Returning to Normal: But What IS Normal?
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Throughout the past few months, the world has been shaken. We have had our lives, our normalcy, our routines, challenged and altered forever. On a global scale, we have all been affected by the Coronavirus to some degree, and many refer to this time period as “The Great Pause”. Because that is exactly what it has been: a huge pause. Schools have been cancelled, businesses have been closed, parks have tape across them preventing little ones from playing, and we have stayed inside our homes in an attempt to avoid catching this deadly virus. When we do have to go out, we protect ourselves and others by keeping our distance, wearing a mask, and washing our hands regularly.
In some parts of the world, this pause has been helping somewhat, and the curve is slowly flattening. The number of cases is decreasing, and people are starting to talk about returning to life as normal. Parks are being reopened, businesses are slowly starting to accept customers through their doors again. Social distancing restrictions are being lifted, and people are allowed to see their friends and family members again.
Along with the good news of restrictions being lifted, however, is news that in some parts of the world cases of the virus continue to increase. There is talk of a second wave hitting us, or a bubble in a bubble as some would argue; however the lack of visibility makes future planning murky at best. It is concerning that as some restrictions are lifted, we are seeing an increase in the number of cases.
So, what does all this mean? If we are returning to life as normal, what does that normal look like? Is it safe to return to such a state? Is it realistic to expect that we will ever return to what we consider to be ‘normal’?
What is important to remember during this time is that everyone will have a different level of comfort and a different perspective on what normal looks like for them. Perhaps some of us are more comfortable remaining socially distanced until that curve is flattened even more. Perhaps some of us are sick of remaining inside our homes and for the sake of mental health, welcome the loosening of restrictions.
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we are all dealing with it in different ways and with different perspectives, and it is important that we are respectful of that. We need to be mindful of the fact that how we are approaching this pandemic may be different than someone else, and that’s ok. You do you.
Some people will not leave their homes without wearing a mask, while others use masks only when indoors in public spaces. Still others may have underlying health or sensory issues which make masks unfeasible. Let’s reserve our judgement. We don’t know everyone’s full story, and we don’t know their reasoning for doing, or not doing, something. We need to be open-minded and continue on with love and kindness in our hearts.
For those of us who are fortunate to be able to work from home, we have some freedom in choosing what works best for our family, what our level of comfort is when going out in public, and whether or not we choose to take our kids out into the community. For working parents, there isn’t always that level of freedom. Parents who work outside the home may need to take advantage of daycares opening back up, so that they are able to return to work and earn an income. Not to mention the children of essential workers also need childcare. We simply are not in a position to judge as we are not walking in their shoes.
Additionally, many of us are caring for aging parents, and a lot of the time those parents are battling health issues that leave them immunocompromised and vulnerable to this virus. We need to take extra precaution when out in public, as well as limit how much we are around other people, while adhering to strict social distancing boundaries until this virus is eradicated. We don’t have the freedom to take advantage of restrictions loosening, because there is a loved one who could be inadvertently and fatally affected by such decisions.
The arguments that have arisen in school districts about reopening plans have been heated at best. But how does a school district accommodate every parent’s levels of risk tolerance? And what about the risks to the teachers and their families? There is no one answer or plan that fits all, but please let’s stay respectful of the fact that we are all trying our best with the resources we have. Some parents are desperate to send their kids to school but an immunocompromised member of the household makes that unfeasible. Some children themselves are immunocompromised. Meanwhile the mental health of other children is suffering and they crave live social interaction and learning. Other parents need to return to work and simply cannot homeschool their children for hours everyday.
Throughout all of this, it is so important that we remember that everyone’s situation is completely different, and we don’t always know the full story. When you see a mother in the store with her children, instead of judging her for bringing her children, recognize that perhaps she is a single mother with no other alternative. Instead of giving her a dirty look and making her feel even worse, offer a smile and a kind word. When you see someone in mask and gloves, recognize that perhaps they are immunocompromised or caring for someone who is, and respectfully keep your distance.
Everyone is dealing with this pandemic to the best of their ability, and everyone is coping with stresses that we know nothing about. Reserve judgement, proceed with kindness in your heart, and focus on yourself and what you need to do for your family.
We will get through this together, and one day we will return to normal, whatever that normal may be.