COVID Reinvented My Idea Of Home

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It’s hard sometimes to remember a time before March 2020. But I know that that time did exist and that, in it, I spent a lot less time at home than I do now. I also spent a lot less time thinking about my home. Then, all of a sudden, I was home all of the time. And I was there with my daughter, who at the time had just turned 4, and my husband. Now, we’ve added a second daughter to the mix. From where we stand now, I think our pre-March 2020 home, and our relationship with it, would be unrecognizable to us if we were to get a peek at it. It’s one of the more surprising aspects of the pandemic for me.

It didn’t take long. We quickly realized we had not arranged our home in a way that made much sense for how we now needed to use it. Our daughter played with her toys a lot more than she ever had before. Before the pandemic, I thought she didn’t really like any of her toys. It turned out she just didn’t have enough time to play with them. Meanwhile, my husband and I both worked in the house in ways we hadn’t before. I had worked from home for years, but it was always while I was there by myself. I’d cozy up on the couch with some coffee and get to work. With everyone home together, that wasn’t possible. I needed somewhere I could hide away and get work done.

And our bedrooms. We had small, cramped bedrooms that were frankly not soothing or useful spaces. I had never really given much thought to them before. We were always working or running around on the weekends, and we really just used our bedrooms to sleep. With all of us home all of the time, my bedroom became more of a retreat for me, especially since I spent the first nine months of the pandemic pregnant.

"I realized little by little, room by room, the house was not what it needed to be. And then we got to work."

I realized little by little, room by room, the house was not what it needed to be. And then we got to work. When would we ever be shut in with so much time again? There was no time like the present to start tearing down walls — literally — changing the shape of our rooms, learning new skills like installing drywall, and identifying a support beam. We reimagined our house down to the beams. And then we built it back up again.

In some ways, this project, which is really a series of projects, has mirrored our own journeys as people and professionals during the pandemic. In the beginning, there was a flurry of activity: We were riding high on this new reality we found ourselves in. At work, I was hellbent on proving I could keep up despite the world having been turned upside down. The same went for our home project. We were going to throw all of the energy we used to use living our normal lives into this project. Then came the chaos and confusion — the pandemic was still going, and so was this project. There was stuff everywhere. And then came the part where we crawled out of it and started to find calm in these new spaces.

We literally set the stage for how we wanted our future to play out. I think for a lot of us, that’s something we’re doing in all aspects of our lives. We landed with confusion into a place we didn’t recognize, even though it was ours. We tore it all down, we sifted through confusion, and now here we are, crawling out and plotting our futures. For some of us, like me, that literally meant reinventing physical spaces. For other people, it’s meant a reimagining of our relationships to work, to boundaries, and to relationships.

Whatever it is, I think we’ve all transformed in this period — and at least in my house, the transformation isn’t done. We’re still picking paint colors, couches, and deciding where bookshelves will go. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m designing our new family room with what it’ll look like on Zoom in mind. Just one of the many ways the pandemic has changed me.

Tags: Family, Navigating the Pandemic, new year, Self Care

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Written By

Lauren Harkawik

Lauren Harkawik is an essayist, journalist, and fiction writer in Vermont, where she and her husband are raising their daughters. See Full Bio

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