My husband and I have been married for 24 years. Our daughter, a freshman in college, is now back home in our once empty nest. All three of us, like most families, have had to make adjustments in many areas in order to coexist during this pandemic. Communication has been critical to our renewed and heightened cohabitation, and questions have been the secret ingredient to allowing us to get along so well, so far.
We all have either work or school to be done in the house, which requires each of us to be on phone calls and Zoom calls with few distractions. There is one room that is very well lit and considered a favorite room in the house for calling an “office,” so we take turns claiming that room. Each evening we ask each other “What is your day like tomorrow?” so we can be considerate when walking through each other’s “office space”.
Another important question is: “Can I speak to you for a minute?” We also found this question important when we walk into another family member’s “office.” No one likes being interrupted as you are trying to compose that perfect email to send out, or if you are on a call, so asking if they have time, rather than assuming that they are available is a way to respect the other person’s time and space. Equally important is that we respect the answer given to that question. If it is not a good time, they will get back to us just as soon as they are at a stopping place. It’s not like any of us are going very far.
“How are you doing today?” may seem a simple question but it acknowledges the reality that we all are processing this pandemic differently. We are going through essentially the stages of grief: denial, anger, sadness, acceptance. We listen carefully to the answer given to this question.
Lastly, every day I ask, “What time do you all want dinner?”, which is not to assume that I am going to cook dinner every night. Since we are all trying to exercise after work/school, or schedule meetings, knowing a time for dinner that will work for everyone helps plan the day. Thankfully, we all can cook and are sharing those responsibilities, as well as the cleaning. There are just too many meals and way too many dishes for one person to have to take on all these responsibilities alone, which brings me to another question. “Can you help me?” This question can be hard for some to ask, but it is very important that no one strive for Super Hero status during this pandemic. If your family members are able to help, ask. Even the littlest of kiddos can help to some degree. It may not be perfect, but many hands make light work, which allows time a couple of days per week for “What game do we want to play tonight?”.
Mary Lou Sokolow