus it is the extent to which there have not been domestic pyrotechnics. Obviously, I am not at home all the time. Perhaps there are knife fights about which I know nothing!
But I get the sense they are all getting on amicably. Perhaps this is a function of the absence of academic pressure. I’d like to think it’s because they realise this is the most serious external event of their young lives. They see the news. They know people are dying. It puts a row about who drank the orange juice into perspective. Having lost their mother to cancer, they also have a grasp of the tragic sense of life.
Ours is a house – like many homes with lots of children – which resounds to the noise of levity. But for all the joy, there is also an appreciation that life can turn dark, and quickly.
OUSMANE, Undocumented Migrant, Valencia
My name is Ousmane, I am 24 years old and I am from Senegal. My home is there, because for me the word home means family, help, affection and care. I came to Spain looking for a better life. I risked my life on the road. And here I have only managed, for now, to find a roof to sleep under. But this is not a home.
Those of us who do not have papers to work, subsist thanks to the street vendor and with lockdown we have no income, our only way of surviving is out there on the streets.
Living through a global pandemic in these circumstances is very hard, it generates anxiety, insomnia, anguish. I feel lonely, bored, weak, lost. It only helps me to talk to my family. I would like to hug my mother and wake up thinking it was a nightmare. I’m not afraid of catching it, I’m afraid of starvation.
MIRIAM GONZÁLEZ DURANTEZ, Lawyer and founder of Inspiring Girls, California
I am in California with Nick, my husband, and our three sons. Despite the tragedy, the fears, the despair at how governments and international organisations are reacting (or, more to the point, how they are not reacting) and the worry at not being able to be with our families in the UK and Spain, our house is still a happy place. Both Nick and I travel often for work, so we had never had the chance to spend so much time with our children in this intense way – just as we had never spent so much intense time with each other for many years.
We have always been a close-knit family, but even we have been amazed at how much we actually enjoy being with each other, how we like the same food, the same games, the same films, and how we enjoy not just laughing with each other but especially at each other. If the horror of coronavirus was not happening outdoors, this would actually be a blissful time in our home. I almost feel guilty at the contrast between our family life and what is happening elsewhere.
Each of us have better days and worse days and we have accepted that it is actually OK to have a bad day. We are all chipping in with the house chores, and amazingly (as two of our children are adolescents now) we are not at each other’s throats at who does what. We had always eaten together as a family whenever we could, so doing it every day now feels like a really natural thing to do.
And there have been plenty of positive things: two of my sons and myself are playing more piano; and my other son and Nick are playing more drums; we are watching old series and films; some of us have started learning German; and have also subscribed to university courses online as many are now free.
Occasionally the monotony can get us down, the unchanging routine, the frustration at not being able to go out, and the not knowing when things will get better. But when that happens, we remind each other that we are lucky to live in comfort and security unlike many other people around the world.
And I also tell the boys that in many countries this lockdown is how women actually live, and not for a few weeks, but during their whole lives, from cradle to grave. That always seems to do the trick of making us realise how incredibly privileged we are- and how very grateful we should always be.
Copyright. Home Renaissance Foundation