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A Brief Digression

When “Stay At Home” Orders Don’t Change Much

For a lot of people, the last two months have been a big change. Not being able to go out whenever you want, not being able to buy whatever was needed or wanted, not having the usual cacophony of activities that keep everyone bustling and hustling.

All of that was, understandably, a series of major disruptions for many, especially when you add on lots of kids being home while e-learning and parents working from home, many for the first time.

As stay-at-home orders rolled across the country in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more households felt the pain and uncertainty of all those paradigm shifts. Countless articles and guides were published by online media offering tips for navigating these tricky, unprecedented waters, and social media lit up with individuals reacting with frustration, exuberance, disbelief or any of a number of other emotional reactions.

For some, though, the change wasn’t that substantial.

Same Situation, Different Circumstances

Even if the work circumstances for a household didn’t change significantly – if they held some form of “essential” job – the world around them certainly had, in ways that by now should be familiar to everyone. Fewer stores and restaurants were open and if they were they were likely running reduced hours. Sports and other events were cancelled, public spaces like libraries and parks were closed or were restricting foot traffic.

Those who were used to constantly shuttling between events, appointments, outings and get-togethers probably had an experience not unlike a race car driver when the parachute pops, taking them from 250mph to 50mph in a fraction of a second.

Others didn’t feel quite that impact because, for one reason or another, their life already didn’t include that speed and frequency of activity.

That might be because of financial realities. They can’t afford weekly meetups with the guys for beer and darts, or takeout meals five times a week, or any of a number of other consumer-focused options. Shopping is limited because funds are limited, so they are more careful about their spending, making fewer trips and having a clear plan for what’s purchased.

That might be because of lifestyle choices. The kids were just never into sports or music, so those were never on the schedule to begin with. Eating out was a once-monthly treat. Minimalism or other choices have led to fewer, more intentional trips to the store.

Longer On-Ramp

In either circumstance, those individuals and families didn’t have quite the traumatic transition others did. Sure, it’s a bit frustrating to not be able to go to the library whenever you want, and wearing a mask to go to the store is an experience that takes some getting used to.

These folks are already used to finding cheap or free options when looking for ways to spend their Saturday afternoons. The inconvenience they feel when certain stores are closed or unavailable is minimal because they didn’t go out that much anyway. Spending a morning working in the backyard is normal because it’s inexpensive, gets everyone involved and keeps their house in good shape.

If someone in the house has worked from home for years, things changed even less. They probably already have a dedicated space to work from and have an understanding with the rest of the family about what their hours or available are. They’re experienced in dealing with pets while on Google Hangout calls and don’t even notice it when the piano is being practiced in the other room.

All of that is not to say there aren’t still hurdles to overcome or changes to acclimate to. It’s not normal, even in those situations, for everyone to be spending such extended periods of time in the same space. There’s a big psychological difference between “choosing not to go out” and “can’t go out” that can lead to tensions and a bit of stir-craziness. Additional pressures like loss or reduction of income will make this more acute. And even if there’s someone with a history of remote work, kids aren’t going to have that experience and are getting used to their online classes. A spouse who used to work elsewhere but who is now home all day is understandably dealing with their own issues as well as, in addition to all of a sudden being around everyone else 24 hours a day.

So this still isn’t ideal for just about anyone. But for a good segment of the population this may not be as much of a sea change as it is for others because they’ve been doing some variation on what is now being experienced en masse for a while now.