On balance, wearing trousers was the big change. I’ve worked from home for a while, but it was the first time my wife and I were doing it simultaneously, which posed certain challenges. She has a proper job for one thing and it turns out that when people with proper jobs work from home, they keep to proper hours. All of which prompted me to amend my own behaviour.
Having to wear trousers, for example. I did this not just out of fear of wandering into her video chats in a pair of stripy pants – which nearly happened several times – but also because her rampant, some might say excessive, professionalism was starting to make me feel bad. Besides, this is a shared workplace now, what if she reported me to HR? Her presence also greatly restricted some of my other workday habits, like solving any inadequacy in my writing by going to bed, despondent, at 11am. No longer can I step into the living room to do back stretches and somehow end up watching an hour’s worth of YouTube videos about model trains, glaciers or some other subject I have previously never had any interest in – and will never revisit again.
All of which is to say, I’m currently responding to the enormity of what’s going on with petty griping about changed routines, because worrying about the wider issues is just too much to bear. I sometimes worry that I don’t worry enough. Luckily, I’m so unused to worrying that I don’t worry about it for long. It could be genetic. I’m a tad more neurotic than my dad, who never seems to worry about anything, a fact that was apparent when the pandemic hit and he responded to our nagging about his movements by threatening to Sellotape himself to the next large crowd of coughing people unless we backed off.
In the grand scheme, I feel like I don’t have the right to worry anyway. Since my son’s nursery has closed, we’ve been minding him from home and splitting our working hours whatever way we can. We don’t live in the same country as his grandparents, so avoiding physical contact with them is easy. We know we’re luckier than other people. We just have to keep remembering this when the task of introducing a toddler to pandemic hygiene seems overwhelming. Washing my son’s hands is an ordeal at the best of times.
We don’t yet miss the things I thought we would: putting social or cultural interests on hold barely registers. The things we miss are more commonplace, like our traipse through Abney Park cemetery each Sunday, watching our son talk to dogs and jump in puddles. It might seem odd to hark back fondly to a walk through a graveyard, watching your son shriek with delight as he covers himself in mud and dog hair, but right now it’s the thing I miss the most. That and typing in my pants.
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