a peek inside the fishbowl

19 Mar, 2020

Coronavirus changing the daily lives of families

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life|parenting

Mark is picking the youngest up in Kingston today, and moving her out of residence. I continue to work from home. At the moment, Piper is sitting on my lap, which is nice but she’s a tad too large to fit. Related: her Instagram account and the #terriersofinstagram community continues to bring smiles to our faces when world news remains so dreary.

A lot of parents are worried about coronavirus and how self-distancing and self-isolation will affect our lives. Some are sharing colour-coded homeschooling plans online while others say they are setting their kids free (metaphorically speaking, of course) from the shackles of school.

Our kids are adults now, and they’re almost smarter than I am, so there will be no homeschooling here. I’m trying to think back to my younger self, when our kids were younger too. What would we have done then?

I’m pretty sure I would have engineered some sort of homeschooling, but only if they were in primary grades. We definitely would have made time for play. News of social isolation would have given us the extra nudge to dig the bikes, skipping ropes, skateboards, scooters, stilts, pogo sticks, and sidewalk chalk out of the garage.

We didn’t have iDevices when the girls were small. We had computer games, but they didn’t play them often because it was my work computer. That left a lot of outdoor play when the weather was good, and all kinds of crafty projects when we were indoors. And of course, there were chores that needed to be done. In our experience, tired kids are happy kids.

Regardless of age, I think what helps people (of all ages!) is having balanced and well-structured days. There is comfort in routines. Admittedly, I haven’t been very good at it this week, but this is something I want to change while I’m working from home. Lately I’ve been coming downstairs in my pjs and jumping right into work, and of course, reading the news. Showers and breakfast come later. Then the rest of the day falls into place with a big Netflix session at the end, checking work emails before bed, plus more news etc.

There’s nothing wrong with this, exactly, but it also doesn’t really work for my mental health.

This week I’ve dropped my daily meditation practice, much of my fitness and outdoor time (because I’m working from home and no longer walking to work), and am spending way more time reading the news. Mark reads a lot of news too, and I certainly understand why: (1) The news has been changing really fast and we’re hungry for updates. Unfortunately, these updates often fall between photos of empty store shelves and Examples of General Idiocy which make me wonder about the future of our world while also adding to my stress levels. (2) As Mark pointed out, we are looking for good news, and when we don’t see it we just keep scrolling. And scrolling.

So this is what I want to do to help myself … (Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this but I am putting it out there):

  • Push the restart button on my sleep habits. I haven’t been sleeping well at all. (Part of this is thanks to coronavirus nightmares and the dog waking me up in the morning). So I will unplug from the news well before bed, get to bed at a good time, and set my alarm so I don’t sleep in too long.
  • Related to this, I want to get a grip on my morning routines again. For example, I used to do a mini-mediation every day before work and it was so helpful. (This is the one I listen to.) It is time to bring it back!
  • I want to bring fitness back into my life. I’ve been researching online fitness classes but I think I will keep it to something I know I can do: treadmill time. So when I get up in the morning I will change into gym clothes and hop on the treadmill. Then breakfast, then shower. (Mark and I have been going for afternoon power walks, so hopefully we can keep that going.)
  • I’m drinking a lot less water than I do at work, and I feel it. Time to climb on that bandwagon again.
  • Write more. Maybe here?

Of course, in between all of this is work, and housework, and meals, but also fun, and family time, and entertainment.

I’ve seen a lot of parents say they’re going to be more lax with the entertainment and the electronics, and hey, do what works best for you, but I need that balance. As much as I enjoy Instagram, I really only need 15 minutes before it turns into mindless surfing. After two shows on Netflix I feel like a potato, both physically and mentally. I don’t want that.

Sidebar: Did you know that many mental health professionals I’ve spoken to recommend that we make our bed every day? It’s a small chore but it results in big dividends in terms of happiness, satisfaction, and even confidence. Personally, I hate it while I am doing it, but I do it because I know FUTURE ANDREA will be very happy when she slides into bed with her book later.

Balance makes me happier and healthier. When I tire myself out with exercise I sleep better. When I stretch my brain with work I can rest easier. When I do my chores, I will be more content later. What about you?

10 Responses to "Coronavirus changing the daily lives of families"

1 | molly

March 19th, 2020 at 7:24 pm


Thanks for sharing this – getting a grip on our new normal and fitting in all the things contribute to our peace of mind and our happiness sounds like a better plan then the constant barrage of media and panic. And there is only so much pandemic wine and other treats I need.

2 | andrea tomkins

March 20th, 2020 at 9:48 am


Thanks Molly! I know myself, and I know I’ll be better equipped when I take care of my health this way.

Awhile back I interviewed a social worker about the importance of self care. She talked about building a healthy foundation through self care. We need to start thinking about self care as a preventative measure… an inoculation of sorts. When our foundation is strong, we’re better equipped to deal with the challenges that are thrown our way.

3 | Caroline

March 20th, 2020 at 9:57 am


Thank you Andrea. Please continue to write, it is very inspiring and you have so much knowledge that you can pass on. Your links are amazing. Self care is so important when we are caring for others, but it seems to be the first thing to go.

4 | andrea tomkins

March 20th, 2020 at 10:09 am


Thank you Caroline! I really appreciate your kind words. There’s a lot we don’t know right now, and it’s scary. Perhaps the best thing we can do right now is heed the advice of experts and take care of ourselves. (And make pizza. I am totally making pizza tonight.)

5 | Lynn

March 20th, 2020 at 10:14 am


Love this list! I agree we need to find a new routine to get us through these times and I certainly need a) less news and b) more physical activity. I’m going to steal from your list and make one of my own.

6 | Wanda

March 20th, 2020 at 10:19 am


This post echoed what I have been muddling in my mind. Because this week was March Break and social distancing is so new, I gave myself grace and just survived. On Monday, I plan on setting my alarm and establishing a new routine. I am compiling a list of projects that can be undertaken around the house (mending, purging, organizing). My work is on hold (teacher), so I have found an online course that I will start. I also am challenging myself to pantry/freezer cook. We will need fresh items eventually but I am looking forward to this creative challenge. I like your idea for starting the day with exercise. Silver lining, my new routine will have that luxury now. Thank you for inspiring me to solidify my plans. Stay healthy.

7 | andrea tomkins

March 20th, 2020 at 10:25 am


Thanks everyone.
It also occurs to me that it helps that the days are longer now!

I really like the idea of using this time to accomplish projects around the house. Yesterday Mark fixed a plumbing issue that we’d been putting off forever. (And honestly, it was a five minute fix.) I’ve tidied my work area but there’s more to do in the home office (like the closet, ack!). I know for certain that I like the feeling of accomplishment that comes when I am productive. So it’s time to refocus and start making a list…

8 | andrea tomkins

March 20th, 2020 at 10:59 am


Today’s after work extra stay-at-home task is to help the youngest sort out her closet! We have a couple piles of clothes sorted for donation already. Question is, will anyone take it??

9 | KristaR

March 21st, 2020 at 7:27 am


Hi Andrea,

You can schedule a pick up of donation items with Diabetes Canada – they will come pick your items up from your porch.


10 | andrea tomkins

March 21st, 2020 at 9:40 am


Ahhh! Good to know. Thanks!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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