Recently, for the first time in his professional life, Eric Stine became a full-time remote employee because of the coronavirus pandemic. Each week, he’ll share the highs, lows, and learnings of a WFH newbie. You can read all of his diary entries here

Week Eight — The River Goes On and On and the Sea That Divides Us Is a Temporary One

I’m not going to lie — the weeks are getting harder.

The days pass quickly — a constant whir of calls and meetings and plenty to do at home. It seems no matter how much gets done, there’s an endless list of more to do — another call or meeting or another project that needs attention. There’s spring cleaning inside and out, and summer things to get ready, and everyday chores to attend to. It seems like as soon as the groceries are delivered there’s already a list of things we didn’t get, didn’t think we needed, or are already running out of — and so there always seems to be a running list for the next order.

Did we always eat this much avocado?

As the days get longer and the weather improves, the kids are more restless with their studies and less patient about the continued absence of playdates and other social outlets. It reminds me of being in school and asking the teacher if we could have class outside — which happened, like, once — probably on a day the teacher was just over it. Because there is no such thing as having “class outside” — it’s basically an excuse to play or sunbathe or otherwise goof off, and the teacher knows it. “Having class outside,” is — at best — having a conversation somewhat tangentially related to the topic of the lesson but with minimal pedagogical value. If having class outside were effective, no kid would actually want to do it.

At least the school year is coming to an end. I can tell because the Yak thinks Yellow is Yucky — which means we’re up to the letter “Y.” Nicholas keeps telling me that Yemen is the only country that begins with “Y,” which makes me wish I was anywhere other than my house right now. I don’t actually want to be among people, because it’s pretty clear that absent effective treatment and/or a vaccine, there’s a great deal of risk associated with going to actual places that aren’t my house — but I’m longing for a change of scenery. A new place to see, a new thing to do. That feeling seemed to settle over all of us this week — Neil didn’t sign up to teach preschool, and I can see that he’s beginning to run out of both energy and enthusiasm for making letters out of twigs and cotton balls. I had hoped, with the passage of seasonally acceptable snowmen, the cotton ball art might follow suit — but apparently they make good ice cream cones, animal noses, and letters.

There will be magic marker stains on the kitchen table until the kids graduate from college. Of course, there appears to be a decent chance that they’ll be attending the University of Our Kitchen. Class of 2038.

Usually the weather manages to lift my mood — but once we got past the actual arrival of spring, the sameness of every day sunk back in. Of course, it didn’t help that it randomly snowed in parts of Connecticut on Friday night before the temps shot back up into the 60s. Is anyone counting the signs of the apocalypse?

I think, maybe, I’m sensitive to the fact that it was Mother’s Day recently. The kids didn’t spend time with my mom or sister or mother-in-law, and we won’t get to see them for a while. Yes, we saw them on screens, but this is really the first holiday where we really, truly missed being together. More so than Easter, which we ordinarily celebrate by watching our kids hunt for eggs at dawn, letting them eat candy for breakfast, and pretending it wasn’t a way to purposefully spoil their appetite before subjecting them to the annual incineration of a land animal cooked by a well-meaning relation to the point of inedibility.

Mother’s Day is different. Mother’s Day is really different when there are children, but no mother — whatever the reason. We tell our kids that it is special to have two dads — and we believe that is true — but I will always feel like something is missing on Mother’s Day. The questions get harder with each passing year and not having my mom and sister around makes it more difficult. Plus, it’s just cruel and sad to be only an hour’s drive away and unable to see each other. It’s cruel for a grandparent not to be able to hug her grandchildren — the twins she never thought would really happen, which feel like a little bit of a miracle to her — on Mother’s Day.

I know I’m supposed to be grateful that everyone is safe and healthy — and I truly, truly am — but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this week wasn’t sad. That this isn’t lonely. That it can be hard to create authenticity and trust and camaraderie through 100% virtual work. That friendships aren’t suffering because everyone is so overwhelmed with work and homeschooling and caregiving and trying to “be there” and “be present.” That it isn’t all just isolating and draining. That playing cards or having a happy hour or taking a cooking class over Zoom just kind of sucks. It fills your time, but not your soul. No, I don’t want to do another puzzle. 

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